I have started reading Robert Crowcroft's Attlee's War, mentioned on this blog yesterday. It promises to be very interesting though Alistair Cooke's complaint in the review of the book that the author is a little too apt to push himself into the picture is accurate.
Summing up in his Introduction why it is absolutely vital that Attlee's role both in the Labour Party and in government during the war should be understood, Dr Crowcroft says:
The whole of the period c.1940-79 is now genuinely a complete historical era. Until quite recently, at least, the 1970s have still felt contemporary, but no longer. This offers both an opportunity and a necessity to rethink the politics of that era. In the historiography of British politics, the period c.1880-1920 is traditionally the era that has generated extensive paradigm-changing work. But the period that encompasses the Second World War to the rise of Thatcher could become conceptually the most exciting era of modern history.Setting aside the slightly mysterious phrasing of the last sentence, one can but agree that there is a need to rethink much of that period and to vanquish some of the myths that still abound. It makes sense to begin in 1940 rather than in 1945 as the greater political and cultural changes came between those two dates with the Labour government continuing the work of those years.
As it happens, another book on a similar subject is about to become available (it is so difficult to know with the internet when a book has actually been published). It looks at the mythology and reality of the Battle of Britain and takes in many of Dr Crowcroft's ideas. The Many Not The Few will be an interesting addition to what should now become a growing trend in historiography. Well, we can always hope.