Teaching Bomber Command and the Western Front

It’s been a bit of a shock to the system returning to teaching as well as researching and writing after a year on sabbatical. Hence the even more erratic than usual posting. Because I’ve come back half-way through the teaching year, I’ve had to offer two new one semester courses. I’m teaching one on Bomber Command, and one on the British Army on the Western Front. I’ve been blogging (also intermittently) about the former – but please bear in mind if you visit that the purpose of this site is teaching. Whilst it is a bit of a slog writing two new lectures a week, both courses are helping me to think about my current writing, and as ever, when you try to explain something you think you know, you realise how much you still have to learn.

Next year, I’ll probably go back to teaching my existing full year courses, but I’ve begun to wonder whether there’d be some mileage in turning these two one semester units into a full year course – in which the first half would focus on the BEF 1914-18, and the second on Bomber Command. The two raise many of the same issues – British ways in warfare; command, leadership, management and control in modern war; attitudes to technology and its effect on war; the representation and mythologisation of the armed forces, war and combat – areas that I think I will continue working on for some time. Or are these two too obvious? Should I be teaching a combined course on the Royal Navy 1914-1918 and the RAF 1939-1945?

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One Response to Teaching Bomber Command and the Western Front

  1. Chris Williams says:

    My standard lecture on the Bomber Offensive has a powerpoint which begins with a picture of HMS Iron Duke, in order to make the point that high-tech blockade warfare is what the UK _does_ – except in 1915-1918, and we all know how that turned out.

    I think that there’s a course to be taught on grand strategy in peace and war: Peden’s latest book would be at the top of the list, next _Warfare State_, then Overy _Why the Allies Won_ and only then going into the blow-by blow accounts of how the grand strategy played out in practice. Spending a whole week pointing and laughing at the finance chapter in _Pity of War_ would be fun, but perhaps excessive.

    As for the RN/RAF thing, I think that it would be a mistake to leave the BEF (mk1) out of anything – it’s such a significant achievement, cast such a long shadow (both as a technocratic edifice, and as How Not To It), and has been the subject of so much bullshit, that its story has to be a part of any ‘UK and C20th war’ course.

    My problem for next year is working out a way to teach C20th European History in c. 360 hours study time…

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