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  • Cited by 8
  • Volume 3: Total War: Economy, Society and Culture
  • Edited by Michael Geyer, University of Chicago, Adam Tooze, Yale University, Connecticut

Book description

The conflict that ended in 1945 is often described as a 'total war', unprecedented in both scale and character. Volume 3 of The Cambridge History of the Second World War adopts a transnational approach to offer a comprehensive and global analysis of the war as an economic, social and cultural event. Across twenty-eight chapters and four key parts, the volume addresses complex themes such as the political economy of industrial war, the social practices of war, the moral economy of war and peace and the repercussions of catastrophic destruction. A team of nearly thirty leading historians together show how entire nations mobilized their economies and populations in the face of unimaginable violence, and how they dealt with the subsequent losses that followed. The volume concludes by considering the lasting impact of the conflict and the memory of war across different cultures of commemoration.


'This clearly written and well-presented book elaborates the harrowing complexities of the Second World War … This book is a rich resource. … Every library must, clearly, purchase a copy …'

Penny Summerfield Source: Family and Community History

'As an editor of several reference works, I find the ability of Michael Geyer and Adam Tooze to assemble such a superb range of authors and have them produce such high quality chapters for the third volume of Cambridge History of the Second World War to be nothing short of remarkable.'

G. Kurt Piehler Source: Journal of World History

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  • 9 - Death and survival in the Second World War
    pp 252-276
  • View abstract


    This chapter explores how the major powers of Europe and the USA mobilized their economies when war came in 1939, and how at the end of the Second World War they once again wrestled with the problem of how to restore economic peace. Viewed in terms of strictly economic metrics it is conventional to draw a sharp line in 1945 separating the troubled interwar era from the 'post-war' era of triumphant growth. In terms of economic success the difference is undeniable. But the moniker of 'post-war' is seriously misleading when applied to the 1950s, a period of intense military confrontation in the early Cold War and violent decolonization struggles. Alongside the famous welfare state initiatives of the 1940s, the warfare states that had first taken shape in the First World War were more entrenched than ever. Recognizing this casts new light on the nature of the 'post-war' international economic order.
  • 10 - Wars of displacement
    pp 277-297
  • Exile and uprooting in the 1940s
  • View abstract


    Issues of war finance engaged Japan, republican or nationalist China and the Chinese Communists throughout all fourteen years, and for the Japanese also included Southeast Asia between 1941 and 1945. This chapter shows that long periods of war and occupation in Asia could be financed by printing money because the demand for it held up sufficiently well that hyperinflation was largely avoided and confidence in money was not entirely destroyed. Japan, although its mobilization for war was badly managed and often poorly executed, never had any difficulty in financing war, starting with the so-called Peking Incident in 1937 and continuing until the Pacific War ended in 1945. Finance for both the Sino-Japanese and the Pacific War was at the expense of much higher inflation than for other major combatants, drastic cuts in civilian consumption, and considerable repressed inflation. In China and Southeast Asia, the financial techniques Japan adopted to finance occupation avoided any real payment.
  • 11 - The war of the cities
    pp 298-328
  • Industrial labouring forces
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    The war of the factories was essential to the outcome of the war. The Second World War represented a repurposed, albeit temporary, redirection of the international economy for military and industrial purposes. The Soviet Union had made itself into the world's third leading heavy industrial power behind the USA and Germany and its emphasis was emphatically military. If one accepts the default definition of globalization as an increase in cross-border flows of goods and services, capital and labour, then the mobilization for war initiated a sort of militarized, non-market globalization process that remarkably bears many of the hallmarks of the post-1980s second wave of globalization. The statistical volumes of trade, capital or labour flows are indeed trenchant indicators of globalization, but qualitative alterations in the organization of production, the exchange of knowledge, relationships between producers, subcontractors and suppliers were also highly significant, many of which started during the Second World War and had a significant impact on the post-war period.
  • 12 - Battles for morale
    pp 329-362
  • An entangled history of total war in Europe, 1939–1945
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    A fresh material history of the Second World War can throw into relief neglected questions of meaning and understanding of the nature of modern war, and of the basis of military power. In older treatments and tabulations of the material side of war, two sets of numbers stand out: first, the comparative production of various weapons, and second, measures of control of certain raw materials. This chapter focuses on the three great raw materials of the twentieth century: coal, in a class of its own, and iron ore and oil. There were close connections between coal and iron ore, and some between coal and oil. There were good economic reasons for consuming bulky and cheap raw materials close to centres of production, but all typically travelled long distances. The history of the control of raw materials in wartime is as much a history of the control of transport, as of production.
  • 13 - Hors de combat
    pp 363-384
  • Mobilization and immobilization in total war
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    Food has always been a weapon of war. The Second World War was no exception. Indeed, the impact of the conflict on food supplies was as deadly in its effect on the world population as military action. In order to withstand the strains of the Second World War a nation ideally required a large and well-equipped army which could be fed with a steady stream of food, medicines and arms. It therefore needed a strong industrial base which could produce these supplies and a logistical apparatus to deliver them to the front. A flexible capitalized agricultural sector which could adapt to wartime difficulties and still produce increased quantities of nutritious food was an enormous advantage. Food, particularly American food, has been especially crucial in the present war, because it has been essential to the fighting efficiency of our allies as well as our own military forces.
  • 14 - The war of the villages
    pp 385-412
  • The interwar agrarian crisis and the Second World War
  • View abstract


    This chapter on seaborne transport in the Second World War pursues four thematic lines of development. First, in accordance with the scope of the conflict, it places the history of transport on a global and often globally interlocked scale. Second, to capture the distinctive challenges of the Second World War, the chapter compares the two world war experiences. Third, while the story of the maritime Allied nations dominates, it comprehends Axis cross-sea traffic. Finally, the chapter places the experience of the war within a broader temporal perspective which looks back to pre-war maritime infrastructures of knowledge, expertise, networks and installations and forward to the post-war maritime consequences of five years of global war at sea. Two matters cloud any discussion of global transport in the Second World War. One is the ultimate victory of the Allies. The other is the cornucopia of statistics trumpeted in nearly all the histories of that triumph.

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