At the start of the Second World War, Britain was at the height of its imperial power, and it is no surprise that it drew upon the global resources of the Empire once war had been declared. Whilst this international aspect of Britain’s war effort has been well-studied in relation to the military contribution of individual dominions and colonies, relatively little has been written about the Empire as a whole. As such, An Imperial World at War makes an important contribution to the historiography relating to the British Empire and its wartime experience. It argues that the war needs to be viewed in imperial terms, that the role of forces drawn from the Empire is poorly understood and that the war's impact on colonial societies is barely grasped at all in conventional accounts. Through a series of case studies, the volume demonstrates the fundamental role played by the Empire in Britain’s war effort and highlights some of the consequences for both Britain and its imperial territories.Themes include the recruitment and utilization of military formations drawn from imperial territories, the experience of British forces stationed overseas, the use of strategic bases located in the colonies, British policy in the Middle East and the challenge posed by growing American power, the occupation of enemy colonies and the enemy occupation of British colonies, colonial civil defence measures, financial support for the war effort supplied by the Empire, and the commemoration of the war. The Afterword anticipates a new, decentred history of the war that properly acknowledges the role and importance of people and places throughout the colonial and semi-colonial world.’
This volume emanates from a conference organized as part of the ‘Home Fronts of the Empire – Commonwealth’ project. The project was generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by Yasmin Khan and Ashley Jackson with Gajendra Singh as Postdoctoral Research Assistant.
Table of Contents
1. The Second World War as an Imperial Conflict (Ashley Jackson) 2. Guided Development versus New Deal Internationalism (Simon Davis) 3. Japanese Propaganda in Occupied British Asia during the Second World War (Felicia Yap) 4. Italian Somalia under British Rule: Between Liberation and Occupation, 1941-49 (Annalisa Urbano) 5. ‘Africa’s Hong Kong’: Sierra Leone and the Second World War (Andrew Stewart) 6. Citizen-Soldiers in the Colonial World: The British Army in India, 1940-45 (Andrew Muldoon) 7. Second World War Remembrance and Commemoration in West Africa (Oliver Coates) 8. Protecting Which States and Bodies?: Developing Civil Defence in an Imperial Context (Susan Grayzel) 9. Gold and Dollars: Canada, South Africa and British War Finance, 1939-1945 (Iain Johnston) 10. British Retention of Japanese Troops in South-east Asia after the Second World War (Euan McKay) 11. Mixable and Match-able Army Formations (Douglas Delaney) 12. Nazi-Hunting in India on the Eve of the Second World War (Benjamin Zachariah)
Ashley Jackson is Professor of Imperial and Military History at King’s College London and a Visiting Fellow of Kellogg College Oxford. He specializes in the history of the British Empire, particularly during times of war.
Yasmin Khan is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Oxford, based in the Department for Continuing Education. Her work focuses on British India, decolonisation and refugees. She has most recently published The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War (Bodley Head, 2015).
Gajendra Singh is Lecturer in Modern South Asian History at the University of Exeter and author of The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers in Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy (Bloomsbury, 2014).