Second World War

Degas to Picasso: Creating Modernism in France

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This exhibition looks at key moments in the development of art from the French Revolution to the Second World War.

The main subject matter of European art from the 15th century onwards had been the ruling classes and their possessions. Realism had been the dominant artistic form. However, the successive political upheavals of the 19th century encouraged the spirit of rebellion in the arts.

The Unwomanly Face of War

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The author is a Nobel Prize winner who documents the experience of women that served in the Soviet Army in the Second World War, based on hundreds of interviews she carried out in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

One million women served in the Soviet Army and she spoke to women who worked in every possible role and geographical area, including sappers, nurses, surgeons, foot soldiers, air force captains, pilots, tank drivers, partisans and snipers.Originally heavily censored, it was first published in 1985, and this is the first time it has been available in English.

Their war and ours: the people and the Second World War

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The Second World War is usually portrayed as a "good war". But in a recent book Donny Gluckstein argues that the war was both an imperialist war and a people's war. Mark Kilian explores this fascinating new study

No war has been covered more in books and films than the Second World War. Yet Donny Gluckstein's A People's History of the Second World War is an original and comprehensive account which contains valuable lessons for the future.

A Day to Remember

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The scale and methods of the Nazi genocide of Jewish people make it a politically unique event that deserves a special day of memorial.

My favourite book of the last year was Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky. The two sections in the book were originally planned as the first of six interconnected stories based around the fall of France in 1940 during the Second World War and its consequences.

Nemirovsky never finished them - a French Jew, she was arrested, deported and died in Auschwitz. The books were only recently discovered and published to great and justified critical acclaim.

Path of Greatest Resistance

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Bush and Blair's denunciation of Iraqi insurgents as 'criminals' and 'terrorists' recalls the experience of the French Resistance and the Algerian war of independence.

There is nothing new about the situation in Iraq. Ever since imperial powers have imposed their rule on other peoples, there has been resistance. And since the occupying powers have superior weapons, those fighting back use unconventional methods, breaking the rules that their oppressors would like to force on them. This meant guerrilla fighting of some sort. Already in the 1840s a British military commander in India moaned that rebels were 'cruel bloodthirsty cowards' who hid and ran rather than give the British 'a little honest fighting'.

The Guilty Men

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Democracy and liberation were not top of the agenda following the Second World War.

In the summer of 1940, Britain's 'finest hour', German aircraft were over the white cliffs of Dover and the streets of London, and Hitler's panzers seemed set to invade Britain. After beating a disorderly and chaotic retreat from Dunkirk you might have expected that every available British soldier would be lined up on the south coast ready to repulse an expected invasion.

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