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Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970

de David Edgerton

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341567,581 (4.25)2
A challenge to the central theme of the existing histories of twentieth-century Britain, that the British state was a welfare state, this book argues that it was also a warfare state, which supported a powerful armaments industry. This insight implies major revisions to our understanding of twentieth-century British history, from appeasement, to wartime industrial and economic policy, and the place of science and technology in government. David Edgerton also shows how British intellectuals came to think of the state in terms of welfare and decline, and includes a devastating analysis of C. P. Snow's two cultures. This groundbreaking book offers a new, post-welfarist and post-declinist, account of Britain, and an original analysis of the relations of science, technology, industry and the military. It will be essential reading for those working on the history and historiography of twentieth-century Britain, the historical sociology of war and the history of science and technology.… (més)
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    Facing the Second World War : strategy, politics, and economics in Britain and France, 1938-1940 de Talbot C. Imlay (Shrike58, Shrike58)
    Shrike58: Comparative analysis of how London and Paris managed their respective war efforts through June of 1940.
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This is one of those works where the author says that everything that you think you know is wrong. The main thrust is Edgerton argues that the typical depiction of the British state as technologically incompetent and in decline for most of the 20th century misinterprets the real state of affairs, and that London actually developed as strong and varied a military-industrial complex as any of the great powers.

The next question becomes why has this reality been so unclear to so many chroniclers and critics, Edgerton (who comes out of a background in the history of technology) makes an accusation of epistemological blindness as, essentially, if the scientific research wasn't performed by the academy it really didn't happen. That most of this research and industrial development happened behind the screen of government security also didn't help the cause of understanding. Note that Edgerton often seems more interested in taking to task the writers who he considers to have gotten it wrong, rather than tracing the development of the British shadow technological-industrial complex; Edgerton uses the term "anti-history" to deride those many works he considers wrong-headed.

Finally, while this is all quite suggestive, I do wonder if the British state system was quite as misunderstood as Edgerton suggests. Besides the history from below (the often derided history for enthusiasts) Edgerton does invoke, I noted that one significant word doesn't appear in this work's index: mobilization. Perhaps much of the story was told there from at least a journalistic and economic perspective.

Be that as it may then, if you're looking for an alternative opinion to Correlli Barnett, C.P. Snow and the like, this is essential reading. ( )
1 vota Shrike58 | May 3, 2012 |
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A challenge to the central theme of the existing histories of twentieth-century Britain, that the British state was a welfare state, this book argues that it was also a warfare state, which supported a powerful armaments industry. This insight implies major revisions to our understanding of twentieth-century British history, from appeasement, to wartime industrial and economic policy, and the place of science and technology in government. David Edgerton also shows how British intellectuals came to think of the state in terms of welfare and decline, and includes a devastating analysis of C. P. Snow's two cultures. This groundbreaking book offers a new, post-welfarist and post-declinist, account of Britain, and an original analysis of the relations of science, technology, industry and the military. It will be essential reading for those working on the history and historiography of twentieth-century Britain, the historical sociology of war and the history of science and technology.

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