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3.7 out of 5 stars
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2013
I personally found this book to be a revealing insight into some of the less obvious reasons and consequences of the second world war. From the fatal castration of the left in the west to the exploitation of nationalism and self determination in the colonies, Hartfield has presented a well reasoned argument for the examination of some of the darker motives of the victors without ignoring or lessening the importance of the well known barbaric excesses which are already familiar to us all.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2012
A brilliant counter to all the propaganda that still portrays the Second World War as a 'just war'. Heartfield shows us that WW2 was far from just and was a war between imperial powers that subjugated ordinary people to a brutal conflict that was not inevitable. The war gave vent to much ugly racial ideology not just on the part of Nazi Germany, but also the allied colonial powers: Churchill's racist comments about the Chinese and Indians, whom the UK was supposedly fighting on behalf of, expose the ugliness of class and imperial interests. Before we bring up the Holocaust, it is worth pointing out that in 1942 Britain adopted a policy of starving its imperial Bengali subjects into submission by destroying paddy fields. This was a war between elites and not the 'people's war' as often portrayed in many popular, post-war accounts. It is interesting how the senseless carnage of the First World War is often juxtaposed with WW2 to imply that the latter conflict was a morally just war. There was much senseless carnage in WW2, not just the ruthless slaughter of European Jewry by the Nazis, but also there were many unnecessary atrocities against the axis powers too: the comprehensive bombings of Hamburg and Dresden, which were displays of military might that killed many civilians with the intention of demoralising and degrading ordinary Germans; the use of nuclear bombs for the same effect against the Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the very end of the war. Heartfield also shatters the myth that the atomic bombings of Japan were necessary to save lives because of another myth that the Japanese did not believe in surrender - they had already been suing for peace 6 months in advance of Hiroshima. Not all axis soldiers were 'willing executioners' either, another myth propagated to demonise Germany and Japan's war atrocities while glossing over allied brutality such as the attacks on Dresden, which did not really come to light till 20 years after the war. The Second World War was a conflict that got out of hand with really disastrous consequences for ordinary people, and this book cuts through so much of the fog around this conflict and dares to challenge the uncritical orthodoxy, cum codswallop, that portrays a grotesque theatre of imperial carnage as a war for the freedoms we supposedly enjoy today. Brilliant book, which I recommend everyone to read.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2014
I started off full of enthusiasm, eager for the new perspective. First thing to say however is that I have never read a book with so many proof-reading mistakes (fault of the publishers) or simply so many ungrammatical sentences, many that do not make sense (fault of the author).
P91 - In 1924 the Johnson-Reed immigration act, which imposed quotas based upon the 1890 census of the ideal proportions of 'Nordic' races and Southern and Eastern European immigrants (around two percent). Er?
Numerous instances where condemned prisoners were "hung" instead of correctly "hanged", and enemies "sunk" each other's ships instead of "sank".
I think if we are being asked to pay top dollar for a new book the least we can expect is that it is correctly written, spelled properly and actually makes sense.
As for the content, I nearly gave up at this point on page 107 "To make them follow orders without asking why, armies had training." (Honestly! I paid £15 for this?)
I am even closer to capitulation with this from page 132. "Britain and Germany continued to avoid direct engagement on each other's territory until 1944, when Britain invaded the continent, on the way to the German frontier. Before then, British and German forces carried on their war in other people's countries." (Britain invaded the continent??)
There are dozens of such examples. Mostly I can see where the author is coming from, and I'm aware that it's a revisionist book, but the conclusions Mr Heartfield draws from his evidence often seem completely unjustified or at least highly selective. The book is so badly written that the arguments lose most of their force. I wanted to believe in a new perspective but disappointingly the book is not remotely convincing.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2013
I have always been suspicious about government motives for going to war, and history books often now offer an honest account of many of them which contrasts strongly with the xenophobic jingoism that gripped nations at the time. The Crimean War, WWI, Suez, Vietnam, Korea all have a strongly critical analysis available.
For some reason, however, WWII has seemingly evaded such scrutiny... until now.
This book lays bare the almost incomprehensible cost of the war, not only in lives, but in industrial production. It reveals that, as bloody usual, the working class paid the price, either at the front or in the mines, factories and on the land whilst the rich enjoyed sumptuous meals off the ration in exclusive restaurants. Profiteering by corporations was rife in all the warring countries.
The book also challenges the widely held assumption that the allies fought fascism for altruistic reasons. A few countervailing facts are that Churchill sympathised with Mussolini, the colonies were subjected to appalling suffering to feed the European war effort and the Japanese probably fought with such fanaticism because the United States had made no provision for accommodating prisoners and simply executed them by the thousand. And they knew that.
James Hartfield asks if Hitler's policy of lebensraum was so very different to the United States, which had exterminated the native population of the Americas? Was it so different to the British, who conquered vast tracts of the world and ruled with great brutality, starving millions to death in Bengal when it suited Churchill's purposes? Were the motives of the protagonists so very different? The answer is probably not. This is evidenced by the fact that, at the end of the war, all popular working-class movements were crushed by the victorious powers if they posed any threat to the resumption of empire.
This book has certainly changed my view.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 21 November 2013
An excellent, but disturbing book. The book was marred by not being properly proof-read - the grammatical mistakes confused the reading of it.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2013
The big problem with scholarship & scholars in general is that they have mostly been schooled in elite institutions & in the process have gained a proven track record of subservience to power.

Meaning that the great majority of people who write the history books are about as likely to be as unbiased & honest in their accounts of State as journalists & politicians are in theirs.

The problem with the myths that we are sold about Britain & America's role in the world (past & present) is that they just don't make sense, unless one is prepared to accept the most two dimensional cartoonistic notion that "we" are the good guys & "they" are/were the bad.

This book, however -as the title suggests- doesn't just regurgitate the oft told myths.

Only a free thinker with a truly independent mind would be open to the alternative interpretation of events contained in this book. Those wanting more self-serving narratives of how "good" we are & have been in the past should just stick to mainstream histories.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2015
An outstanding assessment of the Second World War that reveals the ideologies and economic drivers underpinning its development and subsequent analysis.

Doctor Stewart Montgomery
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2015
Good read. It could be better edited, as there are a number of errors and type-o's. Thought a proofreader would have noticed the errors before going to print... : (
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2014
Good alternative history - makes one rethink A level history.
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8 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2012
How does something so barbaric as a bloody war come to be the source of proud or even warm remembrance.
Perhaps because the war we "remember" it's not the war we fought. Heartfield shatters the mythology and leaves me wondering if there's now something more human to be proud than global cabbage.
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