This text reveals the full extent of Britain's preparations for nuclear war during the Cold War. When would the Prime Minister have authorised the use of nuclear force? At what stage in a nuclear exchange would government and the country have broken down? Who would have gone with the PM and the War Cabinet and where was the immensely secret underground bunker that they would have gone to? What would the Queen have been told, and when, about the end of her kingdom? Peter Hennessy answers these questions in an accessible style.
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History is often best understood as a series of errors and misjudgements with profound, if not disastrous, consequences, but The Secret State reverses the trend as it is the story of a group of people who, with a bit of luck and a lot of skill, actually got it right. Had you asked many politicians or military personnel back in 1952, very few would have put money on the world remaining free of nuclear war for the next 50 years, especially given the history of the first half of the 20th century. But, with a few narrow squeaks along the way, peace prevailed and The Secret State goes some way to explaining Britain's part in that achievement.
With the domino-like collapse of the Eastern Bloc communist regimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Cold War effectively ended and with it the need for many documents relating to that period to remain secret. In 1992, as part of the Waldegrave Initiative, the Conservative government, under pressure from historians such as Hennessy, began to drip-feed previously classified documents into the public domain, and to date more than 100,000 items have been released. From these, Hennessy has been able to piece together all the retaliation procedures had a nuclear strike been launched against Britain. The picture that emerges is surprisingly reassuring; many of the documents are couched in the formal stiff-upper-lip of both the military and Whitehall of the 50s and 60s, but there is a humanity and pacifism, too. Far from being the hawks of popular imagination, the military clearly went to great lengths to keep us out of a nuclear war, both by their actions at home and abroad. Britain may have been a smallish player compared to the US and the USSR in the global nuclear game, but it did its fair share of keeping the peace by curbing some of its more aggressive American counterparts. Hennessy is a past master at bringing dusty archives to life and The Secret State is one of those rare books that reflects credit not only on the author but on its subjects, too. This is a must read for anyone who has ever wondered just how lucky they are to still be alive. --John CraceReview:
a fascinating new history of Whitehall and the Cold War -- The Mail on Sunday, 3 March 2002
he tells the story with a sparkling combination of wit and infectious enthusiasm -- History Today, July 2002
riveting, path-breaking and wonderfully readable -- The Times, 6 March 2002
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Book Description Penguin Global, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Revised. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0141008350
Book Description Penguin Global, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 141008350
Book Description Penguin Global, 2004. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110141008350