When Britain Saved the West: The Story of 1940
By Robin Prior
( 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