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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War
I’ve read another book by this author on London in the Eighteenth Century. This book follows a similar format, telling the life of London and its people during a particular period, in this case from 1914 through to 1918, the time of the First World War. It’s fascinating to learn how Londoners coped first with the shock of the news of the War, and then how...
Published 9 months ago by Keen Reader

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting angle on London at war.
Enjoyable social history. A tad academic in style, but clearly very well researched. The resilience of London and Londoners shines through this work.
Published 8 months ago by James Drayton


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War, 12 July 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (Hardcover)
I’ve read another book by this author on London in the Eighteenth Century. This book follows a similar format, telling the life of London and its people during a particular period, in this case from 1914 through to 1918, the time of the First World War. It’s fascinating to learn how Londoners coped first with the shock of the news of the War, and then how people reacted to the War itself. There is much to learn for the reader from a book like this; I didn’t know, for example, how troops from the Western Front were shipped back to London for hospital treatment and were picked up to be taken to hospital in cars donated by wealthy patrons. Interestingly the logistics of shipping men back and forth was something that had to be thought of as though for the first time – something we take very much for granted in this modern world of ours one hundred years on.

The book moves chronologically, but also through chapters that are broken down in general ways into subjects or themes – for instance, the idea of women in the workforce, of banning “indecent” entertainments for the duration, of the breakdown or interruption to services to homeowners and businesses, food shortages, coping with the harrowing effect of zeppelin raids or threats of invasion, managing without the menfolk at home; so many things that had to be dealt with on a daily basis that are hard to imagine from our distance now.

As with the author’s other books, this is a lively mixture of fact and anecdote; interesting, enlightening and entertaining all at once. It is a book I felt best read in chunks – one chapter at a time, and a bit of time to digest the dense amount of information in each chapter before moving on to the next. Wonderful, and highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent look at a piece of the Great War..., 18 Dec. 2014
By 
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (Hardcover)
This year - 2014 - is the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War. Many excellent histories have been published in the past few years, and one of the best is British historian Jerry White's book, "Zeppelin Nights", which focuses on London during the war years. Professor White teaches at Birbeck College at the University of London. He is the author of three previous histories of London and its people.

The Great War is best looked at in smaller, more manageable portions than in its entirety. In examining London and the part its citizens played in the war effort, Jerry White has captured how most Britons carried on during the war. London was a microcosm of English society at large. It was an incredibly cosmopolitan city; immigrants from all over Europe and the British colonies made the population very diverse. In particular, Germans and Austrians were over-employed in the restaurants and hotels. When war was declared in August, 1914, those German and Austrian residents - called "aliens" - were sent back to their native countries and the service industries suffered. Restaurants and hotels lost their staffs. This was just one way that residents and businesses began to "make do". Not only were service industries affected by the "aliens" leaving, businesses lost British male employees who had signed up for military service. Houses lost staff when former ladies maids went off to do "war work". Women began taking the places in factories, stores, and transportation, which caused problems when these same men returned home in 1918 and 1919.

But how many Londoners who had marched gaily off to war in 1914 actually returned at war's end? How any soldiers were either killed or badly injured? The population of soldiers - both officers and men - was a fairly large percentage of the male population of London. White examines the London "home front", where hospitals were filled with wounded soldiers from the fighting in France. How did people "make-do" when food was rationed, the German zeppelins were bombing the city, and loved ones were dying both in the streets and on the battlefields? Using primary sources like diaries and interviews transcribed both during the war and soon after, Jerry White has written a lively history of both a city and its people. This was a tough four year period, which ended both in victory for the Allies but also in the calamitous Spanish flu epidemic. It's a great history book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing Social History, 19 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (Hardcover)
When one thinks of London and war, one inevitably thinks of the Blitz. But acclaimed London historian Jerry White has written an account of London in the First World War. It is a fascinating account and all the more so for being a less well-known history.

White explores the impact of the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) on Londoners, with highly amusing anecdotes such as the investigation into ‘Tippling Among Women.’ Morally lax theatres were also the bane of the establishment: the Lord Chamberlain was charged by the King himself to investigate a picture of a scantily-clad music hall performer in an illustrated paper.

Women came under further attack due to their perceived loose sexual conduct. Arthur Conan-Doyle described the city as ‘harlot-haunted’, a view not shared by Sylvia Pankhurst. Pankhurst’s account of the sights she witnessed reads far more credibly and charitably. Dancing was of course condemned too, as ‘enjoying the war’. Interestingly, the first female police officers began to appear on the streets at time.

While these aspects of social history are absorbing as well as at times highly entertaining, White also unflinchingly explores the harshest realities of the war. London with its many hospitals treated thousands of injured, maimed and disfigured men who arrived in daily waves. Children heard the names of the dead at their school assemblies and lists appeared in every town hall.

And of course, it wasn’t just soldiers. Civilians also died in the terrible Zeppelin incendiary raids. On 31 May 1915, Elsie Leggatt, not even four, was the first to lose her life. Her sister May died from her burns a few days later.

No wonder Londoners sought consolation where they could. Recommended.

Note: I received a free review copy of this book via the Historical Novel Society. This review (or an edited version) has appeared in the Historical Novels Review. My review is my independent opinion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent account of social conditions in London during the First World War., 13 Aug. 2014
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Excellent book. From the title I had expected a book about warfare and London bombing, but it was far wider than that. It is an excellent account of what life was like in London before and during the First World War, from the entertainments, to the rise of the munitions industry with it's Canary Girls. There are the prostitutes and good time girls alongside the newly formed Women's Police Service who sought to control them. Class is a big issue with the upper classes feeling less of the shortages than the poorer classes did. And of course the persecution of all aliens living in London city. It is a microcosm of life during wartime, and although it only considers London, it reflects what life must have been like throughout Britain. I would heartily recommend this book if you are interested in life on the Home front during the First World War
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5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling history of a capital in the Front Line for the first time, 11 Jun. 2014
By 
James Hayes "JM Hayes" (Herts., UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (Hardcover)
Engrossing history of how the capital fared during the 1914-1918 conflict. London wasn't the only place on the UK mainland that was raided by German airships and bomber aircraft during the First World War, but it was obviously a prestige target for the enemy, and its population density meant that the psychological impact of bombs being dropped on British mainland for the first time - with the British authorities seemingly powerless to stop them, at first - was intensified. When airships first appeared in the skies over London - picked out by searchlights - people used to stand out in the streets and watch, and were more likely to be killed or injured by falling shrapnel from their anti-aircraft guns than from enemy bombs. When the casualities from bombing started to rack-up - and unrestricted submarine warfare resulting in the sinking of the liner RMS Lusitania in May 1915, leaving 1,198 passengers and crew dead - German and other foreign nationals, many of who had been domiciled in London for years before the outbreak of hostilities, where cruelly targeted for reprisals by angry local populaces, driven from their homes and businesses, and often interned. Jerry White gives an insightful, fact-driven account, compellingly written; much of his evidence is based on contemporary testimony from diaries written at the time. This book is highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into the Home Front, 11 Aug. 2014
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An excellent, well-researched read which satisfied a lot of my curiosity about what was happening at home during WW1. I have only deducted one star because of a curious proof-reading defect in the Kindle edition, whereby a lot of terms have been (unintentionally?) hyphenised.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 16 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (Hardcover)
This provides an excellent, comprehensive and coherent narrative account of London during the First World War. Up to a few years ago it was so difficult to find material about the home front 1914-18 that you had mainly to rely on Sylvia Pankhurst’s book, which is of course an important primary source but not really acceptable as a balanced overview. I hadn’t expected Zeppelin Nights to be solely about the zeppelin campaign, but surprisingly I felt that in some places its coverage of specific particularly serious air raids was more informative than I could find in some of the works around that focus on the aerial warfare aspect. This is going into my permanent collection for future reference.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Foretaste of the Second World War Strategic Bombing Offensive., 4 May 2014
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
In 1921 the Italian General Douhet wrote his 'Command of the Air',a classic account of air power theory, and about the need to build a strategic bomber force arguing it would enable wars to be fought without the need to fight land wars like that of 1914-18. He argued the areoplane had altered warfare irrevocably. By the 1930's Baldwin was warning the bomber would always get through. The Great War saw the first demonstration of war from the air. The experience influenced Douhet and Baldwin greatly. Also influential was H.G.Wells whose The War in the Air was published in 1908. Numerous other books discussed terror bombing. Like Wells these authors were mainly influenced by the growing influence of science on warfare. In 1913 Wells had even anticipated nuclear war.

What few appreciated in 1914 was that the ability to wage war from the air meant civilians no longer enjoyed immunity. It was to prove to be a momentous development in the history of warfare.

Italy was the first state to conduct air war by bombing. In 1911 she bombed targets in Libya. The bombing sometimes took the form of a dropped hand grenade.
The controversial strategic bombing offensive of the Second World War was an inevitable outcome, based as it was initially on winning the war from the air, thereby avoiding horrendous casualties resulting from land operations.

This most interesting book by Professor Jerry White of London University tells the story of Zeppelin, Gotha and Giant air raids on London in the Great War. The first of 52 raids beginning on the night of 20-21 January 1915. The object of these raids was to destroy the morale of the British people.

The book is a welcome relief from the numerous accounts of the land war currently pouring out like a torrent. The author is known as a first class historian of London over the past 200 years. He writes with clarity, and his research is excellent.

One of the highlights of this account unlike many others about the air war on London is how the author sets the bombing raids within the context of daily life in the capital. As a result we learn a great deal about the social life of Londoners (whose population was 7.5 million, twice the size of Greater Berlin), and how it was affected by the air raids. He has captured the daily experience of the mass of Londoners. Therefore, this is more of a social history of the times than a history of the bombing of London. As a result, this is not for those that want a detailed history of the air war. This is available elsewhere.

Many in government and the church condemned the German bombing as cowardly, as they did the use of submarines, apparently oblivious to the fact we dropped over 8000 tons of bombs on Germany during the war. The TIMES described bombing as 'barbarism', a term that became popular 25 years later in certain quarters. Trenchard, on the other hand, said the moral effect of bombing was 20 times more than the material effect, though the evidence was lacking to support this.

In the war 1450 civilians were, according to this book, killed by air raids (a figure disputed by other sources that say it was 1,239). This compares with 40000 who died in WW11. The raids caused deep anxiety and fear being a new form of warfare against which there was little effective defence although anti-aircraft guns were in place across south-east England by April 1915, and some 250 were emplaced to defend London by 1918. One outcome was air raid precaution planning whose lessons were used in the 1930's. It has been estimated that in London between 100,000 and 300,000 sought shelter in the Underground.

The author describes, few others have done this, the Giant bomber (or R.V1). It was a monster with a wing span of 138 feet, bigger than any bomber that bombed London in the 1939-45 war, even longer than the wingspan of the much later Lancaster bomber. It carried a bomb load of two tons. Not one was shot down. Like the Gotha and Zeppelin its maximum speed with a full load was under 90 mph. The maximum altitude of the Gotha was 21,300 feet. Accuracy was extremely poor as indeed it was throughout the Second World War. Bombers were in Raleigh's phrase 'cold meat' for fighters.

White describes how Londoners despite the war improved their lot. For example, wages rose, and family incomes increased thanks to women working. He also tells us of clergymen, one of whom recovered the prayer books in khaki and 'used the crypt as a rifle range'. More stories concern the view of some that morals were in decline because of women drinking in pubs.
Of particular interest is the fact that not everyone viewed the war as terrible. Some we are told even found it 'wonderful'.

For his research the author used most of the well known sources as well as council minutes, diaries and files of the Church of England Society for Waifs and Strays.

Recommended. A very good addition to existing accounts of the birth of war from the air.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting angle on London at war., 6 Sept. 2014
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Enjoyable social history. A tad academic in style, but clearly very well researched. The resilience of London and Londoners shines through this work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Changing london in the conflict 1914-1918, 14 Oct. 2014
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Excellent about the city of London and its people the First World War changed people's lives forever especially women who before the conflict were expected to do just what they were told to do stay at home no votes as well and women in ammunition factories in fact women doing mens jobs while men were away fighting at the front
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Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War
Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War by Jerry White (Hardcover - 1 May 2014)
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