A short, brilliant account of the birth of the RAF for the centenary of its founding
The dizzying pace of technological change in the early 20th century meant that it took only a little over ten years from the first flight by the Wright Brothers to the clash of fighter planes in the Great War. A period of terrible, rapid experiment followed to gain a brief technological edge. By the end of the war the British had lost an extraordinary 36,000 aircraft and 16,600 airmen.
The RAF was created in 1918 as a revolutionary response to this new form of warfare - a highly contentious decision (resisted fiercely by both the army and navy, who had until then controlled all aircraft) but one which had the most profound impact, for good and ill, on the future of warfare.
Richard Overy's superb new book shows how this happened, against the backdrop of the first bombing raids against London and the constant emergency of the Western Front. The RAF's origins were as much political as military and throughout the 1920s still provoked bitter criticism.
Published to mark the centenary of its founding this is an invaluable book, filled with new and surprising material on this unique organization.
The ultimate history of the Blitz and bombing in the Second World War, from Wolfson Prize-winning historian and author Richard Overy
The use of massive fleets of bombers to kill and terrorize civilians was an aspect of the Second World War which continues to challenge the idea that Allies specifically fought a 'moral' war. For Britain, bombing became perhaps its principal contribution to the fighting as, night after night, exceptionally brave men flew over occupied Europe destroying its cities.
The Bombing War radically overhauls our understanding of the War. It is the first book to examine seriously not just the most well-known parts of the campaign, but the significance of bombing on many other fronts - the German use of bombers on the Eastern Front for example (as well as much newly discovered material on the more familiar 'Blitz' on Britain), or the Allied campaigns against Italian cities.
The result is the author's masterpiece - a rich, gripping, picture of the Second World War and the terrible military, technological and ethical issues that relentlessly drove all its participants into an abyss.
In Russia's War: 1941-1945, Richard Overy re-creates the Soviet Union's apocalyptic struggle against Nazi Germany, from the point of view both of the troops and of the ordinary civilians.
In the course of human history there has probably been no more terrible place than Eastern Europe in 1941-45. Estimates of total Soviet military and civilian deaths in the period now stand at more than 25 million.
Yet without the Soviet war effort, it is unlikely that Germany could have ever been defeated. Drawing on a recent wealth of evidence to account for the Soviet Union's remarkable victory against invading forces, Richard Overy's Russia's War is a fascinating account of the epic struggle that turned the tide of the Second World War.
'Masterly ... a vivid account'<br /> Robert Service, Independent
'A dramatic and exciting tale ... His set-piece descriptions of such visions of Hell as Stalingrad, the 900-day siege of Leningrad and the crucial battle of Kursk are as fascinating as they are horrifying' <br /> Alan Judd, Sunday Times
'Overy is a first-class military historian ... Now, we have an authoritative British account that understands both sides, without illusions'<br /> Norman Stone, Spectator
'Excellent ... Overy tackles this huge, complex and multifaceted story with the vital gifts of clarity and brevity'<br /> Antony Beevor, Literary Review
Richard Overy is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. His books include Why the Allies Won, Russia's War, The Battle of Britain, The Morbid Age and The Dictators, which won the Wolfson and the Hessell Tiltman Prizes for history in 2005.
Richard Overy's The Morbid Age opens a window onto the creative but anxious period between the First and Second World Wars.
British intellectual life between the wars stood at the heart of modernity; it was the golden age of the public intellectual and scientist: Arnold Toynbee, Aldous and Julian Huxley, H. G. Wells, Marie Stopes and a host of others. Yet, as Richard Overy argues, a striking characteristic of so many of the ideas that emerged from this new age - from eugenics to the Freudian unconscious, to modern ideas of pacifism and world government - was the fear that the West was faced a dystopian future of war, economic collapse and racial degeneration.
Brilliantly evoking a Britain of BBC radio lectures, public debates, peace demonstrations, pamphleteers, psychoanalysts, anti-fascist volunteers, sex education manuals and science fiction, The Morbid Age reveals a time at once different from, and yet surprisingly similar to, our own.
'History at its best'<br /> Economist
'The carefree image of life in Britain between the wars is overturned in this magnificent account'<br /> Peter Preston, Observer
'It is hard to imagine anyone recording these times more exactly and more intelligently, or with greater insight and scholarship, than Overy has'<br /> Simon Heffer, Daily Telegraph
'With learning, lucidity and wit, The Morbid Age ... brilliantly describes the sense of an inevitably approaching catastrophe'<br /> Eric Hobsbawm, London Review of Books
Richard Overy is Professor of History at the University of Exeter. His books include Why the Allies Won, Russia's War, The Battle of Britain and The Dictators, which won the Wolfson and the Hessell Tiltman Prizes for history in 2005.
From the award-winning author of The Dictators, Richard Overy's The Battle of Britain: Myth and Reality is the best introduction available to a defining moment in British history.
The extraordinary struggle between British and German air forces in 1940 was one of the pivotal events of the Second World War. How close did Britain really come to invasion during this time? What were Hitler and Churchill's motives? And what was the battle's real effect on the outcome of the war?
'It is harder to imagine a sounder and more succinct account of the Battle of Britain'<br /> Max Hastings, Evening Standard
'No individual British victory after Trafalgar was more decisive in challenging the course of a major war than the Battle of Britain ... the best historical analysis in readable form which has yet appeared on this prime subject'<br /> Noble Frankland, The Times Literary Supplement
'The Battle of Britain is hard to beat'<br /> Saul David, Sunday Telegraph
'Exemplary ... a compelling account'<br /> Boyd Tonkin, Independent
'Succeeds brilliantly ... along the way a lot of myths bite the dust'<br /> Time
'A captivating and brilliant analysis of the fragile circumstances of Britain's victory'<br /> Observer
Richard Overy has spent much of his distinguished career studying the intellectual, social and military ideas that shaped the cataclysm of the Second World War, particularly in his books 1939 - Countdown to War, Why the Allies Won, Russia's War and The Morbid Age. Overy's The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia won the Wolfson Prize for History and the Hessell Tiltman Prize.
24 August 1939: The fate of the world is hanging in the balance. Hitler has ambitions to invade Poland and hopes Stalin will now help him. And the West must try to stop him. If they don't, world war will result.
In this dramatic account of the last days of peace in 1939, Richard Overy re-creates hour by hour the unfolding story in the capitals of Europe as politicians and the public braced themselves for a war that they feared might spell the end of European civilisation.
There was nothing entirely predictable or inevitable about the outcome. The West hoped that Hitler would see sense if they stood firm. Hitler was convinced the West would back down. There were moments of hesitation and moments of confrontation; secret intelligence was used by both sides to support their hopes. The one constant feature was the determination of Poland, a country created only in 1919, to fight a war that seemed entirely irrational, against the armed might of Germany.
Countdown to War brings to life a defining moment in the history of the violent twentieth century.
The Allied victory in 1945 - though comprehensive - was far from inevitable. By 1942 almost the entire resources of continental Europe were in German hands and Japan had wiped out the western colonial presence in Asia. Democracy appeared to have had its day.
In this remarkable study, Richard Overy provides a reinterpretation of the war through an account of the decisive military campaigns that created the astonishing revival in Allied fortunes. He also explores the deeper factors that determined success and failure: industrial stength, fighting ability, the skills of leaders and the moral contrasts between the two sides.
Today the modern world is once more in the throes of painful transformation. It is essential to establish why and how the last great war was won. Richard Overy casts a brilliant light on the most important turning-point of the modern age.
Richard Overy is Professor in History at the University of Exeter. He is the author of books on the Second World War, the European dictatorships and the history of air power. His latest titles include The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia (2004) and The Morbid Age: Britain Between the Wars (2009). He is a fellow of the British Academy and winner of the Wolfson History Prize in 2005.