by Vincent Bernard, Mariya Nikolova and Markus Geisser
Richard Overy is Professor of History at the University of Exeter and the author of more than twenty-five books on the age of the World Wars and European dictatorship, including "The Bombing War: Europe 1939–1945". He is a Fellow of the British Academy. Airpower has been used in armed conflicts since World War I. Aircraft have been deployed in support of the army on the ground and the navy on the surface. However, the twentieth century, with two World Wars, has also seen aerial bombardment of cities that fell outside the traditional use of airpower. During World War II, as part of the ideology of “total war”, cities were deliberately selected as targets of such attacks with the purpose of undermining the morale of the enemy’s population and “winning the war”. Nowadays, although the deliberate bombing of entire cities is prohibited, it is still believed that aerial bombardment can produce certain political dividends for belligerents. In this interview, Richard Overy provides a historical perspective on the evolution of aerial bombardment since the World Wars, and puts in context the use of airpower in contemporary armed conflicts.