When Britain Saved the West


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The Story of 1940

Robin Prior

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How Britain, standing alone, persevered in the face of near-certain defeat at the hands of Nazi Germany

From the comfortable distance of seven decades, it is quite easy to view the victory of the Allies over Hitler’s Germany as inevitable. But in 1940 Great Britain’s defeat loomed perilously close, and no other nation stepped up to confront the Nazi threat. In this cogently argued book, Robin Prior delves into the documents of the time—war diaries, combat reports, Home Security’s daily files, and much more—to uncover how Britain endured a year of menacing crises.
The book reassesses key events of 1940—crises that were recognized as such at the time and others not fully appreciated. Prior examines Neville Chamberlain’s government, Churchill’s opponents, the collapse of France, the Battle of Britain, and the Blitz. He looks critically at the position of the United States before Pearl Harbor, and at Roosevelt’s response to the crisis. Prior concludes that the nation was saved through a combination of political leadership, British Expeditionary Force determination and skill, Royal Air Force and Navy efforts to return soldiers to the homeland, and the determination of the people to fight on “in spite of all terror.” As eloquent as it is controversial, this book exposes the full import of events in 1940, when Britain fought alone and Western civilization hung in the balance.

Robin Prior is professor of history at Flinders University, Adelaide, and author of six previous books. He lives in Adelaide, Australia.

'We have come to expect insightful books by Robin Prior, but this is a tour de force. Rigorously documented and forcefully argued, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the Second World War. It will also provoke controversy. Let the fight begin!' - Joanna Bourke, author of An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare

'With wit, erudition and exemplary clarity, Robin Prior shows how and why the Battle of Britain was won. A major contribution to the history of the Second World War.' - Jay Winter, author of Dreams of Peace and Freedom: Utopian Moments in the Twentieth Century

‘If the country had failed, suggests Robin Prior in this meticulously researched book, the ideals of the West would have failed with it. For this historian, 1940 was the 20th century’s most critical year… This is a tightly focused, scholarly and enthralling book.’—History of War.

‘Elegant, well marshalled and powerful… Prior’s authoritative, no-nonsense coverage underlines the period’s momentousness’—Ashley Jackson, BBC History Magazine.

“Prior’s book offers a magisterial survey of the key events of 1940.”— Simon Fowler, Who Do You Think You Are?

“A stirring retelling of the saga of 1940, emphasizing the centrality of Winston Churchill . . . [Prior] writes vividly and well.”—Max Hastings, New York Review of Books

“As always, [Prior] is an engaging writer, and he certainly achieves what he sets out to do in outlining how Britain indeed saved the West in 1940”—Ian F.W. Beckett, Journal of Army Historical Research

When Britain Saved the West is a skillful retelling of the well-known narrative of British sacrifice and heroism in the darkest hours of the war.”—Christopher M. Bell, CJH/ACH
ISBN: 9780300226430
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
360 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
30 b/w illus.

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