Top critical review
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Who needs facts when bold assertions will do?
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.