... demonstrate[s] well what we can learn and need to relearn about Britain’s People’s War ... brave and bold arguments and nuance through thick description ... [Allport] moves with ease, wit and insight between the high political and diplomatic, the social and economic, the strategic and military, with biographical vignettes and anecdotes illustrating the lived experience of ordinary people. That it is an epic story there is no doubt. But the twist is that it is a tale of national decline on an epic scale ... imaginatively de-familiarizes national myths ... Allport’s exposé of the private Chamberlain as insufferable, vain, a dreadful judge of character, and an appalling negotiator is balanced by a surprisingly judicious assessment of his foreign policy ... Students of history will be grateful for it as a reference work and treasure trove for many years to come. Covering those traumatic months when civilians were under Nazi fire, the Home Intelligence Reports are a much needed reminder of the drama and diversity of experience, as well as of the quotidian, the petty, and the mundane ... I, for one, can hardly wait for the sequel.
... unusually informative and stimulating ... They say there’s no disputing taste and, just as I don’t share Allport’s fondness for the Shire, I don’t share his loathing for Chamberlain, who had another side, a deep love of nature ... Quite a few other received ideas are deftly skewered ... valuable.
There’s a lot of this saga in Mr. Allport’s 450-page account—how could there not be?—but as one turns again and again to the evidence on offer in the endnotes (more than 60 pages of them), one has a growing sense that Britain at Bay is more than that—in fact, that it might be the single best examination of British politics, society and strategy in these four years that has ever been written. I use the word 'examination' here because the book is much more than a fine narrative account of great personalities and surface actions, of the history of events. It reaches to deeper levels—of geography and grand strategy, and wartime logistics, of shipping logistics and troop deployments ... Mr. Allport goes further than telling the story of a people 'at bay' when he switches to an analysis of the geopolitical, military and industrial-production aspects of the war ... Moreover, he does all this with a rare verbal fluency, often with irony, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, as when he mocks the legendary Royal Air Force leader Lord Trenchard for his May 1941 assertion that the oppressed German nation never joked while in their bomb shelters as the British did and would collapse soon after aerial bombing was intensified ... Britain at Bay is beautifully written, thoroughly researched and cleverly presented. It is a handsome book, too, with great photographs and maps.
Through examining these questions, Allport focuses on the human element, exploring how individuals’ lives contributed to and were impacted by the outcome of events ... challenges several popular assumptions. Allport suggests several reassessments and revisions of the roles various key political and military figures, such as Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain, played in the war’s events. Such new interpretations help distinguish Allport’s book from those that have come before it ... Allport also navigates seamlessly from the high political, diplomatic, and military realms to that of ordinary individuals, weaving in biographical vignettes and anecdotes that reveal ordinary people’s experiences ... While well-researched with extensive academic citations, Britain at Bay is highly readable and engaging. Allport demonstrates vast knowledge of relevant primary and secondary sources and covers a broad range of events and activities. The book and its subsequent second volume will likely emerge as a definitive history of Britain in World War II.
Allport paints a rich and highly readable portrait of Britain in the 1930s ... The opening battles of World War II, including the Battle of Britain in 1940 and the Blitz in 1940-41 as well as the earliest battles in North Africa and the beginning of Britain’s bombing campaign are given sharp and concise explorations that highlight the roles of lesser-known but vital figures. Insightful maps are an added bonus ... This thoroughly researched work will engage anyone interested in military, social, and political history of Britain during World War II.
[Allport] expertly sketches the cultural and social landscape of middle-class England in the 1930s ... Allport offers cogent and insightful accounts of the Battle of Britain, the Blitz, the first tank campaigns in Egypt and Libya, and bombing raids over Germany, and he sketches incisive portraits of key yet often overlooked political and military leaders ... Expertly researched and marvelously written, this sterling history casts an oft-studied subject in a new light.
... carries a modest whiff of revisionism ... Allport’s provocative view will intrigue American readers, if not his countrymen, as he maintains that France’s army was not demoralized, poorly equipped, or led by incompetents ... These are familiar events, but Allport’s interpretation is superb.