Monthly Archives: April 2016

Statistically, this was probably bound to happen eventually...

Jeremy Black. Air Power: A Global History. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. The indefatigable Jeremy Black has produced a small but useful library of short, accessible surveys of sometimes neglected areas of military history. On my own shelves I already have Avoiding Armageddon (2012) on the interwar period, and The Cold War (2015), and now they are joined by this volume on a topic even closer to my heart. All the things you'd expect in such a survey are pretty much here, and he does attempt to look at airpower around the world. Inevitably it's still mostly a Western view. Still, there are a couple of pages on the Iran-Iraq war, for example, a bit over a page on China in the 1930s; but only a couple of sentences on the Chaco War (but what are ya gonna do).

Jeremy Black. Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. The indefatigable Jeremy Black has also produced a small but useful library of short, accessible historiographical works. I've got Rethinking Military History (2004) and I did have the previous edition of this book, What If? (2008) -- I'm not sure how they differ, precisely, but the new version is about 20 pages longer and the chapter on counterfactualism in military history, at least, seems to have been largely rewritten. Black thinks that counterfactuals do have value for historians, so it's a good addition to the pile.


Shori Arai, Maintenance Work aboard Aircraft Carrier II (c. 1943)

Apropos of nothing, here's a (somewhat cropped) c. 1943 painting by a Japanese artist named Shori Arai. (Sometimes called Maintenance Work aboard Aircraft Carrier II, though clearly it's not maintenance that's going on there.) The original is held by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. It was also issued as a postcard by the Japanese Navy Ministry.
...continue reading


Kristen Alexander. Taking Flight: Lores Bonney's Extraordinary Flying Career. Canberra: NLA Publishing, 2016. If Australia had an equivalent to Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, and Amelia Earhart, it was Lores Bonney: the first woman to fly around Australia (1932), the first woman to fly from Australia to England (1933), the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa (1937). But she's not very well-known. This might do something to change that. Looks like a nice companion piece to Michael Molkentin's Flying the Southern Cross, also published by the NLA.

James Harris. The Great Fear: Stalin's Terror of the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. A short book making a big claim: that the purges were the result of the belief that the Soviet Union was under imminent threat by internal conspiracy and external attack. It wasn't, but in this case perception mattered more than reality. Hmm, that idea sounds familiar somehow...

1 Comment

On Friday, 1 April 2016, I gave my second Humanities Research Seminar (again introduced by Nathan Wise) at the University of New England, under the title of 'Constructing the enemy within: rumours of secret German forts and aerodromes in Britain, August-October 1914'. It was based on a (hopefully) forthcoming article, which in turn is based on a series of posts here as well as a research trip. The abstract:

I will explore the false rumours of secret German gun platforms and hidden Zeppelin bases which swept Britain in the early months of the First World War and climaxed with the fall of Antwerp in October 1914. These were so persistent that they were repeatedly investigated by both thepolice and the military. I argue that these rumours were the latest manifestation of a long-standing myth-complex around the threatening figure of the German enemy within. But they also represent an important moment in the British people's imaginative transition between the cautious optimism of the early months and the increasing likelihood of a long, total war.

I haven't listened to it (and don't plan to!) so can't vouch for its comprehensibility -- especially since since I didn't have as much time to prepare it as I would have liked. It might be safer to wait for the article!