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During the Second World War, the United Kingdom faced severe shortages of many essential raw materials. To keep its armaments factories running, the British government enlisted millions of people in efforts to recycle a wide range of materials for use in munitions production. Recycling not only supplied British munitions factories with much-needed raw materials – it also played a key role in the efforts of the British government to maintain the morale of its citizens, to secure billions of dollars in Lend-Lease aid from the United States, and even to uncover foreign intelligence. However, Britain's wartime recycling campaign came at a cost: it consumed many items that would never have been destroyed under normal circumstances, including significant parts of the nation's cultural heritage. Based on extensive archival research, Peter Thorsheim examines the relationship between armaments production, civil liberties, cultural preservation, and diplomacy, making Waste into Weapons the first in-depth history of twentieth-century recycling in Britain.Read more
- The first in-depth history of twentieth-century recycling in Britain
- Based on research at more than twenty archives in Britain and the USA
- Reveals many new details about Lend-Lease and Anglo-American relations during World War II
Reviews & endorsements
"An important contribution to our understanding of total war. This is a vivid and original account of the shifts and expedients of warfare as they interacted with the voracious demands of a war economy. This study deserves attention."
Jeremy Black, University of ExeterSee more reviews
"Waste into Weapons is a novel study. Historians have not given due attention to the important role of preserving resources in wartime, which speaks both to the urgency of the war and the kind of sacrifices expected from the citizenry. But as Peter Thorsheim pointedly reminds us, there was an 'urge to destroy' parts of the material culture that transcended the patriotic duty of winning the war. This is a book that brings together the materiality and culture of the war like few others."
Martin V. Melosi, author of The Sanitary City
"This is an excellent book. Salvage collection and recycling during the Second World War made a major contribution to the British war effort, and at last we have a full history. Based on extensive research in many archives, Thorsheim finally gives this unique episode in the history of recycling the attention it deserves. The analysis ranges from the strategic and diplomatic to the economic and psychological, providing new insight into the efforts made to secure scrap metal; the sacrifice of historical artifacts, books, and documents; and women's and children's contributions as salvage collectors."
Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska, University of Illinois, Chicago
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- Date Published: October 2016
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781107492097
- length: 306 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
- weight: 0.45kg
- contains: 21 b/w illus. 2 tables
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Beating Ploughshares into Swords:
1. Salvage in times of peace and war
2. Persuasion and its limits
3. Britain's darkest hour
4. Private enterprise and the public good
Part II. Alliances:
6. Waste becomes a crime
Part III. History, Culture, and Civil Liberties:
7. The built environment
8. Wasting paper
10. Victory and postwar
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