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on 4 July 2015
Bought this as a recommended reading for a university course. It's a very heavy reading and I personally wouldn't have bought it if I had a choice.
It is, however, an interesting read if you give it a go - all about the myths around our current perceptions.

As it happened, this book and the course I did was the catalyst for my dissertation title, so I can't complain too much.

Overview: heavy read, but worth it if you want to look at all of the misconceptions & myths of World War Two British society.
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on 13 March 2009
There may be an interesting theory to be investigated about the creation of the myths by which we recall history, but this book isn't it. It is undermined by at least three huge flaws.

Firstly, it makes several false and mendacious claims about the French campaign in 1940. For example, that the BEF had orders to take no prisoners or that it collapsed into a rabble at the first appearance of the Germans, deserting their French allies who were still full of fight. There is even a claim that the massacre of about 170 British soldiers by the 1st SS and 3rd SS was in revenge for the murder of 400 SS troops, a massacre I can find no description of anywhere else.

Secondly, the theory being proposed seems to be that propaganda and behaviour became a self supporting feedback loop to create the "myth". Although there is a lot to describe how the Blitz was reported and the various depictions in a range of media there is almost no evidence on how it affected behaviour or how the behaviour then affected the official depiction/reporting of events.

Finally, the prejudices of the author shine through. Every book will be influenced by the views of its author, but Mr Calder seems to have a certain animus against either Britain or just the English. This comes through in various ways, from minor affectations (mention of the 1982 war in the "Malvinas" or the use of Eire) to sweeping claims that in the event of an invasion there would have been large numbers of collaborators and wide spread support for the final solution, challanging anyone who disagrees to prove that the British would have acted differently to other occupied nations. A generalisation that ignores the differing experiences of invasion by the various countries and the fundamental differences in political and social life between countries.

So in summary, an interesting idea let down by poor research, a poor structure and a lack of evidence. Buy this if you want a fulsome guide to the Blitz related reporting/film making/novel writing of the time otherwise I would advise against.
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on 10 February 2012
When is a debunking not a debunking?

This book is, first off, extremely honestly written. It also comes from the pen of a guy trained in literary criticism, so it's basically analytic.

I had known about this book for years and had never read it. Somehow I had the impression that it was a debunking. It isn't that. It's a book that takes the analytic tools of a literary critic and applies them to what people wrote and said about the Blitz. His conclusion is that basically the British people did act bravely under fire during the Blitz (and associated periods). So this isn't a debunking. He has actually tested the well-known story - pretty much to destruction - and found that, at root, it's true.

And the thing is, because he has tested it so stringently - and in such a wide-ranging way - the result is so much more convincing...

So 5 stars (Apart from the wealth of material he unearths in the process of coming to his conclusion).

His idea is that the myth of the Blitz was made up at the time, partly as a means of giving British people a positive way of viewing themselves in this extremely difficult period and so going on. If there hadn't been some important truth in it, people wouldn't have bought it. But they did and there was.
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on 5 February 2006
As a history student with a keen interest in the subjects that this book covers I gladly greeted the opportunity to read this book as part of a module for my second year at University. However I found the way the author had written this book to be difficult to read despite my perseverance to the end. Furthermore his idea that the myth of the blitz was wholly a product of propaganda and that in fact Britain was made up of anti-Semitic collaborators who were one step away from crumbling and who relied almost totally on American support was deeply flawed. It seems a pity to me that the author missed the opportunity to write a genuinely interesting and different piece of work and instead produced a sensationalist piece that despite selling copies will soon end up in second hand shops.
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on 5 May 1999
One of the now many books on Britain of the Blitz and one that thankfully dispenses with the sickening 'role out the barrels', 'business as ususal' stuff that we were all taught at school and which is enjoied so much by the armchair historian. Calder's theory is this - the 'business as usual' cheerful Cockney stuff of the Blitz was actually the product of propaganda. The government produced propaganda saying this was how people should andw ere acting and so people start do so.
As a student of war and someone who is currently writing his dissertation on this subject I would have to say that Calder is wrong. He is too keen to accept a tempting theory and places to much empahsis on the power of propaganda. It is certainly the case that propaganda had a role in shaping public opinion but the propaganda its self was not without basis in fact. So mayde the sickening stuff we were all taught at school is not so bad afterall.
In summary this is a well written and easy to read book. It provides an intersting perspective of a subject that has the tendancy to become repetative and boring, I do not think Calder is right and think that his book must be taken in the context of the plethora of other books written on this subject. However, it is worth reading by anyone interested on this topic.
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on 23 December 2011
This book is written by a man who obviously has utter contempt for the country which gave him a free education; why, otherwise, would he refer to the "Malvinas" in the first sentence of the preface? The book is a long litany of quotes from other authors' works, even using fictional films to further his case. There is no evidence that he carried out any research of his own, by going out and talking to survivors of the war.
Unfortunately, by the end of the book (which I took great pleasure in sending for recycling, hoping it would be turned into something useful like toilet paper,) I still had not the faintest idea what the author's premise might be. Use of words like "paradigm," rather than the more prosaic "example" lead me to believe that it's aimed at the "intelligentsia," or people who can see some merit in modern art, not the peasant population.
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on 14 January 2010
It's an excellent piece of revisionist history. Calder is an incredibly thorough scholar, and puts forward a fresh perspective on the reality of wartime experience felt throughout Britain, with countless referencing to contemporary and secondary sources.
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on 14 March 2013
BSF's - boring Scottish fascists - have been a feature of the intellectual wastelaste that stretches north from Gretna for years. They usually operate behind a smoke-screen of socialism, but they are racist, separatist, contrarian saboteurs of all that is decent in Britain.

Calder, like his CND and Moscow-sycophant daddy, is a fully paid-up and active BSF, and this book is a fine example of the genre.

Question one is the usual: What about your own back yard? Glasgow was blitzed something cruel - why not write about that? My Mum was there at the time (and in London, too - lucky girl) and she had a story or two along the lines of raping, looting, and hating nobby politicians, too. As did the Berliners (with a far better sense of humour than most) and, no doubt, the inhabitants of Tokyo and Dresden and .... etc. Not to mention the absolute, imagination-defying atrocities that swamped Europe at the hands of Stalin's 'liberating' hordes.

Propaganda tells lies. Is this news? Are we really to believe that an old leftist campaigner and son of an old leftist campaigner does not know the power of propaganda and its use as a weapon of war, both martial and social? This is not an objective book; it the kind of poisonous weapon that is outlawed in physical form, a dirty virus for undergrads to catch, poison to be leaked into pseudo-intellectual chatter in the gin-laced kitchens of Scottish 'academe', a bully boot in the face of England now she's 'down'.

In any war/poverty/crisis zone any hack can do a 'suffering and disillusion piece', any photographer can snap the filthy, deprived, desolate orphan. It is our duty as writers to ask ourselves why, apart from the money, we do it. Calder does it out of spite, class envy and the perverted exceptionalism that is ushering Scotland ever deeper into third-world mire. He is also, like so much of the his generation's 'left', a loony anti-semite, using the cliche 'some people say' and 'people felt that' dodge to maintain the miasma of a rotting, weary malignancy that has done far more damage to social structures and taken far more lives the the Luftwaffe ever managed.

My much-blitzed Mum, among other things a fine journalist, gave me this book a while back. I've donated it to the local university library, where it sits exactly where it belongs - with Mein Kampf on its left and David Irving's foul distortions on its right. Luckily enough, both Hitler and the Mad Navvie were better writers, so it's unlikely to sell as well as its shelf-mates.
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on 19 December 2008
It is a common, and despicable gambit by historians of a certain type to write debunking revisionism. As to the Blitz, do not trust anyone who was not there, and did not come close to being killed. This same breed will wait until someone of statures dies, and then rake up all the muck they can and call it biographical. I am grateful for the reviews - I had thought of buying the book. The title "The Myth of the Blitz" is a dirty little effort, and probably says it all.
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