Britain in the Second World War



Course information

Title

Britain in the Second World War

Lecturer

Cora Zoltán

Course code

YSE_BTK011

Credit

3

Location

-

Time

-

Course description

Short description

This course is designed for developing students’ understanding of a crucial period of British history: the Second World War. The seminar also sets out to improve specific subject relevant skills. Students are invited to study key themes of the world war: the formation of strategy, the difficulties of alliance warfare, the experience of combat, the blurring of the line between home and battle front, the wartime economy, the impact of the war on Britain as global and imperial power, the role of intelligence, cultural mobilisation, collectivism, the post-war political and cultural legacy. The course offers the possibility of familiarising with more advanced analytical techniques and more research-intensive essay writing. The outcomes of the seminar include: (1) the academic discussion of Britain’s participation in the Second World War in terms of the themes outlined above; (2) the practice of the use of a variety of sources to support historical analysis, in class and on page; (3) the exploration of primary sources connected to the Second World War; (4) a better equipment in terms of knowledge, understanding and skills for further study.

Schedule

General works to study (to be consulted to relevant topics and to be used for essay writing):

W. Churchill: The Second World War. London: Cassel, 1965.

Alfred Charles Ward: A literary journey through wartime Britain. London, OUP, 1943.

J. Gardiner: Wartime: Britain 1939-1945. London, 2004.

A. J. P. Taylor: The Origins of the Second World War. New York: Atheneum, 1983.

John Lukacs: The Last European War. September 1939 / December 1941. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.

Keegan, John: The Second World War. New York: Viking, 1990.

 

1-2. Strategy and warfare:

A Global War: the big (and interconnected) picture 1939-1945

Seminar Group A: Should Britain have been better prepared for World War Two?

Grand Strategy 1938-1941

Seminar Group B: What were the most important factors influencing British grand strategy, 1940-1941?

Grand Strategy 1941-1943

Seminar Group C: Should the Allies have invaded North West Europe in 1943?

Grand Strategy 1943-1945

Seminar Groups A, B, C, and D: Source analysis – Grand Strategy

 

Essential reading:

R. A. C. Parker, ‘British Rearmament 1936-9: Treasury, Trade Unions and Skilled Labour’, English Historical Review, 96, 379 (April 1981)

R.A.C. Parker, ‘The Pound Sterling, the American Treasury and British Preparations for War, 1938-1939’, English Historical Review 98, 387 (April 1983)

D. Dutton: Neville Chamberlain, London: Arnold, 2001.

Kennedy, Paul. “A Time to Appease.” The National Interest 108 (2010): 7-17.

Levy, James. “Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy as the cause of World War II is one of history’s myths.” Military History 23.6 (2006): 65-67.

3-4. The Home Front:

The Bore War on the Home Front

Seminar Group A: Account for the fall of the Chamberlain government 1940-41 – the Battles for Britain and the Blitz

Seminar Group B: What relationship did the ‘myth of the Blitz’ have to its ‘reality’? The Churchill Coalition

Seminar Group C: To what degree was there a wartime consensus on the home front? The Wartime Economy, 1940-1944

Seminar Group D: ‘A model of inefficiency’ – how well does this description fit the Britishaircraft industry during the Second World War?

The Family at War

Seminar Group E: To what extent did the war change perceptions of the relationship between gender and citizenship?

Films and War (VC)

Seminar Groups A, B, C, and D: Source Analysis – Home Front

 

Essential readings:

P. Addison: The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War. London, 1975. 5-25.

N. Smart: British Strategy and Politics during the Phony [sic] War: Before the Balloon Went Up. Westport CT, 2003. 40-65.

 

5-6. Military Operations:

Case studies – the Battles of France, Britain, and Malaya

Seminar Group C: What does the fall of Singapore tell us about British military failures during the first half of the war?

Case Studies – the Battle of the Atlantic and Strategic Bombing

Seminar Group D: Why didn’t strategic bombing work?

Normandy and Burma

Seminar Group A: To what degree did poor morale impede the performance of the British army, 1944-1945?

Intelligence and Subversion in the Second World War

Seminar Groups A, B, C and D: Source Analysis – fighting the war 1939-45

 

Essential readings:

W. Murray, ‘British Military Effectiveness in the Second World War’ in A. Millet and W. urray, eds, Military Effectiveness III: the Second World War (1988), 90-135.

C. Bell, ‘The “Singapore Strategy” and the Deterrence of Japan: Winston Churchill, the Admiralty and the Dispatch of Force Z’, English Historical Review 116, 467 (June 2001), 604-634.

 

7-8. Allies and Empire:

Britain and America, 1939-1945

Seminar Group A: ‘Greeks and Romans’: How well does Macmillan’s phrase sum up Anglo-American relations during the Second World War?

Britain and the Empire at War

Seminar Group C: How does knowledge of the Empire’s war affect our understanding of the ‘People’s War’?

Difficult allies: Britain and Russia

Seminar Groups A, B, C, and D: Source Analysis – Britain and the World

 

Essential reading:

D. Reynolds: Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942-45. London, 1985, 10-55.

 

 

 

9-10. Home Front II:

Voluntarism and Compulsion on the Home Front, 1940-1945

Seminar Group A: To what extent is crime the ‘unwritten’ history of the Home Front?

‘War culture’

Seminar Group B: ‘Far from wanting to understand the war, most Britons just wanted to escape it.’ How far do you agree?

Wartime politics 1940-1945

Seminar Group C: Explain the election result of 1945

 

Essential reading:

I. Zweiniger-Bargielowska, Austerity in Britain: Rationing, Controls and Consumption, 1939-1955. Oxford, 2000. 105-125.

R. Mackay: Half the battle: civilian morale in Britain during the Second World War. Manchester, 2002. 130-145.

 

11-12. End of the War:

The end of war – demobilisation and the journey home

Seminar Groups A, B, C and D: Source Analysis – forging the memory of war

S. Fielding, ‘What did “The People” Want? The Meaning of the 1945 General Election’, Historical Journal 35, 3 (1992) 623-639.

H. Pelling, ‘The 1945 General Election Reconsidered’, Historical Journal 23, 2 (1980), 399-414.

 

13. End Term Test

 

Semester

Fall 2018

Requirements

Requirements to get the grade

The participants of the seminar are required to read compulsory literature week by week and write essays upon chosen themes during the course. The course ends with a test. Grades are awarded on the following basis: Participation in discussions and debates of the classes: (30%); essays: (30%); end term test: (40%).

Reading list

General works to study (to be consulted to relevant topics and to be used for essay writing):

W. Churchill: The Second World War. London: Cassel, 1965.

Alfred Charles Ward: A literary journey through wartime Britain. London, OUP, 1943.

J. Gardiner: Wartime: Britain 1939-1945. London, 2004.

A. J. P. Taylor: The Origins of the Second World War. New York: Atheneum, 1983.

John Lukacs: The Last European War. September 1939 / December 1941. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.

Keegan, John: The Second World War. New York: Viking, 1990.

Suggested reading list

Same as the previous list.

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