History at War
The Campaigns of an Historian
History at War:
The Campaigns of an Historian
was published as a paperback original in September 1998
264 pages 234 x 156 mm with 16 illustrations
Recent comments from readers and reviewers
Robert Crawford, Director-General, Imperial War Museum: ‘...it is brilliant, rivetingly trenchant, and should be required reading for all aspirant historians.'
Professor R.B. Wernham, former Professor of Modern History, Oxford: ‘It really is a splendid and fascinating story, and a sharp warning to historians to beware of mandarins and great commanders. In Francis Bacon's categorization: "Some books are to be tasted, some to be swallowed, and a few to be chewed and digested." It certainly rates among the few.'
Professor Geoffrey Best in TLS: ‘The subtitle is exactly right for a book by Noble Frankland, a tough character who views the successive phases of his post-war life as battles to bring truths and lessons plainly before the public, and who can happily conclude that he has been generally successful. In at least two fields -- the history of the most painfully controversial of Allied campaigns in the Second World War, and the rescue and make-over of the least well-known of London's great museums -- his achievements have been of great national value and importance...this astringently truth-telling professional autobiography... required reading for historians of the British Establishment from Attlee to Macmillan...'
Piers Mackesey, Fellow of British Academy and former Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxford: ‘...I admired History at War on many levels -- characterizations of Webster, Bradley, Willis, etc, the balance between Museum Trustees and the chief executive, functioning of Civil Service, Bomber Command, the picture of [Noble Frankland's] developing career and the qualities it called for, etc. I often laughed aloud at the wit and the penetrating observations of functioning individuals. Also much enjoyed final reflections on history by a practitioner. Haven't enjoyed a book so much for ages.'
Professor Brian Bond, Department of Military History, King's College, London, in Notes and Queries: ‘What makes this book unusual, perhaps even unique, among historians' memoirs is that Dr Frankland has meticulously preserved the evidence of all the controversies in which he has been involved.' From a speech: ‘...my historical book of the year.'
Judge Derek Hill-Smith: ‘As a piece of investigative writing -- superbly phrased -- it surely has no equal as a recollective exercise; exquisitely presented, it outstands anything I have read elsewhere.'
Robert S. Redmond in Contemporary Review: ‘It leaves us in no doubt that, contrary to the ideas of his detractors, he really did know what it was like at the sharp end of the war in the RAF.'
Christina de Bellaigue, Lecturer, Paris III University: ‘Having just finished reading History at War, I wanted to write and express my appreciation of the book which I found fascinating, moving and reassuring...I must admit that I thought it unlikely that I would read more than a few pages. However, I was very quickly drawn in.'
Professor Hugh Kearney, historian: ‘I enjoyed all of it but particularly your character sketch of Admiral Algernon Willis. Your book restores my sometimes faltering faith in the value of history.'
Sir Oliver Millar, former Director of the Royal Collection: ‘I feel compelled to write to say how enormously I have enjoyed reading History at War. I have found it entirely fascinating and memorably well put together and written, if I may say so. You have written something of great value on a series of topics which have not been so authoritatively handled before.'
Robert Miller, a Volunteer Guide to the Imperial War Museum: ‘...it is a stunning work. I have recommended it to friends interested in history to show what the work of a first-class historian is really like.'
Edward Hearn, DFC and Bar: ‘It was captivating in that whilst delving into the motivation of a true historian, it also covered a wide range of people and events (and is so well documented!).'
Geoffrey McComas, formerly of the Sudan Political Service: ‘May I say how much I enjoyed the book. It was so well documented and so clearly argued that I found it an enthralling read.'
History at War is a unique book. It throws light on important unexplored aspects of the pursuit of historical truth. It tells how, alone among historians, Noble Frankland fought in the bomber offensive during the Second World War and then, together with Sir Charles Webster, wrote its official history; how he transformed the Imperial War Museum from a dying institution into one of the world's leading historical centres for the study of the conflicts of the 20th century; how he played a major part in television documentary productions, including in particular The World at War; and how he wrote a series of original, rigorously researched historical works.
In History at War he describes the battles he had to fight against the mandarins and media merchants who sought to impose a spin on history to suit their own ends, and were ruthless and unscrupulous in their methods. Its meticulous documentation gives a guarantee of authenticity to his staggering account of how those in high places tried to distort history, which might otherwise seem scarcely credible.
<> The revelations about 'Bomber' Harris' relations with his superior, Lord Portal, during the war and their joint opposition to the two authors' account of the strategic air offensive, still a highly topical issue, will set alight a new debate among military and other historians. Unlike most books on the theory and practice of history, it does not confine itself to what can be written on the page. It also covers Dr Frankland's experience of demonstrating history in museum galleries, on the television screen, on sites such as Duxford Airfield near Cambridge, and on board HMS Belfast in the Pool of London.
<> The problem for historians of publishing a full and unbiased account and analysis of controversial events and episodes in politics and international affairs is as acute in the 1990s as it ever has been. All readers with a concern for the truth will learn much about such issues from this unflinching and penetrating book.
Noble Frankland served in the RAF from 1941 to 1945, becoming a navigator in Bomber Command for the last two years of his service, and was awarded the DFC. After four years in the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry (1948-51), he became Official Military Historian to the Cabinet Office (1951-8), and co-author with Sir Charles Webster of the official history of the strategic air offensive, which was published in four volumes in 1961. He was Director of the Imperial War Museum from 1960 to 1982, and historical advisor to the Thames Television series, The World at War (1971-4). His other publications include The Bombing Offensive against Germany: Outlines and Perspectives (1965), Bomber Offensive: the Devastation of Europe (1970), The Politics and Strategy of the Second World War (joint editor, 8 vols. 1974-8), Encyclopedia of 20th Century Warfare (general editor, 1989), Nicholas II: Crown of Tragedy (1960), Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1980), and Witness of a Century: the Life and Times of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (1993).