Locked in a dusty cupboard, neither accessible on the policymakers' desks nor cleared for early publication: Llewellyn Woodward's official diplomatic history of the Second World War

Beck, Peter (2012) Locked in a dusty cupboard, neither accessible on the policymakers' desks nor cleared for early publication: Llewellyn Woodward's official diplomatic history of the Second World War. English Historical Review, 127(529), pp. 1435-1470. ISSN (print) 0013-8266

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Abstract

Sir Llewellyn Woodward’s official diplomatic history, though part of Britain’s Second World War official histories, had a very different history from the rest of the series. Commissioned originally during the war as confidential internal histories intended to help future policymakers learn from the wartime past, from 1946 onwards the official histories were targeted through publication at a wider academic and public audience outside Whitehall. The American audience proved a high priority. Unlike other volumes, in 1950 Woodward’s diplomatic history, though still in preparation, was subjected to a prime ministerial ban on publication because of infringements of the rules concerning official histories. Completed in 1956, the five-volume official history was not published until the 1970s, although a sanitised one-volume version was cleared for publication in 1962. Prior to publication Woodward’s full history was available for confidential use by policymakers, but in reality remained locked away in the departmental cupboard, excepting occasional access by politicians like Lord Avon writing their memoirs. Highlighting government efforts to manage the presentation of Britain’s wartime past as well as the difficulties of integrating history into the policymaking process, this study offers illuminating insights into Woodward’s experience of writing official history. In particular, as an academic historian based at Oxford and then Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, his work as an official historian required him constantly to balance professional standards and reputation against government demands and pressures.

Item Type: Article
Research Area: History
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (until 2017) > School of Social Science (until November 2012)
Depositing User: Peter Beck
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2013 08:59
Last Modified: 14 Mar 2013 14:29
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/ces269
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/24913

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