Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe 1940–1945

Project Publications


Claudia Baldoli, Andrew Knapp and Richard Overy (eds.). Bombing, States and Peoples in Western Europe, 1940-1945. Continuum, 2011.

This volume represents the proceedings of the project conference, held in September 2009 at the University of Exeter. It is divided into four themes: States and Peoples; Cultural Responses to Bombing; Society in the Bombing War, and Friend or Foe? Popular Perceptions of Bombing. The volume includes contributions from Dietmar Süss, Marc Wiggam, Elena Cortesi, Lindsey Dodd, Marta Nezzo, Lara Feigel, Claudia Baldoli, Vanessa Chambers, Juliet Gardiner, Stephan Glienke, Michael Schmiedel, Gabriella Gribaudi, Marco Fincardi, Neville Wylie, Simon Kitson, Olivier Dumoulin, and Jay Winter.

Claudia Baldoli. 'Spring 1943: the Fiat Strikes and the Collapse of the Italian Home Front', History Workshop Journal, 72 (2011), pp 181–9.

Andrew Knapp. 'Des bombardements allies sur la France en général et sur Le Havre en particulier'Cahiers Havrais de Recherche Historique, December 2011.


Claudia Baldoli. 'I bombardamenti sull'Italia nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale: la strategia anglo-americana e la propaganda rivolta alla popolazione civile', Deportate, Esuli, Profughe, 13, 2010.


Claudia Baldoli with Marco Fincardi. 'Italian Society under Allied Bombs: Propaganda, Experience, and Legends, 1940- 1945', The Historical Journal, 52 (4), 2009, pp 1017–1038.


Lindsey Dodd. 'Are we defended? Conflicting representations of war in pre-war France', University of Sussex Journal of Contemporary History,12, summer/autumn 2008, pp 1–13. Accessible online.

This article examines contradictions in the way that war was represented to the French population in the interwar period. It argues that an 'official' representation of war gave an impression of France as a secure nation; people were discouraged from questioning the dominant military doctrine of defensive warfare, and were denied access to information in order to stifle potential criticism. 'Unofficial' representations, on the other hand, combined to create an image of a country whose security was increasingly threatened, particularly by a powerful eastern neighbour. During the 1930s, a feeling of imminent catastrophe was in the air, not only as a result of representations of war in film, press and advertising, but also fuelled by the 'official' literature of civil defence. The article draws on archival material from the towns of Boulogne-Billancourt and Brest to show that conflicting representations of war led to such confusion when war broke out in 1939 that people were unprepared, psychologically and physically, despite a near obsession with war over the past twenty years. Further, the strength of the representation of war as imminent catastrophe contributed to the state of mind which caused between eight and ten million citizens to flee the invading German army in panic in the summer of 1940.

Andrew Knapp with Lindsey Dodd. '"How many Frenchmen did you kill?" British bombing policy towards France (1940–1945)', French History, 22 (4), 2008, pp 469–492.

The Allied bombing of France between 1940 and 1945 has received comparatively little attention from historians, although the civilian death toll, at about 60,000, was comparable to that of German raids on the UK . This article considers how Allied, and particularly British, bombing policy towards France was developed, what its objectives were and how French concerns about attacks on their territory were (or were not) addressed. It argues that while British policymakers were sensitive to the delicate political implications of attacking France, perceived military necessities tended to trump political misgivings; that Vichy, before November 1942, was a stronger constraint on Allied bombing than the Free French at any time and that the bombing programme largely escaped political control from May 1944.

Richard Overy 'Apocalyptic Fears: Bombing and Popular Anxiety in Inter-War Britain', S-NODI: pubblici und private nella storia contemporanea, 2, 2008, pp 7–30.

During the inter-war years the prospect of being heavily bombed or gassed from the air dominated much of the public anxiety about future war in Britain. The article argues that the problem of bombing became a contested ground in Britain in the 1930s as pacifist and anti-war groups argued against air raid precautions on the ground that they encouraged war. It shows that gradually over the decade the fear of war became transformed into a growing demand for effective protection, which in turn provoked further arguments over its nature and effectiveness. The tension between public discourse and private fear produced an ambiguous and shifting response to the threat of bombing on the eve of war itself.


Andrew Knapp. 'The Destruction and Liberation of Le Havre in Modern Memory', War in History, 14 (4), 2007, pp 476–498. Accessible online.

The Allied capture of Le Havre from its German garrison on 12 September 1944 was preceded by a week of air raids which, though militarily quite ineffective, destroyed most of the city and killed between 1500 and 2000 French civilians. This article assesses a range of explanations for the city's destruction, contrasts British and French perspectives on the raids, and shows that the trauma of September 1944 has continued to define local memory over six decades. The impact of British and American bombing on Allied civilians, it suggests, remains a relatively under-researched area in the study of the Second World War.