Browned Off and Bloody-Minded


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The British Soldier Goes to War 1939-1945

Alan Allport

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A social history of the ordinary British soldier during World War II

“Reflects impressively wide reading, and commands respect for its shrewd judgments and lack of sentimentality.”—Max Hastings, New York Review of Books

"The stories of these brave but bewildered civilians in uniform are as illuminating as searchlights in a dark age of traumatic war."—Iain Finlayson, Times (London)

More than three million men served in the British Army during the Second World War, the vast majority of them civilians who had never expected to become soldiers and had little idea what military life, with all its strange rituals, discomforts, and dangers, was going to be like. Alan Allport’s rich and luminous social history examines the experience of the greatest and most terrible war in history from the perspective of these ordinary, extraordinary men, who were plucked from their peacetime families and workplaces and sent to fight for King and Country.

Allport chronicles the huge diversity of their wartime trajectories, tracing how soldiers responded to and were shaped by their years with the British Army, and how that army, however reluctantly, had to accommodate itself to them. Touching on issues of class, sex, crime, trauma, and national identity, through a colorful multitude of fresh individual perspectives, the book provides an enlightening, deeply moving perspective on how a generation of very modern-minded young men responded to the challenges of a brutal and disorienting conflict.

Alan Allport is assistant professor of history at Syracuse University. He lives in Syracuse, NY.

'Historians who examine the social effects of the Second World War in Britain often pay oddly little attention to those people who were in the armed forces. Allport, by contrast, has written a social history of the army itself - one that never loses sight of the fact that most soldiers were civilians in uniform. Wide-ranging and well-written, this is a serious book about a serious subject though it is also, often, a very funny one.' - Richard Vinen, author of National Service: Conscription in Britain 1945-1963

"A welcome social history that tracks the views of the British soldiers, reluctant and otherwise, who were called up in the Second World War."—Sue Baker, Bookseller

". . . he has distilled a mass of wisdom, and gathered all manner of truths under one roof, with skill and judgement."—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

"[An] impressive and sensitively written social history of the British army in the first half of the twentieth century."—David Goodall, Tablet

‘The first-person accounts Allport unearths are by turns outrageous, shocking, hilarious and touching. A great history book needs to entertain as it informs and this work does on almost every page. Browned Off & Bloody-Minded is bloody marvellous…’—History of War, 1st April 2015.

"The stories of these brave but bewildered civilians in uniform are as illuminating as searchlights in a dark age of traumatic war."—Iain Finlayson, Times (London)

‘Those interested in the stories of individuals will find this book a joy. Each chapter begins with the experience of an individual that is designed to give a personal insight into the subject matter… Interwoven with the personal accounts is the main argument of the book. It is a social history and so it is those aspects which come to the fore.’—Peter Howson, Methodist Recorder, 10th April.

‘Browned Off & Bloody-Minded is a deeply researched, well-written and perceptive book that tells the story of the citizen-soldiers who either joined up or were called up to fight, and of how their mores both affected the British Army and were affected by it, even long into peacetime.’—Andrew Roberts, Literary Review.

‘Unusual, moving and entertaining social history, which bring to life the humour as well as the horror of war… The outcome is a well-written, descriptive, honest and enlightening account of a Tommy’s war.’—Family Tree.

". . . achieves that rare goal of being both unputdownable and rigorously researched."—Victoria Harris, Times Literary Supplement

‘It is a well-researched and beautifully written study, and one which gives us a valuable insight into the workings of the army throughout the war and particularly the disrupted lives of the men who made up its ranks and faced the challenges of a brutal and disorientating conflict. A recommended read.’—Britain at War.

‘A welcome addition to the historiography of WWII… Allport’s insightful and fast paced style, including many wry and amusing asides, should broaden its appeal beyond academia.’—Curtis Hutchinson, Military History.

‘This is a brilliant book, whose witty prose is jewelled with memorable turns of phrase throughout – the kind of book that makes one jealous. The author has mastered an art prized by historians: being able to produce a work that satisfies all scholarly criteria while also being accessible to a general audience.’ —Ashley Jackson, BBC History Magazine.

“Alan Allport has produced a cohesive and coherent overview if the British soldier’s experience. Fluently written and liberally bolstered by the words of the soldiers themselves, this account should attract, and deserves to gain, both a specialist and a general readership… This is a valuable work, one that brings its subjects to life, while also pointing us toward so much that remains to be done.”—Andrew Muldoon, Reviews in History

“Reflects impressively wide reading, and commands respect for its shrewd judgments and lack of sentimentality.”—Max Hastings, New York Review of Books

 "This is a beautifully written, evocative, and humane book. It conveys the sheer strangeness of war and military life, and it also raises a host of questions about how men who had been through such an experience lived after 1945. At times, I felt that the virtues of the book were also its faults. Allport’s writing is gripping because of his own narrative flair and because he draws on sources, particularly the memoirs (published and unpublished) of soldiers, which are themselves so vivid."—Richard Vinen, Journal of Modern History

“This rich social history offers a moving insight into the wartime experiences of these extraordinary men.”
Mail on Sunday

ISBN: 9780300226386
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
424 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
22 b/w illus.

Coming Home After World War Two

Alan Allport

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