It’s the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War. Everyone is talking about it. BBC Radio 5 did its breakfast show from the Imperial War Museum (at their new Outbreak exhibition), all the broadsheets have got stories about evacuees and Chamberlain’s declaration of war (see my twitter feed for a selection of the stories).
The BBC’s archive website has an excellent WWII section. Radio 4, BBC TV and ITV all have programming around the anniversary in the next few days (see our TV pages for details), and of course BBC History Magazine’s September issue is a Second World War Special, along with a dedicated podcast. Indeed we have a separate Second World War magazine on sale in WH Smiths from 17 September charting the story of the whole war.
So, you won’t be short of Second World War history to keep you busy over the next few days. But are we going overboard? Is the 70th anniversary really all that much of a milestone to be commemorated? Clearly, the Second World War is a pivotal episode in history, particularly in terms of the individual stories of tragedy and heroism that still resonant in the minds of those who lived through it. It also continues to carry political charge today, but does it overshadow every other aspect of the past to such an extent that we can never see beyond it?
Of course, as editor of BBC History Magazine, I’m as guilty as anyone of keeping the Second World War in public view, but it’s a subject that I’m confident people want to read about – all our reader research says as much and looking back at our sales figures, any issue with a Second World War story on the cover has sold well. It’s not just us though: of all the history books that land on our review desk every week, a good proportion tackle some aspect of Second World War history (quite a few are on Churchill specifically, but that’s another story – talk about it here), and TV and radio programme makers find fertile ground in the war as well.
What do you think? Should it be a case of ‘That’s enough, ed.’ as regards Second World War history after this 70th anniversary, or is a subject that we still need to know about, and still have much to learn from? I’d be very interested to hear your views on our forum.