Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937–1941 by Daniel Todman - review by Richard Overy

Richard Overy

Once More unto the Breach

Britain’s War: Into Battle, 1937–1941


Allen Lane 827pp £30 order from our bookshop

In the opening pages of this book, the first volume in a monumental new history of Britain’s experience of the ‘long’ Second World War (the second volume will cover the period 1942–7, ending with Indian independence), Daniel Todman presents his own personal links to the world of the war through which his grandparents lived. This could have been a rather sentimental journey, but Todman tells their story with a light touch. What becomes clear is how his grandparents’ generation wanted to put the war to one side and get on with their lives after 1945. It has been up to the second or, in this case, third generation to come to grips with history, strip it of its remaining myths and try to answer the question of why the British people put up with six years of bombing, rationing, high taxes, military failures, separation and loss.

Todman explores every aspect of the British experience of the war (though he is perhaps lighter on wartime culture and intellectual life than he might have been). The style is reminiscent of the new narrative approach to modern British history pioneered by David Kynaston and Dominic Sandbrook, rich in telling

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