But that's not even the best part. These two paragraphs are delightful:
Today, some still want to suggest that the Battle preserved not just Britain, but the whole of civilisation. The judgment that Overy makes on his last page – that ‘no one pretends that the Battle of Britain decided the war’ – is therefore a little hasty. In his preface, though, Overy says that a British ‘abdication’ in 1940 would have been a calamity for the world as a whole.
Perhaps. It would certainly have been a calamity for the British Empire. But was the Empire saved by the RAF a zone of civilisation? Nobody should underestimate the difference between living under Nazism and living under, say, Churchill. But the Empire was a zone of naked British self-interest, just as much as conquest was a rational strategy for a late-arriver imperialist power like Germany. Britain’s wartime conduct in the Indian subcontinent alone shows that it could be as insouciant about enormous numbers of civilian deaths as Germany.
Let's translate: Today, according to our intrepid reviewer, some unnamed people think the Battle of Britain saved civilization. Overy does not say the Battle of Britain won the war (which is a different question than saving civilization) but he does say that had the Brits not fought in 1940, that would have been really bad for the world. But our reviewer explains Overy is wrong about the battle saving civilization. Now, since Overy never said that, the reviewer has made and won an argument with himself, which is well played. Even better is his reasoning for besting himself in the duel of wits with himself--reasoning that includes another argument with himself. To wit: "Nobody should underestimate the difference" between the Nazis and the British Empire, except, of course, our reviewer, who then estimates that they are pretty much the same. And where are these two civilian-murdering regimes located? Outside the "zone of civilization," and in the "zone of naked self interest," which are opposites, or something.
Also, the United States dropped atomic bombs. Assholes.
Well, that's watertight. Richard Overy has been bested.
But as Woudhuysen wistfully concludes, in a manner perfectly consistent with the rest of the review, if only Old Blighty still had brave young lads who would sacrifice themselves for king and country....
Seriously, read the whole thing. Simply brilliant.