A History of Bombing Paperback – 11 Apr 2002
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Sven Lindqvist has acquired a reputation as an innovative writer with an unorthodox line in cultural histories, so expect the unexpected with A History of Bombing. Rather than a straightforward linear narrative, Lindqvist has divided the book into a labyrinth of 399 short sections that can be read in any number of orders. The author has established 22 entrances into the book and to follow the different themes you have to weave your way backward and forward through the text; if you get waylaid by another section en route you end up somewhere else entirely. The idea behind this structure is to demonstrate the chaos of history and the difficulties in navigating a coherent path through differing viewpoints and interpretations. As an intellectual conceit it might sound brilliant but the reality is somewhat different. Reading this book is like wading through treacle; it is demanding, time-consuming and ultimately frustrating. This is a pity, because had Lindqvist kept to a more conventional structure one suspects his arguments might have carried more weight. Lindqvist draws his material from both official and personal sources and his aim is to make clear the immorality of bombing. Unfortunately he is not always a reliable witness, as his desire to prove his case results in some important documentary omissions. His discussions of both the blanket bombing of Germany during the Second World War and the dropping of the atom bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki contain almost no reference to how events might have panned out had they not taken place and whether there might have been an even greater loss of life. For the reader with tenacity and perseverance there is a decent enough polemic to be found; for those who are looking for a more detailed and accessible history, Robin Neillands's The Bomber War is a far more rewarding read. --John Crace --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'So comprehensive is Lindqvists investigation that its hard to imagine a more assiduous chronicler of the subject.' -- Publishing News
'Sven Lindqvist is not only a remarkable historian, he is also one of the best storytellers in the historical profession today' -- Joanna Bourke, Times Literary Supplement
He writes with infectious moral anger, and much humour and intelligence -- The Guardian
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Top Customer Reviews
The original Swedish title of "A History of Bombing" is the equivalent of "Bang-You're Dead!" I find this title far more apt. The book is not a meticulous, ossified 'history'. It is more an expose of how bombing allows humans to commit atrocious violence at a distance, and so makes killing easier on the conscience and pocket. Bombing, like shooting your mate with a toy gun at age 5, doesn't require you to confront any spilt organs or other unsavoury realities. Lindqvist references early Sci-fi visions of WMD to accentuate this imagination/reality gap and (in my humble opinion) show us how much of war is really fear of monsters combined with a most infantile lack of empathy. British readers will find the detailed description of the fire-bombing of Dresden ungentlemanly. But it is exactly the kind of shameful knowledge we should all keep in mind at all times, and most of all when involved in "war against" X, Y or Z. It is too easy to destroy and too hard to create and we all need to remain awake to that fact. This book does a sterling job of reminding us.
A history of bombing
Lindquist has amassed a body of evidence in this enlightening history of bombing warfare, making use of a huge range of historical sources. He arranges them in a somewhat unique way, so that they can speak for themselves and, through the course of the book, Lindquist allows the sheer weight of the evidence to draw his reader along the many possible paths through his book toward the one inevitable conclusion. Lindquist examines bombing as military strategy, considers its cultural context and, most powerfully, takes on the oft-touted concept of 'Precision bombing'. Some readers might find it interesting to also know that Lindquist was himself bombed as a child. This doesn't so much skew the writer's arguments as, from time to time, lend him a unique perspective on them.
By the end of Lindquist's book we are left with the realisation that the term 'Precision bombing' has been so misused as to be virtually redundant, little more than the PR-speak governments over three generations have used to forestall objection to bombing campaigns conducted, in effect, against civilian populations: 'precision bombing' has been the catch-all moral and political get-out clause. Lindquist traces so-called 'Precision bombing' campaigns throughout human history and it quickly becomes clear that from the deliberate WW2 strategy of area bombing in key german towns to the 'shock and awe' tactics in Iraq, 'precision bombing' has more often than not turned out to be straightforward area bombing, intended to crudely terrorise and cow the general population, rather than anything else.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am still trying to decide if I liked the way the information was presented in this book. I think the jumping around worked in this instance but I wouldn't like this technique to... Read morePublished on 27 Aug. 2013 by Daniel Kolasinski
A curious title, you might think but this book is essential if you want to understand war and the governments who wage it. Read morePublished on 16 Sept. 2009 by Eileen Shaw
Hideous, ghastly and beautiful, the author's superb dissection of the History of Bombing has literally changed my way of thinking. Read morePublished on 22 July 2008 by Mr. J. Mccool
Together with "Exterminate all the brutes", this book really brings home quite how racist the world has been in the past. Read morePublished on 9 Oct. 2003 by G. Bache
This book has, I think, three different parts or points of view; the first is well worth, and these is the good documentation about the theme of aerial bombing, abundant and... Read morePublished on 4 Sept. 2002 by Carlos Vazquez Quintana