Fighting for Britain

February 2010
16 black and white, 3 line illustrations
301 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC HIS027100, SOC056000

Fighting for Britain

African Soldiers in the Second World War

David Killingray, Martin Plaut


Hardback out of stock

eBook for Handhelds
The first major study of the experiences of the hundreds of thousands of African soldiers who served with the British army during the Second World War.
During the Second World War over half-a-million African troops served with the British Army as combatants and non-combatants in campaigns in the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, Italy and Burma - the largest single movement of African men overseas since the slave trade. This account, based mainly on oral evidence and soldiers' letters, tells the story of the African experience of the war. It is a 'history from below' that describes how men were recruited for a war about which most knew very little. Army life exposed them to a range of new and startling experiences: new foods and forms of discipline, uniforms, machines and rifles, notions of industrial time, travel overseas, new languages and cultures, numeracy and literacy.
What impact did service in the army have on African men and their families? What new skills did soldiers acquire and to what purposes were they put on their return? What was the social impact of overseas travel, and how did the broad umbrella of army welfare services change soldiers' expectations of civilian life? And what role if any did ex-servicemen play in post-war nationalist politics? In this book African soldiers describe in their own words what it was like to undergo army training, to travel on a vast ocean, to experience battle, and their hopes and disappointments on demobilisation.
DAVID KILLINGRAY is Professor Emeritus of History, Goldsmiths, and Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

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Table of Contents

Africa 1939
Army life
Indiscipline, strike & mutiny
Going home & demobilisation
Ex-servicemen & politics
The social impact of war service


[A] fascinating study. TIMES HIGHER EDUCATION

This splendid book, with marvellous illustrations [...] will delight Old Africa hands. [...] It is the personal experience and reflection of individual African soldiers that gives this book its historical strength and emotional appeal. THE OVERSEAS PENSIONER

Sober and judicious but also thrilling and dramatic. AFRICA
Will become the one-stop reference for research on Anglophone Africa and its soldiers during World War II. [...] Killingray succeeds in putting human faces on some of the nearly one million African soldiers who laboured and fought. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES
It is a pleasure to turn the pages of this new book. [...] For those new to the subject matter, the volume offers an incomparable access point, allowing them to pursue their studies through the extensive bibliography and the themes that the book divides the subject into. [...] Will be the standard work on the subject for years, probably decades to come, an entirely fitting pedestal given David Killingray's leadership in this field. INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Of particular interest is [the author's] challenge to the conventional wisdom that returning soldiers were the vanguard of independence movements. Killingray eschews postcolonial theories and anchors himself to archival and literary evidence, making this book accessible to a wide audience. Recommended. CHOICE
The most comprehensive work attempted on the subject thus far. REVIEWS IN HISTORY
[A]n impressive synthesis of primary and secondary sources on Africans' contributions to the British Second World War effort. [...] It is replete with first-hand examples and voices from African men and draws upon a formidable range of materials and sources. PAMBAZUKA NEWS
A well written book that makes a valuable contribution and should be read by anyone interested in the Second World War, Africa and/or race and military service. JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY
A ground-breaking book which reveals as much about the imperial British as it does about their African subjects. NORTH SOUTH
David Killingray's fascinating new book sets out in compelling prose and finely researched detail the extraordinary story of Africa's stalwart and generous support of the Empire's most perilous of wars. TLS

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