Let's tackle the question of public opinion head on. Did the British people want reprisal bombing to be carried out against the German people? How can we tell? Can we even tell?

If we wanted to gauge public opinion on a particular question today, we'd carry out an opinion poll. As luck would have it, Britain's first opinion polling organisation, the British Institute of Public Opinion (BIPO, later the Gallup Organization), was set up in 1937, and during the Blitz it did carry out polling on the reprisals issue.

In October 1940, BIPO polled on the question (among others):

In view of the indiscriminate German bombing of this country, would you approve or disapprove if the R.A.F. adopted a similar policy of bombing the civilian population of Germany?

The result was a dead heat: 46% of respondents approved and 46% disapproved. (The balance didn't know.) But I think there's a problem with BIPO's sample here. From a sample size of 2100 people, apparently selected through door-knocking and street interviews, only 46% were women. I'm not a demographer, but I would have expected slightly more women than men: that's the normal gender balance, and wartime conditions would skew that even further.
...continue reading


Here's a question of terminology which has been bugging me for some time. The Munich crisis in September and October 1938 is a well-known historical event. But the name 'Munich crisis' is misleading, because the crisis was building long before the word Munich was ever associated with it. Munich had nothing to do with the Munich crisis at all, except that it just happened to be the place where Chamberlain, Hitler, Mussolini and Daladier met to resolve it. (So 'Munich conference' is fine, as is 'Munich' as a shorthand for the betrayal of Czechoslovakia.) 'Czech crisis' would be better, but that's usually reserved for an earlier flap around March 1938. I tend to prefer 'Sudeten crisis', which has the virtue of indicating what the crisis was actually about. On the other hand, nobody at the time seems to have spoken of the Sudeten crisis; usually they referred to the Czech crisis, and very occasionally, after the crisis had passed, the Munich crisis. And Munich crisis is certainly the preferred term today.

So what say you? Feel free to make arguments in comments.

Edit: I have removed the poll plugin for security reasons. But here's a screenshot of the poll results as of 22 November 2011:

Munich vs Sudeten

Next up: 'Crisis' vs 'crisis'. You be the judge!


Jack McGowan of Smashing the Window has some very interesting reflections on his experiences in seeing his first paper through to being accepted for publication (congrats!). A timely read for me, as I start to think about doing this myself.

While I'm on the matter of writing advice, here's a chance to use the WordPress Democracy plugin I installed the other day. Near the start of chapter 3, I have a sentence which begins 'In this chapter, I will briefly examine ...' 'I'. 'I'! While I use the personal pronoun all the time on this blog, and have already done so once this sentence, I find that it really cuts against the grain to do so for academic writing. I don't think it is such a sin in writing in the humanities, but I first learned academic writing in the physical sciences, where the personal pronoun, singular or plural, is rare (though not unknown). Instead, one would use phrases like 'the present author' where in less formal writing one would say 'I'. I guess this is to avoid the academic equivalent of breaking the fourth wall. On the other hand, taking ownership of a sentence with a personal pronoun is a good way to avoid the dreaded passive voice.

So, am I worrying too much about this? Does anyone care about this any more? Should I just embrace 'I'? Here's the poll:

Edit: I have removed the poll plugin for security reasons. But here's a screenshot of the poll results as of 22 November 2011:

Person vs person