When Bri­tain Saved the West: The Story of 1940

By Robin Prior

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

( Yale Univer­sity Press, 320 pages, £20) You could ar­gueue tthat at 1940 was perh haps the most ex­tra­or­di­nary year in Bri­tish histo ory. In many ways the year’s events form the na­tional myth: when Bri­tain stood alone against the world and sur­vived de­spite great odds.

Robin Prior’s book of­fers a mag­is­te­rial sur­vey of the key events of 1940 con­cen­trat­ing on Win­ston Churchill’s el­e­va­tion as Prime Min­is­ter, the fall of France, the Bat­tle of Bri­tain and the Blitz. It is rather heavy on mil­i­tary strat­egy with de­tailed ac­counts of the re­treat to Dunkirk and the Bat­tle of Bri­tain, which are prob­a­bly bet­ter cov­ered else­where.

Inevitably, much of the book dwells on the pol­i­tics of the day. Prior con­cen­trates on the magnetic per­son­al­ity of Churchill and shows how he saw off his ri­vals, out­wit­ted the Gen­er­als (and Hitler) and pleaded with­out much suc­cess for Amer­i­can sup­port.

In­ter­est­ing use is made of Mass Ob­ser­va­tion and the Bri­tish of­fi­cial opin­ion sur­veys, demon­strat­ing the sup­port there was in the coun­try for a vig­or­ous pros­e­cu­tion of the war.

Pro­fes­sor Prior clearly shows how Churchill re­ally did rep­re­sent the Bri­tish will to re­sist the Nazis and how his broad­casts and tours of the bombed ar­eas did so much to boost morale.

Si­mon Fowler is a pro­fes­sional

writer and his­tory re­searcher While ex­plor­ing north Nor­folk this sum­mer I dis­cov­ered how ham­strung you can feel when your smart­phone sud­denly down­shifts from 4G to no net­work. Out in the field this ref­er­ence work scores over its dig­i­tal ri­val by hav­ing 534 pages that never ever go blank.

This is a guide to places of his­toric in­ter­est, from Na­tional Trust prop­er­ties to ob­scure mu­se­ums, from ar­chives to ge­neal­ogy groups. Or­gan­ised by county, each sec­tion starts with a de­scrip­tion from Bartholomew’s 1887 Bri­tish gazetteer (the same one used in Genuki’s county pages) be­fore al­pha­bet­i­cally or­gan­ised en­tries. It boasts about 3,500, each with con­tact de­tails and a brief de­scrip­tion.

Jonathan Scott is a writer

spe­cial­is­ing in ge­neal­ogy

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