Book Review: The Secret History of the Blitz, by Joshua Levine
I imagine there are so many books on this subject it must be difficult to produce anything original. Whilst we may think of people sleeping on Tube platforms and iconic photographs such as St Paul's Survives, Levine probes earlier into the war, and beyond London, from a shooting incident at an Oxford college, through the massive air raid on Coventry, to drilling for oil in Sherwood Forest. Levine considers whether "Blitz spirit" was a myth, and finds evidence to show that all of humanity was present, heroes and villains, but settles in acceptance that our folk memory, though partial, is a broadly fair representation. The picture that emerges is a very British one of "muddling through", with authorities initially reluctant to allow the use of Tube stations as deep shelters and frowning on people who left provincial towns and cities at night to seek lower risk shelter in the countryside. Later chapters deal with topics such as the relaxing of social norms; internment and domestic espionage; race relations, particularly in relation to European refugees and Colonial soldiers; and petty and organised crime. By casting his net wide, Levine has come up with a very interesting book that does much more than scratch the surface.