Philipp von Hillgers. War Games: A History of War on Paper. Cambridge and London: MIT Press, 2012. Really only traces one strand of the history of wargaming, the abstract 'German' one which passes through 19th-century Kriegspiel and not the boardgame-style 'American' one or the 'British' miniatures one (not that these aren't abstract, or purely American or British for that matter). But it's the oldest one: von Hillgers starts with medieval rithmomachia and continues through various proto-wargames from early modern Europe. He finally pitches up at German general staff wargames in the interwar period. The phrase 'Hilbert space' seems to occur more frequently than I would have expected (von Hillgers is a historian of mathematics). Has a curiously strokable dust jacket.
Richard North. The Many not the Few: The Stolen History of the Battle of Britain. London and New York: Continuum, 2012. I picked up this book with high hopes, but a few pages in my heart is starting to sink. It's looking like a polemic masquerading as history. It has its origins in a Battle of Britain post-blog, and although more research has been done it retains a chronological format, from 10 July to 31 October 1940. Nothing wrong with that; my own (far less extensive!) effort made me look at the received narrative of the Battle in a new way too. And I like the shift in focus from the aerial battles to the effects and perceptions on the ground: I have argued before that we need to consider the Battle and the Blitz as an integrated whole, not artificially divide them as has been done for the last seventy years. The July raids are particularly neglected, as is everywhere outside of London, so I look forward to North's treatment here. But so far most of the breathless claims of a radical new interpretation appear to be, well, nothing new. The working-class 'occupation' of the Savoy Hotel's shelter. The RAF's overestimates of combat kills. The struggle over opening tube stations as shelters. Four of sixteen plates are devoted to air-sea rescue -- apparently the idea that the Germans were much better at this than the British is a new one, even though I seem to recall coming across it in just about every book on the Battle I've ever read. The bibliography is patchy at best; it's okay on recently-published work, but there are many books I'd expect to see which are missing (no Calder's The Myth of the Blitz? no Titmuss or O'Brien) and some I'm surprised to see (three by David Irving, for example, though only one is about a Nazi so maybe it's alright). Lots and lots of URLs (including Airminded, it must be noted) but no peer-reviewed articles. The prewar context is given in about one page ('the bomber will always get through', Things To Come, Guernica). As for the central thesis, that the bravery and suffering of the millions of Britons under bombardment which was the real key to victory has been forgotten and even 'stolen' -- really? I know North has heard of the 'Blitz spirit' because he has an entry for it in his index, so I'll be curious to see what he can mean by this. Seems to me the idea is quite thoroughly entrenched in British culture by now. Anyway. I don't know much about North, who has a PhD in (I think) political science, but all his previous books appear to be as polemical as this so this, usually with an anti-government theme, so appears to be more of the same. But we'll see.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://airminded.org/copyright/.