The Test of War: Inside Britain, 1939-45

By Robert Mackay | Go to book overview

Chapter Ten

Taking stock: Britain in 1945

In the glow of victory the British people could be forgiven for believing that Britain was still a Great Power. After all, had not Britain successfully beaten off the mortal threat of German armed might virtually single-handed? Had not Britain's own forces played a significant role in the defeat of the Axis? Was not her membership of the Big Three of the Grand Alliance indicative of her status? And when the fighting stopped, were there not clear confirmations of Britain's status in the recovery of the Empire in full measure, zones of occupation in Germany and Austria, and one of the five permanent seats in the Security Council of the newly-founded United Nations Organization?

The reality behind the appearance of undiminished strength was that, quite apart from the evident gap between the USA and the USSR on the one hand, and everyone else, including Britain, on the other, the damage done by the war to Britain's economy was a serious limitation on her capacity to act like a Great Power. This reality was unpleasant for many in Britain, which is probably why coming to terms with it was to take a decade or more after the ending of the war.

It was not that there was deliberate reality-avoidance. In Britain, as elsewhere, the human urge at the ending of wars to take stock, to draw up some sort of balance-sheet of gains and losses was certainly to be seen. If there seemed some grounds for optimism about the prospects of building a better life for the majority of the people, there was no escaping the fact that the destructive effects of war had been grievous. Depending on what one chose to emphasize, Labour's legacy betokened brimming potential or austere constraint.

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The Test of War: Inside Britain, 1939-45
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Chapter One - Going to War 1
  • Chapter Two - Britain on the Eve of War 15
  • Notes 47
  • Chapter Three - Politics 49
  • Notes 66
  • Chapter Four - The Economy at War 68
  • Notes 94
  • Chapter Five - Aliens, Dissenters and Outlaws 96
  • Notes 112
  • Chapter Six - Defending the Land and the People 113
  • Notes 136
  • Chapter Seven - Morale 137
  • Notes 162
  • Chapter Eight - Adapting, Enduring, Escaping 164
  • Chapter Nine - Time for Change: the General Election 192
  • Chapter Ten - Taking Stock: Britain in 1945 204
  • Bibliography 236
  • Index 241
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