I'm often surprised by the books that historians haven't written. The years I am researching are between two and three generations distant, yet it's not hard to find (what seem to me to be) big, important topics which deserve to have academic monographs devoted to them, but have somehow been neglected. Sometimes this might be a matter of historiographical fashion: the cultural turn in military history is still relatively young, for example, and not all areas have been touched by it yet. In others there already exists a detailed account, which was written decades ago and seems to have obviated the need for further research. Sometimes the gap in the literature seems inexplicable. And, OK, sometimes the topic isn't all that big and important, it's just obscure …
Here are some of the unwritten books I think I know of in my field:
- The Sudeten crisis. Of course, there are multiple accounts of this from the diplomatic, political and (to a lesser extent) military perspectives. Though, surprisingly, this is generally only at the chapter level — there aren't many books on the Sudeten crisis proper (as opposed to the 'lessons of Munich') more recent than Keith Robbins' Munich 1938 (1968). But what I'm thinking of is the crisis in Britain: a synoptical account of, yes, diplomatic, political, and military responses, but more importantly, the crisis as it impacted on and was perceived by the public. Public opinion, the press, private diaries and correspondence. How did the crisis alter Britain's preparedness for war, both materially and psychologically? Maybe even the counterfactual question, too.
- Air raid precautions. I know of nothing more recent than the relevant volume of the official history of the Second World War, Terence H. O'Brien's Civil Defence (1955). There have been books on aspects of ARP, evacuation seems fairly popular, for example, and some on civilian morale which are relevant. But the political, bureaucratic and financial issues involved in ARP after 1935 (or maybe early 1938) had far-reaching implications, and led to debates about conscription, democracy and deep shelters which reveal ideologies at work. O'Brien is very thorough on the legal and organisational aspects, but he was writing more than half a century ago: surely there's something new to say? And he was not much interested in popular assent to or dissent from the government's ARP regulations, for example.
- Transnational airmindedness.
- The Scareship Age.
- Britain and the Bomb. A bit outside of my field, so maybe I've missed something. What I'm thinking of is a cultural history of British responses to the possibility of nuclear warfare, from Lord Vansittart through CND, The War Game, Where the Wind Blows, Threads and "Two Tribes". There are many books on American atomic culture, and rightly so, but there must be enough material for at least one British equivalent. Something like Paul Boyer's By the Bomb's Early Light (1985), perhaps.
- The Blitz. As a correspondent pointed out to me, rather incredibly there have been no academic monographs written about the Blitz. Again, there's the official histories, but it's spread out across a number volumes: O'Brien again, Richard Titmuss's Problems of Social Policy (1950) and Basil Collier's The Defence of the United Kingdom (1957). And of course it's central to histories of the home front, and there's Angus Calder's The Myth of the Blitz (1991), which is more about the memory of the Blitz than than the Blitz itself. And any number of popular works. But nothing by academic historians trying to pull all these threads together.
- Zeppelin and Gotha raids. Ditto, pretty much, though in this case there's much less to draw together because not a lot has been written about the British experience of bombing in the First World War since Barry D. Powers' Strategy With-out Slide Rule (1976), not by academics at least.
Somebody needs to write these books! And if they could get them published in the next six months or so, I'd really appreciate it :)
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