Frontcover book: ‘The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945’

Exeter historian shortlisted for new US military history prize

University of Exeter historian, Professor Richard Overy has been shortlisted for a new American military history prize for his book ‘The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945’.  The inaugural Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History has selected six books for the $50,000 (approximately £30,000) prize supported by The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and Lewis E Lehrman.

Harry Guggenheim established the foundation to support research on violence, aggression, and dominance because he was convinced that solid, thoughtful, scholarly and scientific research, experimentation, and analysis would in the end accomplish more than the usual solutions impelled by urgency rather than understanding.

Professor Overy’s shortlisted ‘The Bombing War’ is the ultimate history of the Blitz and bombing in the Second World War and radically overhauls the general understanding of the War. It does this by exploring the use of massive fleets of bombers to kill and terrorize civilians which was an aspect of the Second World War that continues to challenge the idea that Allies specifically fought a 'moral' war. The book shows that for Britain, bombing became perhaps its principal contribution to the fighting as planes flew over occupied Europe destroying its cities. It is the first book to examine the significance of bombing on many other fronts not just the most well-known parts of the campaign. An example is the German use of bombers on the Eastern Front (as well as much newly discovered material on the more familiar 'Blitz' on Britain), or the Allied campaigns against Italian cities.

In response to being shortlisted for the Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History, Professor Overy said:“This is the first time this prize has been awarded and it is a particular honour to be shortlisted for the opening year of what promises to be a prestigious annual event.”

The intent of the prize is to draw public attention to military history not only as an important staple of education in the areas of international relations, diplomacy, and conflict studies, but also as a subject in which people should be interested. It is also to encourage the study of diplomatic responses to war and the conduct of military campaigns which can play an essential role in the quest for a more peaceful future.

The Prize will be awarded annually to the best book in the field of military history published in English during the previous calendar year.

The books on the 2013 shortlist are: The Guns at Last Light: The War in Western Europe, 1944-1945 (The Liberation Trilogy) by Rick Atkinson (Henry Holt & Co); Gettysburg: The Last Invasion by Allen C Guelzo (Alfred A. Knopf); Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory, 1793-1815 by Roger Knight and The Bombing War: Europe, 1939-1945 by Richard Overy (both Allen Lane/Penguin Books); and Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War by Peter R. Mansoor and The Men Who Lost America by Andrew Jackson O’Shaughnessy (both published by Yale University Press).

The overall winner of the 2013 prize will be announced at a ceremony on 17th March at the New-York Historical Society in New York City.

Date: 22 January 2014

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