Richard Holmes. Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air. London: William Collins, 2013. Though the term wasn't around then, airmindedness was about balloons for longer than it has been about aeroplanes. But it's relatively neglected historiographically, certainly in my library, so this will help fill that gap: everyone from Nadar to Babar the Elephant is here, and the last chapter is devoted to Andree's attempts to reach the North Pole by air.
Despite appearing in the Times Literary Supplement a month ago, Eric Naiman's astounding exposure of independent historian A. D. Harvey's fraudulent scholarship seems to have been little remarked upon by historians. (Naiman's piece is quite long, but worth the read; for a much shorter version try here.) Admittedly, the true extent of Harvey's transgressions, which includes fabricating primary sources and reviewing his own work under pseudonyms, is unclear; but as Naiman argues, from what we do know they are not the sort of thing the academy can let slide:
It is not only that the apparent practice of submitting articles under fictitious names to scholarly journals might well have a chilling effect on the ability of really existing independent scholars to place their work. Nor is it just the embarrassment caused to editors who might in an ideal world have taken more pains to check the contributions of Stephanie Harvey or Trevor McGovern, but who accepted them in good faith, partly out of a wish to make their publications as inclusive as possible. The worst thing here, if they are fictitious, is a violation of the trust that remains a constitutive element of the humanities. There is, it seems to me, a fundamental difference between posting partisan, anonymous reviews on Amazon, where there is no assumption of proper evaluative standards or impartiality, and placing similar reviews or hoaxing articles in academic journals, which are still the most hallowed sites for the development and transmission of humanistic ideas. The former is a cheap act of virtual graffiti; the latter may be the closest a secular scholar can come to desecration.
Some prominent academic blogs in cognate disciplines have discussed the affair, namely Crooked Timber, Languagehat, and Lawyers, Guns and Money, but with some exceptions the predominant reaction in the these posts and comments seems to be wry amusement, rather than concern, say, or disgust. Harvey himself (apparently) twice commented himself at Languagehat (without quite defending or explaining his actions), but strangely was all but ignored by the other commenters.
Perhaps I feel more strongly about it than most. Harvey is an independent historian and has been for much of his career, apart from some periods inside the academy. I'm also currently an independent historian, and worry that this sort of misbehaviour will make it harder for people in my position to contribute to academic scholarship from outside the academy proper. That's unfounded, perhaps; I've encountered no undue difficulties so far and Harvey's case is probably odd enough to be sui generis. Also, I own one of Harvey's books (Body Politic: Political Metaphor and Political Violence) and, I notice, praised him on Twitter. Certainly I was impressed by the range of his research in period, topic and discipline, from sex in Georgian England to literary criticism. So I feel foolish for having been taken in by him. Finally, and most importantly, a significant proportion of Harvey's prolific output comprises military history, and even airpower history (though ironically this is the part of his work I'm least familiar with): Arnhem, Collision of Empires: Britain in Three World Wars, 1793-1945, A Muse of Fire: Literature, Art and War, English Literature and the Great War with France, 'The French Armée de l'Air in May-June 1940: a failure of conception', 'The Spanish Civil War as seen by British officers', 'Army Air Force and Navy Air Force: Japanese aviation and the opening phase of the war in the Far East', 'The Royal Air Force and close support, 1918-1940', 'The bomber offensive that never took off: Italy's Regia Aeronautica in 1940' and so on. To be fair, as far as I know there is no evidence that any of these works is fraudulent in any way. But how can historians extend Harvey the benefit of the doubt now? If we should be patrolling the borders of our discipline against incursions by pseudohistorians, then we should also sound the alarm when there's an enemy inside the gates.
Peter Bowler. Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin. Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 2013. I figured I should put my money where my mouth is and at least buy this, and hopefully even read it. Bowler uses a counterfactual approach in an attempt to elucidate how important Darwin was to the development of Darwinism by taking him out of the picture. What I like about this is that it's not a narrative describing one particular possible alternate timeline, which is the default mode of writing counterfactual histories even when done by academic historians. Instead Bowler is deliberate and analytical all the way along, weighing the (real) evidence and explaining his conclusions. If counterfactual history has any value beyond simply pointing out that things might have been different, it's in something like this approach.
Siân Nicholas and Tom O'Malley, eds. Moral Panics, Social Fears, and the Media: Historical Perspectives. New York and London: Routledge, 2013. Lots of good stuff about such things as Edwardian wireless, the enemy within, A Clockwork Orange, and fear in East German television, plus several more reflective/theoretical essays. Turns out that I follow two of the contributors on Twitter (@DavidjHendy and @JohnCarterWood), which is probably not a coincidence. If you're a writer, you really should be on Twitter.
S. C. M. Paine. The Wars for Asia, 1911-1949. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Argues that the Sino-Japanese War, the Second World War, and the Chinese Civil War need to be understood together, as a long cascade of conflicts. It's certainly novel to see all these wars being given approximately equal space, when two of them are glossed over in most of the histories I tend to read and the third is somewhat dominant. The focus is much more political and strategic than operational, and Paine focuses on the prewar decades in China and Japan (and the Soviet Union) as much as on the actual wars themselves.
John Ptak recently pinned a 1964 science fiction magazine cover depicting a ruined Statue of Liberty, predating the more famous ending of Planet of the Apes by four years. He wondered about earlier images along the same lines, and after a bit of digging I found not many at all. The above is the only example, but it turns out to be relevant to my interests. It's an American propaganda poster dating to 1918, appealing to the viewer to invest in the latest war bond issue. Lady Liberty is ruined all right — her head and her torch have tumbled down beside her. Behind her New York City is burning, and the flames and their reflection in the harbour dominate the image. The cause of the destruction is presumably the aeroplanes which can be seen on either side of the Statue. A submarine is also sailing past, which may be responsible for the merchant vessels wrecked on Liberty Island.
Today is Anzac Day, the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli of Australian (and New Zealand, though my remarks here mostly pertain to my own country) troops on 25 April 1915. In the last two decades Anzac day has increasingly been seen as marking the coming of age of the nation, and its annual commemoration has become the most sacred event on the national calendar. And as a military historian I think this is a problem.
The original diggers are gone now, and the numbers of the veterans of later wars are diminishing rapidly too, but dawn services at local war memorials and overseas battlefields seem to only become more popular. Broadcast, print and social media are filled with ritual invocations to never forget. New forms of commemoration appear. Stories of courage and sacrifice are told and retold. This is not in itself a problem. I'm not against Anzac Day, as such, and there's nothing wrong with remembering. It's what we're not remembering, or never knew in the first place, that is worrying. We should be looking to understand, not merely remember.
E. H. Carr. What is History? Camberwell: Penguin Books, 2008. Second edition. What indeed?
David Edgerton. England and the Aeroplane: Militarism, Modernity and Machines. London: Penguin, 2013. Second edition. England and the Aeroplane was first published in 1991 and is now a key text for understanding modern Britain's relationship with technology in general and aviation in particular (I see it was one of the first books I read during my PhD, and it's one I return to frequently). So a second edition is welcome. What's new? Apart from small revisions to the text there's the subtitle, the illustration captions and some of the illustrations, a reflective preface, and perhaps most valuable of all for those who already have the first edition, a ten page bibliographic essay on the relevant literature since 1990 (which cites my international air force article and refers readers to my 'magnificent blog' (200)! Ahem).
Catriona Pennell. A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Seeks to qualify the idea of war enthusiasm in Britain in 1914, and the lack thereof in Ireland, apparently resoundingly successfully. Uses letters and diaries as well as newspapers. The subject is of intrinsic interest but the methodology and sources will be valuable too. Zeppelins are discussed in several places, but sadly only real ones.
Michael C. Pugh. Liberal Internationalism: The Interwar Movement for Peace in Britain. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Again, the peace movement between the wars was more than just pacifism and it's surprising that there hasn't been a sustained look at British liberal internationalism before now. Has chapters on such things as disarmament, revisionism (aka appeasement) and education. One chapter, entitled 'Innovation', is devoted to the international air force idea, which gets it about right.
Richard Scully. British Images of Germany: Admiration, Antagonism & Ambivalence, 1860-1914. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Part of the reassessment of the Anglo-German relationship that has blossomed in the last decade or so (it's not just about Germanophobia any more), highlighting a new approach to the sources. For example, Scully argues that high literature needs to be studied in conjunction with low literature, rather than just one or the other in isolation. But he also draws extensively on visual sources such as maps and cartoons, with the second half of the book analysing the portrayal of Germany in Punch.
Alan G. V. Simmonds. Britain and World War One. London and New York: Routledge, 2012. The latest history of the British home front during the First World War (for some reason, the home front in the Second World War rarely seems to receive such comprehensive treatment). Politics, propaganda, production, prewar, postwar — it's all here.
Peter Gray. The Leadership, Direction and Legitimacy of the RAF Bomber Offensive from Inception to 1945. London and New York: Continuum, 2012. An interesting title, and looks like an accurate one (if an annoyingly difficult one to shorten for citations!) Gray's background before doing his PhD (which this book is based upon) is in the RAF, where he was director of the Defence Leadership and Management Centre; so he certainly has useful experience to bring to the first two parts of the title. But it's probably his take on the legitimacy question that I'll most be interested to read. Well, that and the chapter on the intellectual context.
I learned something new from an article in the March 2013 issue of History Today:
Exactly half a century ago, in the spring of 1963, Israel was suddenly gripped by a curious mass panic. Sensational newspaper reports and radio announcements claimed that the country was threatened by enemy 'atom bombs', 'fatal microbes', 'poison gases', 'death rays' and a 'cobalt warhead' that could 'scatter radioactive particles over large areas'. Within hours, opinion in the entire country had been ignited. Parliamentary debates, everyday conversations, even songs and poems were all preoccupied obsessively with the same theme — that Israel was confronted by the imminent threat of another Holocaust, less than two decades after the first.
The source of this supposedly dire foreign menace was not Iran, nor the Soviet Union, although superpower tension at this stage in the Cold War was certainly intense. The perceived threat instead emanated from Egypt, which over the past decade had been led by the supremely charismatic and populist military officer, 44-year-old President Gamal Abdul [sic] Nasser.
Several months before, in the early hours of July 21st, 1962 Nasser had stunned the world by successfully test-firing a number of rockets. Specially-invited contingents of foreign journalists and cameramen had been driven to a remote spot deep in the Egyptian desert, not far from the central Cairo-Alexandria highway. They watched as a massive explosion shook the ground and a white missile lifted itself from a camouflaged position, a short distance in front of them. As one American correspondent wrote: 'It pierced a long, white cloud and later, in plain view, slowly arched to the north towards the Mediterranean.' Over the next few hours three more launches were carried out in quick succession before the journalists returned home, amid scenes of jubilation from ecstatic crowds. The Egyptian public had heard the news when a special announcement, broadcast on a national public holiday, announced on government radio that Egypt had 'entered the missile age'.
Given my interests, this sounds like something I need to know more about; and as chance would have it, the author of the article, Roger Howard, has a book due out later this year which may provide more details (Operation Damocles: Israel's Secret War Against Hitler's Scientists, 1951-1967). According to Howard's article, the real reason for the scare was not so much the Egyptian rocket programme itself, but the involvement of many German scientists who had worked for the Nazis in the Second World War, such as the aerospace (and his expertise did span both air and space) engineer Eugen Sänger. In fact, Howard argues that it was to deflect attention from the recent exposure of Operation Damocles, the intimidation of Nasser's German scientists, that Mossad director Isser Harel briefed the Israeli press with a wholly exaggerated account of Egypt's offensive capabilities. As Howard shows, and as cooler heads argued at the time, the targeting problem had not been solved, meaning the chance of a rocket hitting anything important was remote, as 1967 proved. Nor did Egypt even have a WMD programme at this time, rockets aside. The scare subsided; Harel was discredited and soon resigned.
While I don't (and can't) dispute Howard's account, from my perspective I wonder if the fear of new technological perils might have played as important a role as the spectre of Nazi-Egyptian collaboration. There are parallels to be drawn forwards and backwards in time, in Israel and elsewhere. Israeli fears about nuclear weapons and missile threats from its neighbours resurfaced in 1981, 1990-1, the 2000s, and today. Only six months before the Israeli rocket scare, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. All those lurid weapons mentioned in the Israeli press in 1963 — fatal microbes, poison gases, death rays, atom bombs, even cobalt warheads — had been staples of scaremongers in other countries for years, in most cases decades. In Britain, similar press panics over the danger of air attack took place in 1913, 1922, 1935 and 1938. It would be strange if Israel in 1963 was immune to such fears.
Here I want to look at what he has to say about area bombing. He quite unapologetically uses this phrase, even calling one section 'The legitimacy of area bombing'. Given the opprobrium which now attaches to the term, it is a little startling to see it used in a defence of British bombing policy. It does seems to have been used more descriptively during the war, at least at first. The very earliest use I've been able to find was in the British press in December 1940, and referred to the resumption of German 'Blitz' tactics:
The return to mass raiding was not carried out on anything like the 'Coventrating' manner — there was no attempt at area bombing of the different London districts, all of which had their share at varying periods of the night.
However, 'area bombing' here apparently refers not to merely indiscriminate bombing (which the Gloucestershire Echo's headline asserts the Germans have admitted to). Instead it is concentrated in both time and space, as at Coventry (hence 'Coventration'), which actually describes what Bomber Command later tried to (and often did) achieve quite well. This might be an isolated example; the term doesn't seem to start cropping up again until late 1942, just about when Spaight was writing: in September the Devon and Exeter Gazette noted that 'The R.A.F. will continue its "area bombing" by night, while the famous Flying Fortresses will take up the attack by day with precision bombing'. By March 1943, Richard Stokes MP could ask in the House of Commons if 'instructions have been given to British airmen to engage in area bombing rather than limit their attention to purely military targets?' (only to be told by Sir Archibald Sinclair that 'The targets of Bomber Command are always military, but night bombing of military objectives necessarily involves bombing the area in which they are situated').
Robert Bollard. In the Shadow of Gallipoli: The Hidden History of Australia in World War I. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2013. Focuses on the Australian home front, in particular the growth of dissent which culminated in 1917 with the Great Strike and the second anti-conscription campaign. The final chapter looks at industrial and military unrest as peace returned. It does seem to more or less skip over 1918, which I noted in my 1918 article seems to be a common feature in the historiography. 1918 wasn't as eventful as 1917, certainly, but it deserves more attention than that. In other words I wish this book was longer!