|Originally published 1990|
|Similar The twentieth century, Armageddon: The Reality Behind th, The Pimlico History of, Thirteen days, Breach of Promise: Labour in|
1940: Myth and Reality (ISBN 978-0929587684) is a controversial 1990 book by Clive Ponting and published by Hamish Hamilton. It is a revisionist history of the Second World War, particularly the divergences between the rhetoric and the reality in relation to popular British narratives. The revisionism is different from that of, for example, 'The Battle of Britain: Myth and Reality, a 2000 book by Richard Overy, and draws different (arguably more pessimistic) conclusions. The book caused a minor sensation when published, but few of the revelations were new, most having been published in other books in the previous 21 years.
The historiography of the period is a contentious one. Ponting claims that underlying realities that are far more complex and troubling are masked by the notions of 'Britain's finest hour' in the year of the Battle of Britain and the evacuation of Dunkirk, the other eulogising about the conflict and the lionisation of the premiership of Winston Churchill.
The lesson of 1940 in particular, according to Ponting, was that Britain was no longer a superpower: "So vulnerable was Britain in the summer of 1940 that secret plans were laid to sell out Ulster to Eire and the Falklands (a nice touch, this) to Argentina. As the money ran out, the British forfeited their independence and became a client state of the United States."
Ponting also analyses the role of propaganda transmitted by the government that also led to the creation of a façade that masked underlying German casualty levels and the parlous situation that led to Dunkirk. The question of the leadership of Churchill is examined and foreshadows Ponting's 1994 biography of Churchill, with the point made that the latter then addressed Parliament but rarely broadcast to the nation. The latter point has itself been contested, however, for example in the view that the idea that actors recorded Churchill's speeches is itself a myth.