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The Second World War began 80 years ago this September. In many ways, its legacy is still with us. From the conflict’s economic and social repercussions to its lasting geopolitical legacy, the conflagration of 1939–45 reshaped the global order to an extent unparalleled before or since. Yet equally important are the ways in which the war – its apparent narratives and iconography – have been used to define and shift concepts of national identity and belonging around the world.

This issue, our panel of experts investigates the factors behind our Second World War obsession, as well as the consequences of our failure to move on. That starts on page 40.

Elsewhere, we examine other echoes of that past. In our Long Read feature, Dan Stone explores the recent debate about whether US ‘border centres’ in Texas can accurately be referred to as ‘concentration camps’. Are there parallels in this history, and does our uncertainty point to a wider confusion about that past? You can read that from page 23.

The use and wilful misuse of language is, of course, a key theme in George Orwell’s 1949 novel Nineteen EightyFour, from political sloganeering to outright censorship. On page 66, Dorian Lynskey chronicles the real events and characters that inspired the dystopian classic.

If all that sounds rather bleak, there’s lightness, too. From pioneer women of the American West (page 56)

to a pioneering Islamic explorer of the medieval world (page 86), this issue is, as ever, a rich tapestry. As always, we’d love to hear what you think; please do share your thoughts via the address below.

Ma Elton Editor +44 (0)117 300 8645

BBC World Histories explores the history behind the headlines, and o ers fresh perspectives on our global past

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