Workshop – 1940-1942: The Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?

1940-1942: The Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?

1 June 2016

The Second World War Research Group

Defence Studies Department

Joint Services Command and Staff College

Shrivenham, Wiltshire

John Darwin has christened the period 1940 to 1942 the ‘great crisis of empire’. In these years, he argued, the British world system ‘all but broke up and never fully recovered’. The British Empire did not fade slowly into the shadows, reach its apogee in the inter-war years or finally succumb to a wave of decolonisation in the 1960s; the ‘real turning point came with the strategic catastrophe of 1940-2’. David Reynolds, in a similar vein, has labelled 1940 the ‘fulcrum of the twentieth century’. The military defeat in France forced Britain to move towards a ‘special relationship’ with the United States and at the same time distance itself from ‘closer association’ with France and continental Europe. These same years were of no less significance for Germany, Italy, Japan, those states occupied by the Axis in Europe and the Far East, or the USSR and the United States. After June 1940, the status quo was, to all intents and purposes, ‘blown to pieces’.

The provisional programme for the event is as follows:

09.00 – Introductions and Welcome (Jonathan Fennell, KCL)

09.15 – Session 1: The Military Catastrophe of 1940 (Chair Andrew Stewart, KCL)

Edward Smalley (Kent), ‘Signal Failure: Communications in the British Expeditionary Force, September 1939 – June 1940’

Philip McCarty (Wolverhampton), ‘The Bartholomew Committee:  An opportunity lost?’

Kathryn Barbier (Mississippi State, USA), ‘Risky Business: Challenging the Odds to Document History in Occupied France’

Ross Mahoney (RAF Museum), ‘The “Cooks and Butchers” Air Force: The Royal Air Force, Contingency Planning and Plan “Banquet”, 1940-1943’

10.35 – Discussion

11.00 – Coffee

11.15 – Keynote: Niall Barr (KCL), ‘The Fulcrum and the Building of the Anglo-American Alliance’.

12.00 – Lunch

13.00 – Session 2: What are we Fighting for? (Chair Jonathan Fennell, KCL)

Stephen Badsey (Wolverhampton), ‘The Will to Win: British Strategy, Propaganda and Public Opinion 1940-1942’

Jacob Stoil (Colgate, USA), ‘“Had they “ulterior motives” of their own”: Zionist Paramilitary Volunteers & British Irregular Forces’

Mirco Carrattieri (Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy), ‘What Are We Fighting For? Herbert George Wells and his Writings about Human Rights, 1940-1942’

14.00 – Discussion

14.30 – Coffee

14.45 – Session 3: The Fulcrum in the Middle & Far East (Chair Christina Goulter, KCL)

Richard Duckett (Reading College), ‘Burma 1942: SOE’s role in “Defeat into Victory”’

Peter Harmsen (Aarhus, Denmark), ‘The Beginning of the End: Chiang, Stalin and the Chinese Responses to Barbarossa’

Gary Sheffield (Wolverhampton), ‘“Heirs of Anzac” and more “miserable Tommies”: Relations between Australian and British troops 1940-42’

15.45 – Discussion

16.15 – Roundtable: 1940-1942: The Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?

Greg Kennedy (KCL)

Ashley Jackson (KCL)

Christina Goulter (KCL)

Richard Hammond (KCL)

17.00 – Closing Remarks (Jonathan Fennell, KCL).

There are spaces available for those wishing to attend. Interested parties should email and The event programme can be downloaded here.


One response to “Workshop – 1940-1942: The Fulcrum of the Twentieth Century?

  1. Gosh, I wish I could be there. This sounds like a very stimulating meeting. I hope the papers will be published. I would love to read them.

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