I was doing my usual trawl of forthcoming books on Amazon last night and came across a few of interesting Air Power titles to be released in the future. The first is:
Robin Higham, Two Roads to War: The French and British Air Arms from Versailles to Dunkirk (Naval Institute Press, 2012)
Noted aviation historian Robin Higham has written this comparative study of the evolution of the French and British air arms from 1918 to 1940 to determine why the Armée de l’Air was defeated in June 1940 but the Royal Air Force was able to win the battle over Britain in September. After analyzing the structure, men, and matériel of the air arms, and the government and economic infrastructure of both countries, he concludes that the French force was dominated by the Armée de Terre, had no suitably powerful aero engines, and suffered from the chaos of French politics. In contrast, the independent RAF evolved into a sophisticated, scientifically based force, supported by consistent government practices. Higham’s thorough examination, however, finds the British not without error.
Higham is major figure in the history of air power and has produced several major works. Perhaps his most important work is his work Military Intellectuals in Britain. While dated in some respects it is still the key work on the subject. I believe this new work started out as a project for the now sadly defunct Air Power Studies series that was published by Frank Cass as Higham had a title slated on French Air Doctrine. It now seems to have reappeared as a comparative study. There is not much on the French in the English language other than Anthony Christopher Cain’s work so it will be interesting from that perspective. It will also be interesting to see how much of the recent scholarship on the development of the RAF he includes.
The next book is:
Colin Grey, Airpower for Strategic Effect (C Hurst and Company, 2012)
Airpower for Strategic Effect provides both a critical analytical strategic history of airpower and a new general strategic theory of airpower. This wholly original work situates airpower history in modern strategic history broadly, and it rests airpower theory on the author’s prior work on the general theory of strategy. Airpower re-evaluates the strategic value of airpower from the First World War to Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s. The author considers political, cultural, military-strategic, and technological contexts. Divided into three sections, the first part locates the current state of understanding and misunderstanding of airpower. It further explains both how strategic ideas relate to strategic practice and how the grand narrative of the airpower century needs to be reviewed in the context of the relations among the different geographies of war (land, sea, air, orbital space, and now cyberspace). The second section reconsiders the whole record of airpower strategic history. In the third part, the author rewrites the general strategic theory of airpower in the light of the evidential base yielded by the historical chapters, and concludes by relating the understanding in the theory to issues of enduring importance. Airpower challenges some persisting beliefs that are, and have always been, wrong or misleading. The text shows how airpower’s advocates often inadvertently have harmed the case for their preferred military instrument. The author argues that when sensibly viewed, the history of airpower is one of strategic success. Airpower fails when it is misused, but then so does land power and sea power. This book is a major original effort to improve understanding of the strategic effect of airpower on the course of history.
Colin Gray is a leading figure in the Strategic Studies field and it is good to him turn his hand to relationship between air power and strategic effect. It does seem like this will be an important contribution. I have always been impressed by Gray’s grasp of history and a thorough understanding on context, which is something I have often criticised social scientists of not doing.
The final book is from another Gray…
Peter Gray, The Leadership, Direction and Legitimacy of the RAF Bomber Offensive from Inception to 1945 (Continuum, 2012)
This is an examination of the strategic leadership and legitimacy of the RAF bombing offensive against Germany in the Second World War. “Leadership, Direction and Legitimacy of the RAF Bomber Offensive from Inception to 1945” offers a fresh approach to the debate on the RAF’s strategic bomber offensive by using modern strategic leadership theory as an analytical tool to examine the campaign. In particular, it looks at the legality and legitimacy of the offensive and explores the key interfaces between the military leaders, the politicians and allies. It also looks at the major controversies in the aims and objectives of the campaign and the personalities involved. Modern literature from the leadership field is used to consider the challenges facing those charged with the formulation and execution of the offensive. Aspects of the senior leadership disputes are also dealt with in the context of the leadership literature and in the wider context of the strategic challenges then facing Churchill, Sinclair and Portal. Furthermore, there is a multi-disciplinary bent to the book that enables the reader to move beyond the narrow confines of military considerations to the thorough investigation of the legality, legitimacy and morality of the offensive that is provided.
I will add now that Peter is my PhD supervisor but this takes absolutely nothing from this book. It based on his University of Birmingham PhD, and having read this I can say that this is an important contribution to the literature on the direction of the Combined Bomber Offensive, which has often been vitriolic at times. This should be an excellent example of how theory can be used in history, which is something I am trying to do with my own research.
Well I know where some of my money is going this year!
And of course Brett Holman is publishing his book next year!