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The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1967 Hardcover – 29 Sep 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (29 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199587965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199587964
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 2.5 x 16.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,195 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


David French's authoritative...exemplarily fair-minded study...should be compulsory reading for modern British officers (Max Hastings, Sunday Times)

Brilliant...French explodes the myth that a uniquely British quest to recruit "hearts and minds" made the British end of Empire easy. (Ben Macintyre, The Times)

a sobering and timely book ... Professor French marshals an impressive volume of archival research ... fluent and always engrossing (Kenneth Payne, Times Literary Supplement)

a brilliant book that sheds light on a misunderstood and misquoted era ... masterly (Patrick Mercer, Military History)

a careful, often riveting book that has been constructed on the basis of rigorous archival research. French takes on a major task, insisting on a sweep of place and time that must have demanded he tackle an intimidating quantity of archival material, and the results are frequently a testament to modern historical scholarship. (Musab Younis, The Oxonian Review)

French's book represents the first comprehensive reassessment of the violence used by the British across the entire range of these insurgencies (Royal United Services Institute)

Based on unparalleled research into official documents on nine campaigns it is likely to be the authoritative work on the subject for years to come ... Indeed, Professor French has set the bar very high, and that can only be a good thing for the rest of us who yet labour in these contested trenches. (David Charters, Canadian Military History)

His counter-insurgency volume is ... likely to become the standard work on the subject. Thankfully, he avoid the temptation to adapt the book to the contemporary concerns of the academic-military-industrial complex. (John Newsinger, Race & Class)

About the Author

David French was at the University of York and the War Studies Department at King's College London. He spent 27 years at University College London before taking early retirement in 2008 to become a full-time writer. Professor French is the author of six previous books, and has been the recipient of the Arthur Goodzeit Prize of the New York Military Affairs Symposium. He is a three-time winner of the Templer Medal awarded by the Society for Army Historical Research. He is a Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society and the Historical Association, and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Strategic Studies, and the Council of the Army Records Society.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on 23 May 2014
Format: Hardcover
This remarkable book exposes the violence built in to the British Empire. It was never about development, or preparation for independence. It was a brutal regime, designed to enforce exploitation. As French records, “Coercion through exemplary force was everywhere the mainstay of British counter-insurgency policy.”

The Empire called all its opponents criminals. French notes, “In 1948, anxious to refute suggestions that events in Malaya were a genuinely popular movement, Colonial Office officials insisted that ‘On no account should the term ‘insurgent’, which might suggest a genuine popular uprising, be used.’ ‘Bandit’ and ‘terrorist’ were to be preferred because they denied the insurgents the status of being a genuinely popular movement and reduced them to the level of common criminals.”

The state imposed the same policies, whether the Labour Party or the Conservatives were in office. Labour Colonial Secretary James Griffiths said in 1950, “It is also true that the Asiatic mind understands force.” This vile racial slur mandated the Empire’s use of force.

Across the Empire, the same murderous violence was the norm, as admitted by the Empire’s own men. Trafford Smith, an Assistant Secretary at the Colonial Office with responsibility for Palestine, admitted in 1946, “The plain truth to which we so firmly shut our eyes is that in this emergency Regulation Detention business we are taking a leaf out of the Nazi book …”

A January 1945 British Army report on operations in Athens told troops, “In such fighting, our own t[roo]ps must be prepared at all times for such abuses, and must NOT be squeamish about killing anyone carrying a weapon – civilian, woman or child. All occupants of a house from which fire has been coming must be arrested or killed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Required reading - for soldiers and military historians particularly 12 Sept. 2013
By weekend_worrier - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent, if at times disturbing, study about how the British state and armed forces waged war against anti-colonial rebellions in the immediate post-war era. Some of you may be put off by the 'blurb on the cover, but this is not a piece of hysterical bed-wetting by some Guardianista hack. French is amongst the best historians of the 20th century British Army out there, and his analysis is both fair, and based on a thorough understanding of the archival material. If I were CDS, I would make it a compulsory purchase for all commissioned officers in the UK armed forces, and a recommended one for all NCOs.
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