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Revisiting The Second World War

Podcast Series In 10 Episodes

Arthur Szyk's 1941 artwork lampooning Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito. The work is entitled Murder Incorporated: Hirohito, Hitlerhito and Benito.

Arthur Szyk (Polish American, 1894-1951). Murder Incorporated: Hirohito, Hitlerhito, Benito. Watercolor and gouache, 1941. Private Collection, JSTOR,

It is now some 80 years since the Second World War (WW2) ended. Yet we still tend to see the conflict in largely national terms, which was how it was interpreted by most combatant countries in the decades immediately after 1945.

In the West, the narrative has been broadly a triumphant one, of the victory of freedom over tyranny. In Britain in particular, the ‘Few against the Many’ and ‘Britain Alone’ has played into a David-and-Goliath story of plucky underdogs succeeding against the odds. America calls WW2 the ‘Good War’, fought by its Greatest Generation.

But these narratives take little account of the wider global war, the complexities that such a huge conflict entailed, or the diversity of experiences and outcomes in different countries – big and small, occupied and free, winners and losers.

Today's historians, informed by new archives and changed perspectives, now study WW2 in its global context and cast doubt on the standard accounts that are so familiar to us. Across ten in-depth episodes, they tell us how major aspects of this war have been under-played, exaggerated or simply got wrong.

If you think you know about WW2, it’s time to think again.

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The music in this series is taken from Ida Pinkert's 'Four Songs', played by the Nimrod Ensemble of Berlin as part of the Lebensmelodien project, which seeks to rediscover the lost music of Jewish composers affected by the Holocaust (

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