Michele Haapamaki. The Coming of the Aerial War: Culture and the Fear of Airborne Attack in Inter-war Britain. London and New York: I. B. Tauris, 2014. Michele may be better known to some of you as the Idle Historian, at her blog or on Twitter. She's also now a published author, and I've been looking forward to getting my hands on this, having been privileged to read both a late draft and the PhD thesis from which it has been considerably expanded. And also because the topic and, to some extent, the approach is quite similar to my own forthcoming book. But the result is very different to my book, and in some ways better -- or at least more likely to appeal to a wider audience, both academic and general. We both, in broad terms, look at cultural and intellectual responses to the threat of aerial bombardment in Britain in the early twentieth century. But where I try to be comprehensive, Michele goes deep, focusing on one particular response, ARP or civil defence, which takes up only one chapter (and sundry sections) in my book. This might sound like I'm saying The Coming of the Aerial War is narrow, but it's not: quite the opposite, in fact. Michele not only grounds her discussion firmly in the literature and politics of the period, but she also connects it to broader debates about British history and identity going on today, for example in the chapters on civil liberties and on Britishness, which is why I think readers who perhaps aren't quite as obsessed with bombs and bombers as some of us are will get a lot out of it. And it's elegantly written, too. In conclusion, if you find that you have to choose between buying my book or buying Michele's, then your assumptions are invalid: you need to buy them both!


Peter Adey, Mark Whitehead and Alison J. Williams, eds. From Above: War, Violence and Verticality. London: Hurst & Company, 2013. A collection of essays on the aerial view and how it has changed war. While there is a lot of historical detail in here, most of the contributors to this volume are geographers, rather than historians. (Which is fine, depending on how they use the history.) One of the exceptions is Priya Satia's piece on the invention of aerial surveillance by the RAF in the Iraq Mandate (incidentally, illustrated with photographs of air control in action as seen on this blog). Other essays which look particularly interesting include James Robinson on 'airmindedness and camouflaging of Britain's oil installations, 1936-9' (admittedly, any use of the word airmindedness is going to draw me in...), affect theory and morale bombing (Ben Anderson), the invention of aerial photomosaic mapping as applied modernism (Paul Saint-Armour), and 'the balloon prospect' (Caren Kaplan).

Alexander C. T. Geppert, ed. Imagining Outer Space: European Astroculture in the Twentieth Century. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Astroculture, which is a term coined by Geppert in this context, 'comprises a heterogeneous array of images and artifacts, media and practices that all aim to ascribe meaning to outer space while stirring both the individual and the collective imagination' (8). It also has obvious parallels, continuities and overlaps with airmindedness. Indeed, while aviation doesn't feature prominently in this book I can see some connections with my own interests: for example, in Geppert's insistence that for astroculture science fiction and science fact are complementary, not contradictory (in my book, I argue the same with respect to the knock-out blow theory); in the interest of the contributors in UFOs, including an essay by Pierre Lagrange on sociology and ghost rockets (a transitional point in the evolution of UFOs from mystery aircraft to extraterrestrial spacecraft), and the participation of Guillaume de Syon, who I know of as the author of Zeppelin! (2002) but here writes on space travel in French-language comic strips. Other topics include the Tunguska event (Claudia Schmölders), Space: 1999 (Henry Keazor), Arthur C. Clarke (Thore Bjørnvig), von Neumann machines and SETI (Gonzalo Munévar), the Pioneer plaques (William Macauley), East Germany and von Braun (Michael Neufeld), changing science fictional uses of Mars (Rainer Eisfeld), and space and imagination (Stephen Dick, author of the brilliant The Biological Universe).

Alastair Gordon. Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World's Most Revolutionary Structure. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. The author is an architectural critic, so the focus is largely on airport terminals and to a lesser extent airport design generally. Most of the book concentrates on the pre-1970 period; in fact there's a gratifyingly chunky chapter on the pre-1930. Lots of great contemporary illustrations, including architectural sketches of never-built airports, but I'm also going to complain here that they are too small and and a bit murky, and also that they tend towards showing off the architecture rather than how they were actually used. But I suppose that goes with this territory.

David Seed, ed. Future Wars: The Anticipations and the Fears. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012. Though it's not described as such, this is almost a posthumous festschrift for I. F. Clarke: it's published by the same press that brought out most of his histories of the wars to come, it opens with his 'Future-war fiction: the first main phase, 1871-1900' and ends with a checklist of his writing. In between there are essays on On the Beach (Brian Baker), John Wyndham (David Ketterer), Iain M. Banks (Patricia Kerslake), (again!) changing science fictional uses of Mars (Robert Crossley), and the uses of future-war fiction in modelling risk after 9/11 (Michael Matin).

Gary Sheffield and Peter Gray, eds. Changing War: The British Army, the Hundred Days Campaign, and the Birth of the Royal Air Force, 1918. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Yet another edited collection. As the title suggests, this has essays on relatively uninteresting things to do with the British Army in 1918, if you like that sort of thing, as well as three on aspects of close air support in the same period (David Jordan, Simon Coningham, Alistair McCluskey), two on the origins of the RAF (Gray, Christopher Luck), and one on the role of aviation logistics (Peter Dye).

Dietmar Süss. Death from the Skies: How the British and Germans Survived Bombing in World War II. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Review copy (not for Airminded). I'm looking forward to reading this comparative study of the experiences of the British and German people under aerial bombardment. It's very much from the ground view, not the aerial one: there are chapters on such thing as shelter life, religion, morale, the postwar memory and debates, and the prewar imagination of bombing; topics covered include children at war, rumour, just war, mourning, and reconstruction. I think there's still room for an analytical history of the Blitz, but this weighs in at nearly 550 pages, excluding endnotes, etc; so half of that amounts to a reasonable-sized book on the bombing of Britain, and in fact the comparative dimension should prove highly illuminating.


Ron Gretton, Geoff Matthews and James Kightly. Bristol Boxkites at Point Cook: Commemorating the Centenary of Australian Military Aviation 1914-2014. Werribee: Project 2014, 2014. In 1995 a group of volunteers decided to build a flying replica of the first Australian military aircraft, a Bristol Boxkite. It first flew late last year, and flew again at the Centenary of Military Aviation 2014 Air Show held at Point Cook just last week -- appropriately, since the centenary being marked is that of the first Australian military Boxkite flight, which took place at Point Cook in 1914. This is a handsome and well-illustrated volume covering the origins and history of the Boxkite, including that historic first flight, as well as the construction and first flight of the replica, now part of the RAAF Museum's collection. You can order a copy from the Boxkite 2014 website; I got one for free because James Kightly AKA JDK was part of the project, and asked me to do some research on how the first flights were reported in the Australian press.

Richard Lamb. The Drift to War: 1922-1939. London: Bloomsbury, 1991. A narrative history, based on some archival research, of British diplomacy with respect to the German problem (there are only two or three chapters on period before Hitler, so don't be misled by the 1922 in the subtitle). Unsurprisingly unfavourable to Chamberlain, from the looks of it. A freeby.


Antony Taylor. London's Burning: Pulp Fiction, the Politics of Terrorism, and the Destruction of the Capital in British Popular Culture, 1840-2005. London and New York: Continuum, 2005. A conference purchase, and an instant one for me after seeing the title. Oddly from my perspective, as far as I can tell it omits almost the entire corpus of knock-out blow fiction; but I think this is explained by the focus on stories about terrorism carried out by non-state actors. So aerial anarchists in fact do get some attention, and the Blitz of course factors as inspiration. But then, Hugh Addison's The Battle of London (1923) appears only as a red scare novel, which it certainly is; but the massive aerial bombardment which does the actual destruction is not mentioned. (Admittedly, it only gets a few sentences plus an illustration.) But that is just my perspective; there's plenty of value in this approach, which also enables the incorporation of fictional attacks by fascist and Islamic terrorists.


Peter Rees. Lancaster Men: The Aussie Heroes of Bomber Command. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2013. I must admit to hesitating over buying this, mainly because of the presence of the word 'heroes' in the title. But I understand that the author didn't have a say in the matter and is a bit embarrassed about it, so I relented. It's largely anecdotal in nature, being largely based on interviews and memoirs. Nothing wrong with that, but hopefully one of these days somebody will write a more analytic study of Australia and Bomber Command.

Joanna Bourke. Dismembering the Male: Men's Bodies, Britain, and the Great War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996. A now-classic gender analysis of the impact of the First World War on masculinity -- mostly in social and cultural terms, but the first chapter is entitled 'Mutilating' so sometimes the impact is quite literal. Other topics include the change in male identities occasioned by the much more intense official and public interest in the male body, and the postwar sanitisation of all the death and suffering in the form of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (which seems natural enough to us now, but supposedly the bones of the dead at Waterloo were turned into fertiliser only a century earlier).

Peter J. Dean, ed. Australia 1943: The Liberation of New Guinea. Port Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Having read Australia 1942 (2012), I'm keen to find out what happened next. As the title indicates, the perspective is Australian, but there are also chapters on Japanese and American strategy alongside the analyses of the land campaigns in New Guinea. There are also chapters on the RAN and the RAAF in 1943, but this is where I have reservations. The one on the RAAF is by the same author who did the corresponding chapter in Australia 1942, a simple narrative of the aerial campaign, the battles and losses involved. There's nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but the rest of Australia 1942 is much more analytical and pays much more attention to the strategic, logistical, administrative (etc) contexts. The chapter on the RAN was up to this standard; the one on the RAAF was not. Australian airpower history often seems to miss out like this.

Robert and Barbara Donington. The Citizen Faces War. London: Victor Gollancz, 1936. While certainly very sympathetic to pacifism, conscientious objection and war resistance, in the face of the knock-out blow from the air the Doningtons end up plumping for an international air force by way of internationalised civil aviation (and maybe the air pact). Robert later became a respected academic musicologist and early music expert; not sure about Barbara.

Margot A. Henriksen. Dr Strangelove's America: Society and Culture in the Atomic Age. Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press, 1997. Argues that the American countercultures of the 1960s were primarily a response to nuclear weapons. Sounds like a bit of a stretch, but as the book covers everything from atomic bomb shelters as well as youth rebellion, it should be fun.

Spencer R. Weart. Nuclear Fears: A History of Images. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1988. This has some overlap with the preceding book, but lacks the contentious hypothesis, covers most of the 20th century (and at least glances outside the United States) and tries to be comprehensive with respect to the various concepts about and responses to nuclear weapons in the public sphere (including death rays and UFOs). In some ways this is reminiscent of what I attempted to do in my PhD/book for the (conventional) bomber -- it would have been useful to have had this, say, eight years ago, especially as Weart provides an appendix on his methodology.

Joan Beaumont. Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2013. With the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War looming, it's high time we had a book like this: a synoptic overview of the whole of Australia's war, from the fighting overseas to the conflicts at home, from why we got into the war to what we got out of it. Sadly, no mention of mystery aeroplanes that I can see.

Arthur Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Volume 1: The Road to War 1904-1914. Barnsley: Seaforth Publishing, 2013 [1961]. The classic account of the Royal Navy and the naval arms race with Germany before 1914. Dated now, no doubt, but still influential and still a good source for a lot of boring but necessary facts. Four more volumes cover the actual war years, if you like that sort of thing.


Holger Afflerbach and David Stevenson, eds. An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War I and European Political Culture before 1914. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2007. Sometimes the origin of the First World War seems overdetermined, there are so many theories to account for it. Other times, it seems like, as in the title of this book, an improbable war. Eighteen chapters examine the question from the point of view of the arms races, public opinion, socialism, culture, the non-European powers, and so on.

Scott Anthony and Oliver Green. British Aviation Posters: Art, Design and Flight. Farnham and Burlington: Lund Humphries, 2012. Who doesn't like aviation posters? Chances are, if you're a reader of this blog, not you. This book draws upon the collection of British Airways, but is mostly concerned with its predecessors, Imperial, BOAC and BEA. While there are are occasional excursions into related topics, the content is narrower than the title might suggest: there's next to no military content at all, and not much from manufacturers or other parts of the civil aviation industry. Still, a beautiful book.

Martin van Creveld. Wargames: From Gladiators to Gigabytes. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Van Creveld takes a narrow definition of 'war', excluding economic and political simulations (though he would presumably concede that these are essential parts of warfare at the grand strategic level), but a broad definition of games, including things like gladiatorial combat, medieval tournaments, and duels. He also takes a narrow view of women and their role in anything relating to war, and a broad view of relevance and sometimes logic ('Italy, the land where dueling had been invented, was a special case, part European, part African (as adherents of the Lombard League argue to this day)', 131 -- what does this even mean?) Still, it's potentially useful to look at the history of the subject beyond hexes and miniatures.

Colin Cruddas. 100 Years of Advertising in British Aviation. Stroud: History Press, 2008. Complements British Aviation Posters nicely, being much more interested in the companies outside the BA lineage, including aircraft and some component manufacturers, as well as military aviation. It focuses more on print advertising rather than posters, too. On the other hand, the text is more of a gloss than a sustained narrative, and the reproductions less generous (smaller, also less colourful, though that may be because the originals were monochrome), though still perfectly adequate for research purposes.

Robert S. Ehlers, Jr. Targeting the Third Reich: Air Intelligence and the Allied Bombing Campaigns. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009. As is well known, early in the war Bomber Command thought it was doing reasonably well in terms of accuracy and effectiveness in bombing Germany, but was really not. But what of later in the war, and what of the Americans? This should have the answers.

Philip Sabin. Simulating War: Studying Conflict through Simulation Games. London and New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. Unlike van Creveld's book, Sabin's interest is squarely on wargames in the usual sense (though perhaps a slightly old-fashioned sense now, given that they are primarily intended to be played on tabletops rather than desktops). Also, it's not a history of wargaming, but an analysis of how wargames can be used to aid history students in understanding how wars are fought -- not only through playing them, but in designing them, as his own students do. As I'm entirely in sympathy with this idea and would to one day use wargames in my own teaching, I'm keen to read this. And maybe even play some of the eight games included with the book -- two of which are on air warfare, Big Week and Angels One Five.


Karl Baedeker. Great Britain: Handbook for Travellers. Old House, 2013 [1937]. As I said, I'm a sucker for facsimile editions, and this one has many nice foldout maps. As the cover doesn't fail to tell you, this is the version supposedly used by the Luftwaffe to plan the Baedeker raids. At any rate, if you were time-travelling back to 1937 Britain and could only take one book, you could take this, but really it would be a waste of luggage allowance because you could buy it when you got there.

Daniel Pick. War Machine: The Rationalisation of Slaughter in the Modern Age. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1993. One of those books I've seen referenced many times but never seen. Looks at the increasing appetite for destruction from the 19th century through to the First World War -- Clausewitz, 1870, the Channel Tunnel all get a look-in. May get a bit psychohistorical at times.

David Reynolds. The Long Shadow: The Great War and the Twentieth Century. London: Simon & Schuster, 2013. Did somebody say 'upcoming centenary of the First World War'? Probably, since the centenary of the the First World War is upcoming. Reynolds usually works on the Second World War period, but that probably makes him a good choice for this contribution to the literature, a reflection upon the effects of the war on the rest of the century, in terms of big themes like war and peace (obviously), democracy, empire and so on.