Clive Ponting, formerly in the British civil service, specializes in British politics and contemporary history.
In a radical new look at Britain's ``finest hour,'' Ponting ( The Right to Know ) reviews the mythology that grew up around the dramatic events of 1940 (Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, Churchill's inspiring leadership) and concludes that it was also the most painful year in British history. Due to an overextended empire, too many enemies and too few allies, and inadequate military, industrial and economic resources, the outlook for England was bleak indeed as the Germans threatened a cross-Channel invasion. As the country's strategic position collapsed, the only way to avoid a humiliating compromise peace with Hitler was to beg for major assistance from the United States. But the Americans drove a hard bargain, and once U.S. material began to flow eastward across the Atlantic, Washington used its financial power ruthlessly to keep Britain in a state of dependence through the rest of the war. Britain's contribution to final victory, in the author's harsh view, was marginal. The country's great achievement was to survive the year 1940 and preserve for the Americans a base from which to launch the D-Day invasion of the Continent. Ponting's argument is compelling, his reasoning sure, his conclusions jarring. (Sept.)
He brings everything together with enviable clarity and with an
unusually sharp eye...He plots convincingly the processes by which
decisions were made, or not made. * New Statesman *
Outstanding...masterful...Ponting strips away the myths that have clouded a realistic approach to British problems in World War II. * CHOICE *
Required reading for anyone with a serious interest in World War II. -- William L. O'Neill, Professor of History, Rutgers University; author of Coming Apart