The Cathedral and the City: The Blitz, Civic Ideology and Reconstruction
COVENTRY was the first British city to suffer sustained bombardment when, in the autumn of 1940, the German air force turned from the bombing of London to the more compact targets of provincial cities. Occurring just five months after the fall of France, the Coventry blitz exacerbated anxiety about Britain's increasingly isolated position and triggered fears about the fate of other cities. As the focus of official and unofficial propaganda designed to arouse outrage among potential allies abroad and stiffen resolve at home (where continued production of armaments and aircraft was imperative), the Coventry blitz soon assumed almost legendary status. Accounts of the London blitz are dominated by discussion of the state of civilian morale, a topic which in Ian McLaine's words 'subsequently assumed the quality of myth'.1 Accounts of the Coventry blitz instead stress the damage inflicted by blanket bombing on a defenceless city. The blitz is represented in terms of the Nazi terror raid visited upon innocent civilians, and of the senseless destruction of the fabric of the city. Despite the attempts of historians to create a more rounded picture, by suggesting that industry was the real target, these concepts have continued to dominate discussions of the Coventry blitz. The emphasis placed on the physical damage sustained by the city stemmed not merely from the particular circumstances of the Coventry raid, but also from an important shift in the way in which news of air raids was presented to the public. It was to have a decisive influence upon the way in which the city approached the task of reconstruction.
Coventry was the target of several air attacks during the late summer and autumn of 1940; during the night of 14-15 November it experienced a raid lasting almost eleven hours, during which 568 people were killed and 863 severely injured.2 The small scale of the city, with a____________________