I found this book totally fascinating, though it’s an awkward book to read in bed. It is a heavy and wide hardback.
It is actually the official companion to the Imperial war Museum Exhibition of the same name. There is an interesting blog post about the exhibition here.
I have of course researched this era extensively but I was pleased to be reminded of some things I’d forgotten, be assured about some things that I still know and even to find out a few things I’d not known.
This isn’t a scholarly work but I did buy the book because another academic mentioned it. It is however extremely well researched and gives a lot of factual information. There are masses of illustrations and also photographs taken at the time. Many of the illustrations are adverts and posters. When I used the facsimile War Papers for my research I found the advertisements very informative. They gave much insight as to what life was like back then. The same was true for the illustrations here.
The other academic who recommended the book did say that many of the first hand accounts were less reliable as the story-tellers had had too much time to rationalise their experience. Yes I’ll admit that is normally the case but I actually found it less so here. The first-hand accounts and the realia gave very similar information.
Very interesting was a discussion about the General Election just after the war when Churchill was ousted in favour of a Labour government. The Beveridge report in 1942 had promised ‘security to all “from the cradle to the grave” from the ravages of sickness or unemployment’ (200). There was an attack on ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’ (201).
This is a book I shall dip into time and time again. An absorbing and very easy read.
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