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Britain's War Machine: Weapons, Resources, and Experts in the Second World War 1st Edition

3.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199832675
ISBN-10: 0199832676
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"A fascinating revisionist account that is also enjoyable to read. Highly recommended." --CHOICE


"A stunning booktold with authority, clarity and compelling energy." --James Holland, author of The Battle Of Britain


"Absolutely fascinating. This book will make you think differently about Britain's role in the Second World War." --Laurence Rees, author of Auschwitz: The Nazis and the "Final Solution"


"A remarkable achievement. He re-envisions Britain's role in the Second World War and with it Britain's place in modernity. The period will never look the same again." --Adam Tooze, author of The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy


"An important corrective to the black-and-white portrait of the period that still prevails" --Financial Times


"Edgerton has written what could prove to be one of the most influential books on the history of the Second World War ... majestic ... [he] has successfully shown us that we still have a lot to learn about the conflict ... it will become the required reading for all students wishing to study the Second World War" --Reviews in History


"A major new assessment of Britain's war effort from 1939 to 1945. Never again will some of the lazy assessments of how Britain performed over these years ... be acceptable. That's why this is such an important book." --History Today


"Edgerton's well-researched volume bursts with data that reveal Britain's true strength even when supposed to be in critical condition." --Peter Moreira Military History


"Brilliant and iconoclastic ... debunks the myth that Britain was militarily and economically weak and intellectually parochial during the 1930s and 1940s." --David Blackburn, Spectator Book Blog


"This book has certainly changed my views ... It is a necessary and timely corrective to a great deal of loosely thought-through conventional wisdom, and makes a real contribution to our understanding of the war." --Richard Holmes, Literary Review


"Accessibly written and deserves a wide audience. Above all, Edgerton demonstrates that the war is a subject we haven't yet heard nearly enough about. Britain's War Machine is a considerable achievement." --Graham Farmelo, Times Higher Education


"Edgerton has excelled himself with this highly revisionist account of Britain's national performance during the Second World War ... an unusually provocative book." --Twentieth Century British History


"Brilliant and thought-provoking ... There are moments of edgy humour, too ... This remarkable book shows that whatever the reasons for the length of time it took to bring Hitler to heel, the quantity and quality of British war material was not among them." --Brendan Simms, Sunday Telegraph


About the Author


David Edgerton is the Hans Rausing Professor at Imperial College, London, where he was the founding director of the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. He is the author of the iconoclastic and brilliant The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900 (OUP, 2007).
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 9, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199832676
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199832675
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.5 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,180,190 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
David Edgerton's "Britain's War Machine" is a wonderful book which deserves a place on one's boookshelf beside the companion work The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy by Adam Tooze.

The first merit of Edgerton is to demolish the die-hard myth of Britain's unpreparedness in 1939. On the contrary he convincingly demonstrates that Britain was first of all opulent, "the richest state in Europe... certainly richer than Germany"; no wonder that "the British were the great meat-eaters of Europe" (even during the war "rationing did not imply drastically cut supplies, except in the case of sugar") and that "Britain was the most motorized nation in Europe" as well as "the world's largest importer of oil"; to be more precise "Britain started and ended the war as the world's largest importer". "So powerful was Britain in the world economy that it could in effect force many people around the world to supply it with goods for credit". Moreover "it had resources to spare, was wealthy enough to make mistakes, and could fight as it chose to rather than had to".

This enviable condition reflected itself both in the industry and in the armed forces. "The warfare state was one of plenty, of armed forces generously supplied with new equipment by new factories", "interwar Britain was a military superpower at sea and in the air, supporting the largest arms industry in the world" (incidentally, "it was the largest arms exporter of the world"). "Britain rearmed on a scale unprecedented in peacetime".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a lot from this but, but I was disappointed. It's a hard book to review, because there is good info in it, and the author does makes some good points and arguments.

The book makes a good first impression. Nicely bound and printed, with a attractive dust cover, and at almost 450 pages, it seems good for $34.95 (list). Until you realize the end notes and bibliography consume more than 100 pages of the book, and contain the most difficult to use endnotes in history (more later).

His biggest problem, however, is that he just can't decide who is customers are. Was he writing for an academic audience, or was he writing for amateur historians? He can't decide, and his book suffers because of that. He can't decide if he is primarily trying to entertain and inform amateurs, or sway the opinions of professionals, though he seems to lean towards the latter. Personally, I believe he was writing primarily for other professionals, to make a name for himself with a new theory in history. But I think he failed.

His big premise is that Britain was much better off during the war than most people realized, at the time or even today. When you combine Britain and the Empire it commanded, it vastly overwhelmed anything Hitler and Germany had or could produce, in every field. In virtually every way, Britain outproduced Germany. Many more tanks, airplanes, guns, artillery pieces, ammunition, ships-you name it, and Britain had it, generally had more of it, and generally had better quality than did the Germans. Some examples: Except for the ME-262, Spitfires, Mustangs (designed under contract for Britain, not the US), and others outclassed anything the Germans had.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
it is rare that I look forward to finishing a book so that I can write a Review, however from about half way through this book, that has been my objective. This is a flawed work, with a highly partisan perspective. The author makes a comparison in the first chapters to Wages of Destruction, by Tooze, an excellent book detailing the economics of Nazi Germany prior to and during ww11. In "Wages of Destruction", so many of the military actions of the Germans in WWII become, possibly for the first time,rational, whereas in "Britian's War Machine", a hypothesis is presented, with carefully selected "facts"(ah statistics the essence of so many partial truths), more in the form of a diatribe than a well researched and constructed perspective.

There is certainly an excellent book to be written considering the economic context of Britain in WW11, but this is not it.

Although quite readable and at some times informative, given that the echoes of the economic decisions of the US and UK in the war can still be felt some 70 years on, it is disappointing that "Britain's War Machine" does not rise to the challenge. Perhaps the editors at Oxford University Press were not able to work their usual rigor into the text?

A great potential book, but lacking a cogent and compelling proposition
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Format: Paperback
Anyone seriously interested in the grand strategy of Britain in relation to Germany and its wider place in the world needs to read this book. It challenges some common conceptions about the plight of Britain and it going it alone against the might of the Axis powers: an understanding that underestimates the role of Empire and Britain's superior position in relation to resources, both material and geographical. The book debunks several myths about ariel bombardment among other things, and contains an array of helpful statistics about actually war casualties. More than an eye-opener, this is an important challenge to the official and popular ideological history of the Second World War.
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