Book Review: The British Empire and the Second World War


by Ashley Jackson

London/New York: Hambledon Continuum, 2006. Pp. xvii, 604. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $19.95 paper. ISBN:1852855177

As the title indicates, this work deals with the role the 60 or so political entities -- crown colonies, dominions, mandates, protectorates, Indian Princely States, and many others -- more or less tied to the United Kingdom played in the 'British' war effort.  One would think this a well-told tale, but, as the author notes, though India and the Dominions have been more or less well covered, the rest of the Empire has not received much attention. 

By dividing the war into its component theaters, the author outlines the course of the war in each area, and then discusses how the various jurisdictions of the Empire in that region contributed to the war effort.  It's an impressive treatment, as he shows that even the smallest and most obscure entities within the Empire often made relatively major contributions to the war, from the Indian Princely States to British Honduras to the Maldive Islands and all the rest. 
In the process, he also provides a unique insight into the extremely complex strategic concerns of a truly global empire in a truly global war.  For example, events in the Indian Ocean might suggest threats to the Falklands or how Vichy-ite administrations in some French colonies might have threatened the security of small but strategically critical imperial outposts or how the generous support of the war effort by an obscure protectorate such as Swaziland, might reflect not only loyalty to the Empire, but also local concerns and ambitions and even help shape the post war world.

An informative work for anyone interested in the Second World War.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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