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The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst…

The Secret State: Preparing for the Worst 1945-2010

by Peter Hennessy

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.A fascinating, and often terrifying, analysis of the machinery of government designed to orchestrate Britain's defence since the end of the Second World War and, in particular, on how the nuclear deterrent might be delivered in the event of a breakdown of peace.
Chapter 7, "The Human Button" (based upon Hennessy's Radio 4 programme of the same name) is especially chilling as it offers a step by step guide to how the decisions to use that deterrent might be arrived at, and how the bombs would eventually be launched. I had not previously realised, for example, that all of the Vulcan Bomber pilots were well aware that, in the event that they were ever scrambled to bomb the Soviet Union, they would not have enough fuel to return home.
While the weaponry may have been among the most technically advanced machinery to be found anywhere in the world, the administration required to launch it often stooped to farcical levels. For instance, during the early 19060s there was a standing requirement that the Prime Minister's official drivers should always ensure that they had four pennies with them in case the PM had to phone through instructions to launch the missiles. As the Cabinet Secretary of the time put it, "It would be ridiculous if the Prime Minister had to ask a bus conductor for change of a sixpence before he could phone the Chiefs of Staff!".
The depth of research behind this book is positively breathtaking, and it is all delivered in Hennessy's pellucid prose. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Nov 3, 2011 |
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This is a heavily revised and updated version of Peter Hennessy's The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War (2002). Given the extent of the revisions they are best treated as separate works and this has been reflected in the work-to-work relationships.
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This updated edition revises Hennessy's picture of the Soviet threat that was presented to ministers from the last days of the Second World War to the 1960s. He maps the size and shape of the Cold War state built in response to that perceived threat. Previous ed.: London: Penguin, 2003.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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