Robin Higham and Mark Parillo, Eds. the Influence of Airpower upon History: Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy since 1903

By Stein, Stephen K. | Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Robin Higham and Mark Parillo, Eds. the Influence of Airpower upon History: Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy since 1903


Stein, Stephen K., Teaching History: A Journal of Methods


Robin Higham and Mark Parillo, eds. The Influence of Airpower Upon History: Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy Since 1903. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Pp. 328. Cloth, $40.00; ISBN 978-0813136745.

While this book borrows from the title of Alfred Thayer Mahan's Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 (1890), it lacks Mahan's grand ambition. Eight essays, framed by introductory and concluding chapters by Kansas State University colleagues Robin Higham and Mark Parillo, explore the use of airpower to advance national policy in both peace and war. The essays are accompanied by bibliographies and suggestions for future research, making the book a good starting place for prospective air power scholars.

As Higham notes, the emergence of airpower divided the world into haves and have-nots. Few nations can support substantial civil and military aviation establishments. This is reflected in the book's essays, all but one of which focus on a major world power. The outlier, by Rene De La Pedraja, discusses how Latin American governments have reconciled rising aircraft costs with local defense needs. This has generally meant relying on obsolescent, secondhand aircraft, and engaging major powers at a disadvantage. Nonetheless, Argentina's air force acquitted itself well against Britain in the Falklands War and the Cuban air force proved sufficient to disrupt the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Three essays discuss the use of airpower in interwar Europe and the outbreak of World War II. All cover their topics well and highlight both the fears and possibilities of airpower. Airpower played a central role in Hitler's foreign policy, helped by adept disinformation campaigns that magnified French perceptions of their technological and numerical inferiority.

David R. Jones discusses how Nicholas II and Josef Stalin promoted airpower and traces the technical development of Russian and Soviet bombers.

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