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A History of Bombing Paperback – 11 Apr 2002

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Paperback, 11 Apr 2002
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (11 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862074909
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862074903
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,818,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 Lindqvist’s investigation that it’s 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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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sven Lindqvist has produced a fascinating presentation of a fearsome subject. He cleverly uses a technique usually associated with web browsing to draw themes across the time-line. The result is that he develops in the reader a depth of understanding which would not be possible in a traditional linear text. As I progressed through the book through its various access points, I knew exactly where I was in time and understood how that theme interacted with concurrent themes. None of this, of course, would be of value if Lindqvists writing failed to engross. His hypotheses on the real nature of bombing (based in part on his own personal experience) give the armchair viewer a real sense of the outrage of this facet of warfare.
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Format: Paperback
Normally I would give this book five stars; it only gets four because I compare it to "Exterminate all the Brutes" by the same author - "Bombing" is not quite as elegant.
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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sven Lindquist
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.
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By A Customer on 5 Jun. 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a history of bombing - both conventional and nuclear - and it effects on mankind. It is at times profoundly disturbing, and is thought-provoking and intriguing throughout. The illustrations are good, too. As well as coverage of the factual history of bombing, one interesting sideline is an examination of how fiction has viewed weapons of mass destruction. The layout is interesting too, with the book divided into small sections that are hyperlinked by reference numbers. I'm not convinced this adds much, but it certainly doesn't detract.
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Anyone with an interest in how our society is the way it is should read this book. Anyone with an interest in 20th Century history should read this book. Particularly those interested in the history of the 2nd World War and the part played by Britain and the Allies who have been taught the accepted narrative of our history in school and via the media. In fact, this book should be required reading as part of British history course curriculums. The Humanity of the author is equalled only by the inhumanity he graphically describes. This book illustrates the calmly, calculated methods used by intelligent, respected human beings to have acts of mass murder committed on their behalf against their fellow human beings. The only reason I don't give 4 Stars, as I would with Lindquist's 'Exterminate All The Brutes' is the occasional difficulty encountered on the odd occasion one puts the book down then picks it up trying to find where one left off (it's designed to read in sections, requiring the reader to move from numbered section to numbered section rather than page to page). I can't imagine what the Kindle version is like to read, if there is one.
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