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The Cambridge History of the Second World War
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  • Cited by 4
  • Volume 3: Total War: Economy, Society and Culture
  • Edited by Michael Geyer, University of Chicago , Adam Tooze, Yale University, Connecticut
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The conflict that ended in 1945 is often described as a 'total war', unprecedented in both scale and character. Volume 3 of The Cambridge History of the Second World War adopts a transnational approach to offer a comprehensive and global analysis of the war as an economic, social and cultural event. Across twenty-eight chapters and four key parts, the volume addresses complex themes such as the political economy of industrial war, the social practices of war, the moral economy of war and peace and the repercussions of catastrophic destruction. A team of nearly thirty leading historians together show how entire nations mobilized their economies and populations in the face of unimaginable violence, and how they dealt with the subsequent losses that followed. The volume concludes by considering the lasting impact of the conflict and the memory of war across different cultures of commemoration.


'This clearly written and well-presented book elaborates the harrowing complexities of the Second World War … This book is a rich resource. … Every library must, clearly, purchase a copy …'

Penny Summerfield Source: Family and Community History

'As an editor of several reference works, I find the ability of Michael Geyer and Adam Tooze to assemble such a superb range of authors and have them produce such high quality chapters for the third volume of Cambridge History of the Second World War to be nothing short of remarkable.'

G. Kurt Piehler Source: Journal of World History

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Page 2 of 3

  • Introduction to Part III
    pp 414-421
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    The Second World War marks the transition to a new mode of warfare, one in which scientific and technical knowledge transformed the fighting of war. Most historical studies have focused on the outputs of national R&D systems and asked what made them succeed or fail. Instead, this chapter highlights the global character of these developments and their disrespect for the temporal end of the war. It explores national innovation systems as individual experiments within a larger landscape of war-relevant R&D. Second World War research crystallized a societal configuration that had been forming since the second industrial revolution. Knowledge and its bearers were understood as the key agents of change in the new social order. The theorists of knowledge economies were looking at post-1945 America, which meant they were observing that setting where the fullest effects of wartime R&D mobilization carried forward into the post-war order.
  • 15 - Sexuality and sexual violence
    pp 422-446
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    The Second World War was profoundly environmental as conflict transformed environments and human relationships with them. This chapter outlines various aspects of the war's environmental history through a focus on the relationship between militarized states, societies and environments during the period of totalizing warfare. Although research into war's environmental history has laid bare the complex environmental dimensions of warfare, few attempts have been made to consider the relationship between the Second World War's environmental history and totalizing war. The chapter argues that paying attention to the environment creates a fuller understanding of totalizing war between 1939 and 1945. Totalizing warfare led to the increased exploitation of natural resources, shifts in human-animal relations, and the militarization of vast swathes of national territories. Financial, labour and other constraints limited the total mobilization of the environment. Wartime nature protection efforts further limited the war's environmental repercussions, even if their overall impact was small.
  • 17 - Against war
    pp 475-501
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    On the eve of the Second World War, fears of mass death were widespread fears of a repetition of the mass slaughter of the Great War coupled with fears of the effects of aerial bombing. Death from hunger is, obviously, closely related to death from disease, not least because the widespread malnutrition that accompanied the Second World War left those affected more susceptible to disease. For all the physical and psychological effects that wartime losses had on the cohorts of people born during the first half of the twentieth century, it is at least debatable whether the Second World War significantly affected longer-term demographic trends, in particular the longer-term trend toward declining fertility. After the war was over people then had to remake their lives in a world that had been permeated by violent and public death; they had somehow to build what may be described as life after death.
  • 18 - Humanitarian politics and governance
    pp 502-527
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    Displacement during the Second World War is best imagined expansively, as something widespread and often open-ended. Wartime displacement changed the global map and shaped the war's aftermath; it transformed the make-up of national populations, influenced the creation of new states and shaped political ideas about the post-war world. The continuums of ethnic violence and displacement ran over the convenient end date of 1945. Faced with this epic crisis in Europe and in Asia, the emergent international community attempted to try and provide a coordinated response. It was an impressive effort in many ways. The response to the refugees involved the assistance of intergovernmental, governmental and voluntary groups. The contemporary political situation and the subsequent life histories of refugees determined many memories of exile. The continued existence of minorities and the separation of kinship groups remaining in the 'motherland' could also add to the complications of beginning life anew.
  • 19 - Making peace as a project of moral reconstruction
    pp 528-551
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    With the commencement of the Second World War, the mobilization and organization of industrial labour forces was the greatest challenge confronted by all participating nations. This was an economic, social, and above all political challenge. This chapter outlines the changes made to the labour systems in the six nations, namely, the USA, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, Germany, Italy and Japan. In all six nations, workers' associations confronted fundamental changes in the industrial workforce's infrastructure. Rearmament and the commencement of hostilities eliminated any residual unemployment caused by the Great Depression. Since changes in the three Axis powers were the most pronounced, the chapter pays particular attention to Germany, Italy and Japan. The chapter explains the mobilization of previously untapped labour sources, addressing how it changed the industrial workforce's composition and daily life in the workplace. It highlights the mobilization of female workers and foreign labourers in Germany and Japan.
  • 20 - Renegotiating the social contract
    pp 552-574
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    The chapter explores the battles for morale waged in Great Britain, the Soviet Union and Germany. Moving from country to country, the discussion becomes increasingly dense as it traces how war cultures became entangled, whether by drawing close to one another, as in the British-Soviet alliance, or by clashing, as in Germany's war against Britain and the Soviet Union. The comparison with Great Britain and Nazi Germany makes clear how totalizing the Soviet war effort was from the start, how much the regime expected of its population, and how exacting many Soviet citizens were toward themselves and others. A comparative study of total war cultures reveals two dimensions that elude accounts of individual nations at war. It establishes how the term total war masks different degrees and forms of mobilization and different understandings of war aims for which individuals and groups can or should fight.
  • 21 - The rise and fall of central planning
    pp 575-598
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    The relationship between mobilization and immobilization in Nazi total war was dynamic rather than static over time, space and circumstance. In the long view the Nazis could regard human and material resources devoted to the total destruction of 'racial inferiors' as part of a broader total war. At the same time this exertion represented considerable costs at the expense of the total war against the nation states fighting Nazi Germany, though the wartime increase in mobilization of prison and camp labour compensated for this. There were several categories of Germans wholly or partially immobilized, by age, by mental or physical condition, by disposition, or by gender. The immobilization was met with a costly and labour-intensive Nazi campaign to integrate disabled soldiers into the war economy. While most homosexuals remained, undetected, part of the Nazi war effort, the debate over their nature and utility is an instance in the realm of science and medicine of the dynamics of mobilization and immobilization.
  • 22 - Nationalism, decolonization, geopolitics and the Asian post-war
    pp 599-622
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    The Second World War was fought in an agrarian world. To construct a frame to encompass the variegated but interconnected agrarian history of the Second World War, four dimensions suggest themselves. First, the agrarian world was the source of the food, raw materials, human and animal labour power for all of the combatant countries and their populations, whether civilian or military. Second, given its essential role both as a productive resource and as the foundation of rural life, land was a key target of conquest. Third, the countryside was the stage on which much of the war was fought out. One should take the notion of the battlefield more literally than he/she sometimes does. Fourth, in many theatres the peasants who populated this battlefield, were not passive objects of conquest, nor were they merely bystanders or victims of collateral damage; in several major arenas in Europe and Asia, the peasants, as peasants, were strategic actors in the war.
  • 24 - The ghosts of war
    pp 654-674
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    Prior to the inroads made by scholars of gender and sexuality, particularly since the 1990s, historians noted a wartime taboo on talk about sexuality, in general, and sexual violence in particular. Violence and sex have been relentlessly linked in wartime in manifold and sometimes contradictory ways. This chapter explores this linkage by focusing on two major sites of the Second World War, Japan's clash with the rest of Asia and Germany's aggression toward most of Europe. The historiography of sex and sexuality during the Second World War in Asia has focused on sexual violence rather than romance. The Second World War history of sexuality and sexual violence under Japanese imperialism in Asia in many ways echoed how sex and war intersected in Europe while substantially differing in others. Since the Second World War, one has gained a better understanding of how the militarization of sexuality in wartime and beyond continues to sustain hegemonic masculinity.
  • 25 - Popular memory, popular culture
    pp 675-697
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    One common understanding of the Second World War is that it was a contest between liberty and tyranny. The refusal of alleged pacifists to participate in the often lawless violence of the Second World War posed fundamental practical and normative challenges for all combatants, but especially for those who understood themselves to be fighting for individual liberty. By studying the development of the law of conscientious objection from the First World War through the Second World War, one can track both the growing separation between liberal and totalitarian governance and the internal crisis that wracked liberalism in these years. This chapter describes the American, British and Commonwealth approaches to conscientious objection during the Second World War and contrasts them with how other belligerents treated those who refused to fight. The interwar debate over administrative governance had been structured by an overly-simplistic contrast between classical liberal and totalitarian approaches to the rule of law.
  • 26 - The Second World War in global memory space
    pp 698-724
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    The Second World War was clearly one of the most extravagantly violent events in human history. Pacifists in occupied countries faced particular challenges, since under occupation pacifism could function as either resistance or collaboration. In France, for instance, there was a notable strand of pacifism among French collaborationists, many of whom had been opponents of a French war against Germany in the first place. One German lexicon published during the Third Reich defined pacifism as 'fundamental opposition to war, which easily leads to treason, especially as a result of international cooperation; adherents of pacifism in Germany in particular were for the most part traitors. The wartime insignificance of pacifism was particularly striking in Britain, where pacifism and conscientious objection had been an especially brisant issue during the First World War. The most obvious legacy of wartime pacifism was the way it fed directly and influentially into the emergence of post-war reform movements, most obviously the Civil Rights movement.
  • 27 - Landscapes of destruction
    pp 725-748
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    The human toll of the Second World War dwarfed the combined efforts of states and civil society entities to ameliorate that suffering. By the outbreak of the Second World War, the massive humanitarian operations directed by Herbert Hoover during the First World War and its aftermath had become mythologized in large reservoirs of popular memory. The transition of international refugee management responsibilities to the International Refugee Organization opens a window onto some wider geopolitical and institutional legacies that United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) bequeathed to the post-war international order. The massive state-directed aid programmes of the Second World War created unprecedentedly vast opportunities for civil society organizations to engage in international humanitarian endeavours, even as the nature of those opportunities were regulated by governments. The issue of human rights and its ideological cousin, humanitarianism, invites a concluding reflection on that blend of compassion and cold calculation that produced the moral economy of the Second World War.

Page 2 of 3


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