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The Bombing War: Europe 1939-1945 Hardcover – 26 Sep 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; First Edition edition (26 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713995610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713995619
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 210,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Magnificent ... must now be regarded as the standard work on the bombing war ... It is probably the most important book published on the history of he second world war this century (Richard J Evans Guardian)

Monumental ... this is a major contribution to one of the most controversial aspects of the Second World War ... full of new detail and perspectives ... hugely impressive (James Holland Literary Review)

This tremendous book does what the war it describes signally failed to do. With a well-thought-out strategy and precision, it delivers maximum force on its objectives ... The result is a masterpiece of the historian's art (The Times)

What distinguishes Mr Overy's account of the bombing war from lesser efforts is the wealth of narrative detail and analytical rigour that he brings to bear (Economist)

Excellent ... Overy is never less than an erudite and clear-eyed guide whose research is impeccable and whose conclusions appear sensible and convincing even when they run against the established trends (Financial Times)

It is unlikely that a work of this scale, scope and merit will be surpassed (Times Higher Education)

Hard to surpass. If you want to know how bombing worked, what it did and what it meant, this is the book to read (Times Literary Supplement)

My book of the year ... A staggering amount of research ... provides a sober and realistic assessment of [the bombings'] impact on the warring nations and on the civilians who bore the brunt of its impact ... It's hard to imagine a more thorough account: a masterpiece (Richard J Evans New Statesman BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

A much needed breath of fresh air ... Overy argues his point with the confidence of someone who knows he is master of his subject: his rich and varied approach, coupled with exhaustive research, makes this probably the best history of bombing of the past 20 years (Keith Lowe Telegraph)

A superbly detailed account of a terrifying aspect of the Second World War (Simon Heffer New Statesman BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

An extraordinary and far-reaching history ... the first full narrative of the bombing war in Europe ... Overy's scope is incredibly broad and well-researched, also highly readable (Spectator)

This is a tough, hardheaded and meticulous work of military history ... It is worth reading (Dan Jones Telegraph BOOKS OF THE YEAR)

Overy's history explains and explores strategy, tactics, technology and results in one seamless story that shatters myths and establishes truths (Nigel Jones Sunday Telegraph)

Utterly fascinating ... What is most surprising in Overy's book is its remarkable contemporary relevance (Edward Luttwak London Review of Books)

The first full narrative of the bombing war in Europe (Commander Barney White-Spunner Country Life)

About the Author

Richard Overy is the author of a series of remarkable books on the Second World War and the wider disasters of the twentieth century. The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia won both the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hessell-Tiltman Prize. He is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. Penguin publishes 1939: Countdown to War, The Morbid Age, Russia's War, Interrogations, The Battle of Britain and The Dictators. He lives in London.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've read some other histories by Overy, so had high expectations of this. Overy has created an extensive, although highly readable, account of bombing during the second world war. It opens with how bombing became a tool of war and the fears expressed in the interwar years. Many believed that the bombing of civilians would lead inexorably to the collapse of society. We know this didn't happen and, it's possible that even *with* the information they had at the time, people were scaremongering a little. All that notwithstanding, strategic bombing rightly still held terror for civilian populations.

After this, the book focuses on the effects on civilian populations in Britain, Germany France and, gratifyingly, the Soviet Union. Not wishing to diminish the experience of people in this country, but the effect of the war on the people of the USSR was huge and is a story I don't feel we hear often enough.

There's much to unpack in this book. For example, he discusses how strategic bombing wasn't all that effective and is too damaging to people's lives. There is also the fact that - especially at that time - it was very difficult to properly aim bombs, making the chances of even meeting the stated objectives.

There are hundreds of pages here, so the survey is comprehensive. It is also well referenced and noted (a significant portion of this intimidating book is the notes at the end!)

This is a highly recommended book. If you have any interest in the subject, this is worth looking at.
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Format: Paperback
For someone like myself, born a year before WWII started, who had uncles in the War and who served in the RAF in the 1950s, any serious book on British activity in this period involves the challenging of the myths with which one was brought up – Dunkirk (was it really a victory in disguise or was it simply a comprehensive defeat?), Battle of Britain (was it important to anyone other than the British who needed a morale boost after Dunkirk?). And now a peculiarly ambiguous myth – the military importance of an activity which occasioned the highest casualty rate of all British service units during the War, Bomber Command. Of course, there has been far more written about British/American bombing of Germany and German bombing of Britain than of any other facet of the Bombing War and it is one of the real merits of Overy’s latest book that he looks at bombing in all European theatres (with a rather nice use of the bombing of Bulgaria to begin and end this volume) about which so little has been written – especially on the civilian population of Italy and France in Allied raids and the German bombing of Soviet cities.
I suppose one could criticise Overy for being excessively anglo-centric, but I wouldn’t. He is British and, during the period when the only aggressive activity against Germany itself (as opposed to the German army in Russia and N Africa) was based in Britain, this emphasis is entirely justified. Such a big and thorough book deserves several thousand words of review, but in the current context all that is necessary is to state my view that this is magnificent history, very thorough and scholarly but, if you find the topic interesting at all, written in a very readable style.
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By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 27 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is by any standards a big book, and would still be big if we ignored the many many pages of notes and sources. It is never therefore going to appeal to the casual reader. However, as a non-propeller head I found it excellent at setting the position for the various parties. The bombing war brings out strong opinions and Overy's book reinforces Wedgwood's view that "History is lived forwards but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we can consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was to know the beginning only.". One soon grasps that so much in war consists of guessing. The Germans guessed wrongly in the Battle of Britain and the Allies did so during the bombing; all based on worthy attempts at getting the correct data of course. Only when the war was over could we peek behind the curtain and see the views of the Germans as to what did or did not work. One makes war as one can, not as one should as Kitchener used to say to me.

This is a long book but it argues its case closely and I enjoyed it.
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By John M on 20 Nov. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent account of the bombing carried out by all players in WW2, covering much more than the raids and the damage. Balanced, thorough, comprehensive, and a fascinating and compelling read. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Richard Overy is to be congratulated on producing a work that is sure to become the standard overview of bombing in WW2. For too long studies of bombing in English have largely been limited to the impact of the Luftwaffe on Britain, or the bombing of German cities by RAF's Bomber Command and the USAAF.

For instance, The bombing of Italy and France both saw roughly the same number of civilians killed as were killed by the Luftwaffe in their bombing of Britain, but only recently have we had a study on this in English - Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945 by Claudia Baldoli and Andrew Knapp. Forgotten Blitzes: France and Italy under Allied Air Attack, 1940-1945

I did not know until now that Italy received some 370,000 tons of bombs, nearly five times the total dropped on Britain by the Luftwaffe, while France received over 570,000, nearly eight times the British figure. In each country, over 55,000 civilians died.

And as for trying to find anything on the bombing of Soviet cities by the Luftwaffe, or the bombing of other European countries during WW2 - there has been almost nothing in English.

There is of course nothing wrong in looking at the above topics in isolation - but if one truly wants to grasp why European states undertook to bomb each other in the way they did between 1939-45, what air defence precautions states took in the 1930s, and how the bombed societies survived - then this is the book for you.

What is fascinating is how societies, even liberal democracies which had signed up to various pledges to place some limits the impact of bombing, quickly overcame their moral scruples in the furnace of total war, and moved to a position of moral expediency where the end justified the means. A truly important study.
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