Skip to content
Register Sign in Wishlist

Warfare State
Britain, 1920–1970


  • Author: David Edgerton, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London
  • Date Published: December 2005
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521672313

£ 36.99

Add to cart Add to wishlist

Other available formats:
Hardback, eBook

Looking for an inspection copy?

This title is not currently available on inspection

Product filter button
About the Authors
  • A challenge to the central theme of the existing histories of twentieth-century Britain, that the British state was a welfare state, this book argues that it was also a warfare state, which supported a powerful armaments industry. This insight implies major revisions to our understanding of twentieth-century British history, from appeasement, to wartime industrial and economic policy, and the place of science and technology in government. David Edgerton also shows how British intellectuals came to think of the state in terms of welfare and decline, and includes a devastating analysis of C. P. Snow's two cultures. This groundbreaking book offers a new, post-welfarist and post-declinist, account of Britain, and an original analysis of the relations of science, technology, industry and the military. It will be essential reading for those working on the history and historiography of twentieth-century Britain, the historical sociology of war and the history of science and technology.

    • Substantial reinterpretation of the British state in the twentieth century
    • Written by a leading figure in the field
    • Will appeal to a wide audience across British history, military history, economic history, the history of science and technology and politics
    Read more

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Professor Edgerton has set himself a major task, to give 'an alternative account' of British history in the twentieth century … This is a truly challenging study which should become required reading for historians of twentieth century Britain.' Contemporary Review

    ' … a highly detailed study, fiercely integrated with a raft of secondary work, which sustains a number of very broad conclusions with wide application: to the history of the British state; to the history of science and technology; and to the writing of history more generally.' Cultural and Social History

    'Michael Rustin 'Edgerton's well documented account of the place of warfare within the British state invites further rethinking of its nature and evolution'. Political Quarterly

    'This is a book that will feature on lists of essential reading for students of war.' War in History

    'Warfare State strikes an orthodoxy dead … one suspects that this book will have as fundamental an impact [as John Brewer's work on the 'fiscal-military state']' International History Review

    '…well worth reading by anyone interested in war and the state generally, not only in their 20th-century British manifestations.' International Journal

    'A fundamental reappraisal of British economic policy, performance, and institutions is now gathering pace. Edgerton's work has long been an inspirational part of that reappraisal. This, his latest, book is without doubt the most important single contribution to the new historiography of twentieth-century Britain.' Alan Booth, Business History Review

    '… his book will certainly have an impact among historians …' The Times Higher Education Supplement

    'This book asks fundamentally important questions about how we construct our understandings of the recent British past and contributes to a significant rethinking of British history.' History Today

    'This powerful book by David Edgerton … is one to upset and unsettle a great many people …' Tribune

    'This is one of the most important general books on British twentieth century history to be published for a long time … grounded in very detailed research and analysis … this book demands a reassessment of how we think about mid-twentieth century British society.' Twentieth Century British History

    'Edgerton's portrait of the 'warfare state' is admirable. He puts the case pungently and with great brio. He should consign the image of a group of bumbling amateurs, with few skills other than the ability to quote Juvenal, to the dustbin of history.' H-Net Book Review

    'It is important because it attempts to be genuinely interdisciplinary, enriching economic history by integrating it in particular with military history and the history of science.' Rodney Lowe, University of Bristol and Cabinet Office

    '… ambitious and impressive … The tone is combative ... Throughout interesting …' Royal United Services Institute Journal

    'This challenging volume should become a standard work, both in twentieth-century British history and in the international study of science and war'. Minerva

    See more reviews

    Customer reviews

    Not yet reviewed

    Be the first to review

    Review was not posted due to profanity


    , create a review

    (If you're not , sign out)

    Please enter the right captcha value
    Please enter a star rating.
    Your review must be a minimum of 12 words.

    How do you rate this item?


    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2005
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521672313
    • length: 382 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 155 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.6kg
    • contains: 22 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The military-industrial complex in the interwar years
    2. The warfare state and the nationalisation of Britain, 1939–55
    3. The expert state: the military-scientific complex in the interwar years
    4. The new men and the new state, 1939–70
    5. Anti-historians and technocrats: revisiting the post-war technocratic moment
    6. The warfare state and the 'white heat', 1955–70
    7. The disappearance of the British warfare state
    8. Rethinking the relations of science, technology, industry and war in the twentieth century.

  • Author

    David Edgerton, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London
    David Edgerton is Hans Rausing Professor at the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine at the Imperial College London. His previous publications include England and the Aeroplane: an Essay on a Militant and Technological Nation (1991) and Science, Technology and the British industrial 'Decline', 1870–1970 (1996).

Sign In

Please sign in to access your account


Not already registered? Create an account now. ×

Sorry, this resource is locked

Please register or sign in to request access. If you are having problems accessing these resources please email

Register Sign in
Please note that this file is password protected. You will be asked to input your password on the next screen.

» Proceed

You are now leaving the Cambridge University Press website. Your eBook purchase and download will be completed by our partner Please see the permission section of the catalogue page for details of the print & copy limits on our eBooks.

Continue ×

Continue ×

Continue ×

Find content that relates to you

Join us online

This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read more Close

Are you sure you want to delete your account?

This cannot be undone.


Thank you for your feedback which will help us improve our service.

If you requested a response, we will make sure to get back to you shortly.

Please fill in the required fields in your feedback submission.