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Wikipedia:WikiProject Military history/News/September 2019/Book reviews

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The Fear and the Freedom: Why the Second World War Still Matters - Keith Lowe

Graves of Allied personnel killed in World War II at the Sai Wan War Cemetery in Hong Kong

2/5 stars

By Nick-D

The Fear and the Freedom is a book by British historian Keith Lowe which explores the legacy of World War II. It takes a global perspective on its topic, and traces the effects of the war from when it ended until the current day.

As a fan of Lowe's book on Europe after World War II, Savage Continent, I had high expectations for this work. However, I was quickly disappointed. I was hoping that the book would provide a thematic discussion of the effects of the war and how it's remembered, but was frustrated by it being structured into a large number of short chapters on different aspects of the war. This led to the book lacking a clear argument, and as the chapters only briefly cover their topics there isn't much depth either. To make matters worse, the book is riddled with gross oversimplifications, and some minor inaccuracies.

I was also unconvinced by the extent to which Lowe attributes events to World War II. For instance, the development of welfare states is attributed almost entirely to the war, when the suffering huge numbers of people experienced during the Great Depression and before were also major factors. The collapse of the colonial empires is also shirted home to the war, with barely a mention of the growth of independence movements and the growing realisation in the colonial governments that their empires were a burden rather than an asset before the conflict.

That said, the book does make some interesting points, especially in its early chapters, about how the war is remembered and the often problematic results of the national myths it created. It will also be of interest to readers who are new to the topics it covers. However, it's much less than the sum of its parts.

Publishing details: Lowe, Keith (2018). The Fear and the Freedom: Why the Second World War Still Matters. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780241966488.

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