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1939: The World We Left Behind

By Robert Kee

History makes choices.

The way we see things now is not always how they looked at the time. The task Robert Kee set himself in his chronicle of 1939 was to cut across the demarcation lines of history, to capture the way people perceived the events of the time as they unfolded.

Turning to the newspapers of the day, Kee revives for us a world in which the Second World War is not yet a certainty – a world which still has countless other concerns which have not yet been dwarfed into insignificance by the European emergency – a world in which Chamberlain is still to many a credible leader, and Churchill and Roosevelt, though giants in waiting, are less than monumental.

Robert Kee, born in 1919, sat for his Oxford History degree in the summer of 1940, when France was falling. He joined the RAF the day after taking his last paper, became a bomber pilot, and was shot down and taken prisoner in 1942. After the war he began his journalistic career on Picture Post. He has worked for more than thirty years in radio and television, for both the BBC and ITV. He won the bafta Richard Dimbleby Award in 1976.

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