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Geography and Environmental Studies


In the bombing of urban settlements, the main impacts have been on resident civilians, living space and non-military functions. This is shown in the bombing of London, Berlin and Tokyo in the Second World War, arguably the first and only serious tests of strategic air power and urbicide to determine war outcomes. The history and scope of raiding of these capital cities differed in many ways, but the civilian experience and urban implications were very similar. The bombings attacked the most vulnerable areas, where resident populations found themselves poorly protected at best. The intentions, as well as results, of the raiding are examples of urbicide, planned to kill indiscriminately and destroy all elements of urban existence. Yet, a disarticulation emerges between the political, industrial and war-controlling functions of the capitals, which the bombing was supposed to disable but could not, and the plight of their citizens. The bombing was encouraged as ‘spectacular violence’, even though militarily inconclusive and, in seeking to avoid combat while terrorising non-combatants, it experimented with an approach to armed violence that would prevail after 1945. Despite enormous changes since 1945, the plight of bombed civilians has changed little.


This article was originally published in ACME: An International e-Journal for Critical Geographies, 8(2): 340-375.

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