More on The World at War

The last episode of The World at War is interesting with some reflections on the aftermath. While Germany lost the war, there was a positive outcome. Militarism was well and truly smashed and a modern democracy established, which might not have happened without a war. The generosity of the Marshall Plan also ensured a period of dramatic economic growth and wealth creation to enable Germany to mature as a nation.

The historian at the end suggested that Britain was the big loser as it bankrupted itself and lost an empire. Arguably, it took  forty years and inflation to restore public sector debt to GDP to “normal” levels. The loss of the empire is an interesting one. The weakness of Britain after the war and the raised expectations of the colonies meant that there was a largely peaceful transfer of political power.

This was probably the first time in history that an empire had been dismantled peacefully and voluntarily. If there hadn’t been a war, would this have happened? Who knows, but there must have been a chance that Britain would have been embroiled in a succession of wars of independence. The fact that this, for the most part, didn’t happen was a very positive outcome for a traumatic period of history, it seems to me.


6 thoughts on “More on The World at War”

  1. Robin – one of the finest series ever made, superbly narrated by Olivier and a series I remember watching on Sunday afternoons with my Father , I think it was 1973.

    I watched the series fairly recently on the History channel. As you quite rightly say it shows in graphic detail the absolute futility of war.

  2. Correlli Barnett has written several books on where Britain went wrong economically in the aftermath of the war. I would have thought that they would be right up your street Robin. Eg Lost Victory: British Dreams, British Realities 1. Check out the summary on Amazon. And he’s a lucid and insightful writer. (I also like his military histories, but imagine that you wouldn’t.)

  3. I think that history tells us that every Empire must fall. Egyptian, Persian, Greek, Carthaginian, Roman amidst many others.

    I think that the Empire eventually faded and the largest loss was India which really was its Jewel and that economically finished it!

    Maybe the war paved the way for the colonies to have independence however imagine if Britain hadn’t been in India? Surely it’d have fallen to Communism?

    As the host suggests it’s the way in which the British Empire fell opposed to vanishing. Though it still lives on almost as a myth much like Rome.

    Surely, inexorably the US will be set to fall economically because of the emerging Tiger economies?

  4. Another good book for your belated Christmas lists is “Empire – How Britain Made the Modern World” by Niall Ferguson. It ends by drawing some analogies between the modern USA and the Empire.

    1. Yes I’ve read it and enjoyed it. Have you read “The War of the World”? If not, it is another excellent book by Niall Ferguson. Another brilliant book on the period is “The Wages of Destruction” by Adam Tooze on the Nazi economy.

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