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Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War Hardcover – February 16, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“A highly impressive debut, demonstrating great scholarship and an ability to balance the humane detail of fractured lives with a wider perspective of the political and social context … This is a bold attempt to combine the scholarly with the popular and certainly the most insightful text on the 1940s to have appeared this year.”
—Ian Cawood, Times Literary Supplement
(Ian Canwood Times Literary Supplement)

“Allport’s wonderfully insightful study asks us to rethink the conventional chronology … It is not only refreshingly free of jargon but remarkably moving. If all academic history were written this way, popular historians would be out of a job.” —Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
(Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)

"Wonderfully researched, sensitively written and often very moving, Demobbed tells an important, underappreciated story that still resonates today."—David Kynaston

(David Kynaston)

"A wry, humane and eloquent book. Alan Allport shows how demobilized troops, their families and friends, both sought a return to normalcy and at the same time realized that life would never be the same again. Their stories linger into the present day."—Peter Mandler, author of The English National Character

(Peter Mandler)

 "A compelling, sobering and thought provoking picture."—Juliet Gardiner, author of Wartime: Britain 1939-45
(Juliet Gardiner)

"This is a special and a powerful book. It brims with scholarship, insight, detail and compassion. It is also very well written. Allport does full justice to a forgotten part of a great generation." - Peter Hennessy

(Peter Hennessy)

"Demobbed  is a fascinating work. With many compelling individual stories, Alan Allport plunges us into this often sad and sometimes violent time after the end of the Second World War. It is a powerful tale, wonderfully told." - Peter Stansky, author of The First Day of the Blitz 
(Peter Stansky)

“[A] masterful study of the subject … Demobbed is a detailed and sympathetic examination of this difficult story. Making imaginative use of contemporary court and press accounts as well as the holdings of the Imperial War Museum Archive, it outlines the tribulations of a damaged generation, intertwining personal testimony with the author’s thoughtful and cogent analysis … [Demobbed] wears its erudition lightly and has a pleasing, easy style.”  BBC History Magazine
(BBC History Magazine)

“Alive with portraits of individuals. . .Demobbed is a juicy slice of life redolent of the peculiar atmosphere and singular situations unique to Britain in the mid-1940s.”--Martin Rubin, The Washington Times

(Martin Rubin The Washington Times)

"An extremely interesting and lively read which adds greatly to our understanding of the demobilization process."--Mark Connelly, The Journal of Military History
(Mark Connelly The Journal of Military History)

"His tone, narrative sense, and command of sources are commendable, and he lays the groundwork for further research. More than contributing a postscript to wartime historiography, this book should be of interest to all historians of twentieth-century Britain."—Chad Martin, The Journal of Modern History
(Chad Martin The Journal of Modern History)

About the Author

Alan Allport is a postdoctoral lecturer at Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, NJ.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (February 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300140436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300140439
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,849,578 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alan Allport (born 1970) is a British historian whose work looks at the relationship between war and society during the period of the two world wars. He was born in Whiston, Merseyside and moved to the United States in 1994. Allport received a Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007 and currently teaches at Syracuse University. His first book Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War, a study of the post-1945 military demobilisation experience in Britain, was published by Yale University Press in 2009 and won the 2010 Longman-History Today Book of the Year Award.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Watson on March 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
Alan Allport, born in England, moving to the United States in 1994, earned his doctorate in History and has become an expert on WWII; currently lecturing at Princeton.

We usually think of joyous reunions of returning servicemen from WWII, seamlessly re-entering peacetime jobs and wives happy to have them back. But a somewhat darker image lies just beneath the surface, and Alan Allport explores this in seven chapters packed with details that are disturbing.

Allport correctly concentrates on the experiences of the demobbed men, and does not cover the British auxiliary forces (ATS, WRNS, WAAF), which story is so different in key respects, that they cannot be covered in a book that concentrates on the experiences of men.

Most popular accounts of demobbed soldiers are anecdotal in style, and some historians still believe demob to be non-problematic, according to Allport. Thus, this writer brings to the table a careful examination of original primary source material, including court documents and press accounts of the period.

Allport's startling revelations come in 7 chapters. Chapter 1, servicemen were anxious to return home, and when it didn't come soon enough, insubordination broke out. The Bevin demob plan was based on a simple formula, with realistic expectations that were generally accepted. With the Labour Party newly installed, political promises of a quick demobilization were short-lived. Some bored airmen, awaiting demob, went on strike. Chapter 2 details how back home, the homecoming became passé...coming home slowly and anonymously, after many had had fantasies of reunion: the cozy vision of his wife, waiting in a bright apron, a hot cup of tea in her hand. It was not to be.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter John Thompson on September 8, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent account of a little explored aspect of World War II, and very relevant to today. A pity the kindle edition didn't have the illustrations.
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Format: Paperback
We have been accustomed to images of the end of war, with soldiers returning home to their expectant families to an emotional reunion. Alan Allport's book, based on extensive research in British archives, suggests that the experience of being demobbed was often a painful one for soldiers and their families alike. They not only had to cope with the strain of getting used to one another after a long hiatus (sometimes they could not achieve it successfully), but the service personnel had to cope with other strains, such as obtaining gainful employment, or even being recognized for their efforts on behalf of the country during wartime. The tales Allport tells are often tragic; men destroyed by the experience of the peace, who eventually turn to crime, violence, or even murder. A salutary read for anyone interested in social histories of post-war Britain.
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By Bruce Jones on November 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found the narrative fascinating and informative. My father had been a prisoner-of-war in Germany. He never discussed his experiences during the war.
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jacksun on July 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This may be a fabulous book, I haven't read it. I purchased it in the Kindle edition which comes WITHOUT the images and illustrations, some of which are copies of documents released publicly by Her Majesty's Government back in the 1940's, although the author still refuses permission to publish the digital images with the kindle book claiming "rights". This lack of images is not indicated on the kindle version page.
For this reason I will not buy the paperback or hardcopy, I have returned the kindle edition I purchased, and I will find what interests me elsewhere, such as the extracted pages from the "Release and Resettlement Guide" given to EVERY WW2 Soldier outlining the Demobilisation procedures and processes. Wikipedia has several of the pertinent pages published.

Really is too bad author's think they "own" images because they add them to their books.

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