This year marks the ninetieth birthday of the Royal Air Force, an appropriate moment to look back over the force's history and to assess the changes and the continuities that have shaped its evolution.
Professor Richard Overy will examine the political context for a force that has co-existed with Britain's ninety years as a full political democracy, in which the principal role of the force has been to defend and preserve that modern political heritage. He will also explore the changing balance between the air force and the other major services and the extent to which organisational independence has shaped the strategies and technical choices made by the RAF. The changing technical and scientific frontier has been one of the key defining elements of the force, but that development has not been without its costs and problems. Finally, he will explore the brief period of mass airpower between 1939 and 1945 when the RAF was asked to perform strategic tasks it has not had to do either before or since, and at the cost of continuing controversy over the ethical implications of the exercise of air power.
Professor Richard Overy is Professor of History at Exeter University. He is the author of numerous books on the Third Reich and the Second World War, including War and Economy in the Third Reich, Why the Allies Won, Russia's War, The Battle and Interrogations. He was made a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000 and in 2001 was awarded the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for his contribution to military history.