Books As Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II (Hardback)
  • Books As Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II (Hardback)
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Books As Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II (Hardback)

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£34.00
Hardback 352 Pages / Published: 29/04/2010
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Only weeks after the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944, a surprising cargo-crates of books-joined the flood of troop reinforcements, weapons and ammunition, food, and medicine onto Normandy beaches. The books were destined for French bookshops, to be followed by millions more American books (in translation but also in English) ultimately distributed throughout Europe and the rest of the world. The British were doing similar work, which was uneasily coordinated with that of the Americans within the Psychological Warfare Division of General Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, under General Eisenhower's command.

Books As Weapons tells the little-known story of the vital partnership between American book publishers and the U.S. government to put carefully selected recent books highlighting American history and values into the hands of civilians liberated from Axis forces. The government desired to use books to help "disintoxicate" the minds of these people from the Nazi and Japanese propaganda and censorship machines and to win their friendship. This objective dovetailed perfectly with U.S. publishers' ambitions to find new profits in international markets, which had been dominated by Britain, France, and Germany before their book trades were devastated by the war. Key figures on both the trade and government sides of the program considered books "the most enduring propaganda of all" and thus effective "weapons in the war of ideas," both during the war and afterward, when the Soviet Union flexed its military might and demonstrated its propaganda savvy. Seldom have books been charged with greater responsibility or imbued with more significance.

John B. Hench leavens this fully international account of the programs with fascinating vignettes set in the war rooms of Washington and London, publishers' offices throughout the world, and the jeeps in which information officers drove over bomb-rutted roads to bring the books to people who were hungering for them. Books as Weapons provides context for continuing debates about the relationship between government and private enterprise and the image of the United States abroad.

To see an interview with John Hench conducted by C-SPAN at the 2010 annual conference of the Organization of American Historians, visit: http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/id/222522.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801448911
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 28 g
Dimensions: 235 x 155 x 26 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"Books As Weapons offers more than is promised by the title: its coverage extends well beyond the era of World War II and shows how solutions designed for short-term problems have had unforeseen consequences in a world of shifting political allegiance."

-- Valerie Holman * Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America *

"Hench demonstrates how many publishers internalized the creed 'books are weapons in the war of ideas,' first coined by the chair of W. W. Norton and later popularized by FDR. Like film and poster propaganda, the effective utilization of books by the Allies depended on the cooperation of private corporations and government bureaucracies. Hench nicely balances the publishing history of the war years with an analysis of the propaganda goals of the Anglophone world."

* Choice *

"John B. Hench analyzes how publishers and the American government tried to advance their compatible, but sometimes conflicting, interests during and immediately after the war. After the intellectual blackout that had descended on Axis countries and their conquests, OWI officials sensed a golden opportunity to promote positive views of U.S. government and society.... Hench ably untangles the sometimes mind-numbing negotiations required to fuse public policy and private interests. His book is thoroughly researched, well written, and clearly argued.... Hench laments the declining use of books in advancing 'soft power.' In an age of blogs and videos gone viral, his work, perhaps unintentionally, inspires nostalgia for a time when books seemed to be a winning cultural weapon."

-- Clayton Koppes * American Historical Review *

"John Hench's new book is a significant contribution to book and publishing history. It tells the fascinating story of the various ways in which American publishers mobilized books for the war effort and, in doing so, provides insight into a range of important issues for considering the history of the book and publishing in the twentieth century.... Books as Weapons is an enjoyable read, not only for book historians but for anyone interested in the cultural history of the Second World War."

-- Amanda Laugesen * SHARP News *

"Hench's account of the role American publishers played in winning hearts and minds for the Allies during WWII provides valuable information on the role cultural production played in the Allied victory."

* Publishers Weekly *

"World War II was a good war for American publishers. Wartime devastation and disruption ended the historic domination of the book trade by Britain, Germany, and France, and U.S. publishing companies profited from their demise.... So argues John B. Hench in this fascinating study of how the publishing industry's quest for global domination became intertwined with the battle for hearts and minds. Weaving economic and diplomatic history into a complex narrative that explores the broad international dimensions of the book trade, Hench has written a thoughtful and important study that draws on a wide array of archival records, including those of government agencies, publishers, and trade associations."

* Journal of American History *

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