The Next War in the Air: Britain's Fear of the Bomber 1908-1941.

Author:Harvey, Arnold D.
Position:Book review

The Next War in the Air: Britain's Fear of the Bomber 1908-1941. By Dr. Brett Holman. Surrey, UK: Ashgate, 2014. Tables. Diagrams. Illustrations. Photographs. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. 62.00 [pounds sterling] ISBN: 978-140944733-7

Holman has given us a well-written and carefully foot-noted academic monograph logging the ebb and flow of civilian fears regarding attacks on population centres. He acknowledges that his subject is not an original one but argues that "the most critical bias in the secondary literature is the neglect of non-military ideas about aviation." A good point: but the most critical bias in this book is its neglect of the attitude and activity of the civilians whose actual job it was to think about a possible attack from the air. No use has been made of the files of the Ministry of Home Security or the Ministry of Health (the department then chiefly concerned with dealing with local government bodies) in The National Archives at Kew, or the voluminous surviving records of the Air Raid Precautions (A.R.P.) and Emergency Committees of the various borough administrations in and outside London. However, it is in these local records, presumably, that one must look for the explanation of why a borough like Poplar was much better prepared for the Blitz than neighbouring boroughs like Stepney and West Ham.

On the other hand, Holman's familiarity with the relevant printed and published material is, at first glance, impressive. Closer examination, however, suggests a somewhat erratic approach to research. He mentions Tom Wintringham's book The Coming World War (1935) but not his pamphlet Air Raid Warning! Why the Royal Air Force is to be Doubled, issued the previous year. He mentions a New Statesman article by Ritchie Calder but not Calder's book The Lesson of London (1941). He prints a list of the periodicals he consulted, but it does not include The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Worker, or any of the big provincial dailies other than The Manchester Guardian, or The Journal of the Air Raid Protection Institute, effectively the mouthpiece of the...

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