World War 2 – economic battle

Mark Harrison Professor Mark Harrison from Warwick’s Department of Economics is one of the experts featured this week in a new Radio 4 documentary series exploring the economic issues behind the start of World War 2.

The series, to be broadcast every day this week at 13.45, will consider how the economic success – or struggles – of Britain, Germany, the Soviet Union, China and Japan influenced their participation in World War 2.

Professor Harrison researches Russian and international economic history with a particular focus on economic aspects of bureaucracy, dictatorship, defence, and warfare. He will talk to series presenter Duncan Weldon about the war preparations and plans of the Soviet Union, which started the war in a secret alliance with Germany, before being forced to change sides less than two years later.

Mark said: “Economics would prove decisive to the outcome of the Second World War, in which the Allies – Britain, the United States, and the Soviet Union — defeated the Axis countries of Germany, Italy, and Japan.

“The Allies won because their fighting power was eventually backed by overwhelming economic superiority. But that was not foreseen at the outset.

“In September 1939 Germany – and Japan in 1941 — expected to win the war based on purely military advantages of surprise and rapidity of movement, which would achieve victory before economic factors could come into play – a strategy which nearly succeeded.”

The series will be broadcast on Radio 4 at 13.45 every day this week.

Mark said: “Economic history tells the story of how our world came into being, and economics was as important to the story of the world wars as it has been for peacetime economic development. It’s great to see economic history in a prime-time slot!”

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