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NEWS: The paperback of Rise and Fall of the British Nation will be published in April 2019 as well as a new edition of my The Shock of the Old, which will have a new introduction.
It is usual to see the United Kingdom as an island of continuity in an otherwise convulsed and unstable Europe; its political history a smooth sequence of administrations, from building a welfare state to coping with decline. Nobody would dream of writing the history of Germany, say, or the Soviet Union in this way.
David Edgerton's major new history breaks out of the confines of traditional British national history to redefine what it was to British, and to reveal an unfamiliar place, subject to huge disruptions. This was not simply because of the world wars and global economic transformations, but in its very nature. Until the 1940s the United Kingdom was, Edgerton argues, an exceptional place: liberal, capitalist and anti-nationalist, at the heart of a European and global web of trade and influence. Then, as its global position collapsed, it became, for the first time and only briefly, a real, successful nation, with shared goals, horizons and industry, before reinventing itself again in the 1970s as part of the European Union and as the host for international capital, no longer capable of being a nation.
Packed with surprising examples and arguments, The Rise and Fall of the British Nation gives us a grown-up, unsentimental history which takes business and warfare seriously, and which is crucial at a moment of serious reconsideration for the country and its future.
The history of England and the aeroplane is one tangled with myths - of 'the Few' and the Blitz, of boffins, flying machines, amateur inventors and muddling through. In England and the Aeroplane David Edgerton reverses received wisdom, showing that the aeroplane is a central and revealing aspect of an unfamiliar English nation: a warfare state dedicated to technology, industry, empire and military power.
England had the strongest air force in the Great War, the largest industry in the world in the 1920s, outproduced Germany by 50% at the time of the Battle of Britain and was the third largest producers of aeroplanes well after this time. In a revelatory recounting of the story of aeronautical England, from its politics to its industry and culture, David Edgerton reconfigures some of the most important chapters of our history.
The familiar image of the British in the Second World War is that of the plucky underdog taking on German might. David Edgerton's bold, compelling new history shows the conflict in a new light, with Britain as a very wealthy country, formidable in arms, ruthless in pursuit of its interests and sitting at the heart of a global production system.
The British, indeed Churchillian, vision of war and modernity was challenged by repeated defeat by less well equipped enemies. Yet the end result was a vindication of this vision. Like the United States, a powerful Britain won a cheap victory, while others paid a great price. Britain's War Machine, by putting resources, machines and experts at the heart of a global rather than merely imperial story, demolishes some of the most cherished myths about wartime Britain and gives us a very different and often unsettling picture of a great power in action
This first ever history of technology casts aside the usual stories of inventions and focuses instead on what people actually use. It reassesses the relationship of technology and society, using unrecognised examples such as Spanish synthetic petrol, Japanese rickshaws, American gas chambers, Soviet tractors and Turkish battleships. We do not live in an era of ever increasing change, and the most important technologies of the twenty first century are often overlooked today. Drawing on political, economic and cultural history, The Shock of the Old dispels misplaced futurism and exemplifies a radical new way of looking at our world.
Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970
A challenge to the central theme of the existing histories of twentieth-century Britain, that the British state was a welfare state, this book argues that it was also a warfare state, which supported a powerful armaments industry. This insight implies major revisions to our understanding of twentieth-century British history, from appeasement, to wartime industrial and economic policy, and the place of science and technology in government. David Edgerton also shows how British intellectuals came to think of the state in terms of welfare and decline, and includes a devastating analysis of C. P. Snow's two cultures. This groundbreaking book offers a new, post-welfarist and post-declinist, account of Britain, and an original analysis of the relations of science, technology, industry and the military. It will be essential reading for those working on the history and historiography of twentieth-century Britain, the historical sociology of war and the history of science and technology.
The place of science and technology in the British economy and society is widely seen as critical to our understanding of the British 'decline'. There is a long tradition of characterising post-1870 Britain by its lack of enthusiasm for science and by the low social status of the practitioners of technology. David Edgerton examines these assumptions, analysing the arguments for them and pointing out the different intellectual traditions from which they arise. Drawing on a wealth of statistical data, he argues that British innovation and technical training were much stronger than is generally believed, and that from 1870 to 1970 Britain's innovative record was comparable to that of Germany. This book is a comprehensive study of the history of British science and technology in relation to economic performance. It will be of interest to scientists and engineers as well as economic historians, and will be invaluable to students approaching the subject for the first time.