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Unpatriotic History of the Second World War Paperback – 28 Sep 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 557 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books (28 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780993781
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780993782
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 3 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 455,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

James Heartfield has worked as a journalist, for a television company, as a lecturer and editor. He wrote 'The 'Death of the Subject' Explained' (2006) and 'The Aborigines' Protection Society' (2011). James lives in North London with his wife and two daughters.

Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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