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Response to Review of The Fear of Invasion: Strategy, Politics, and British War Planning, 1880-1914

I would like to thank Christian Melby for such a thoughtful, fair-minded review. I have no cause to quarrel with anything he wrote, and wish only to remark upon a number of the points he raises.

The review, quite fairly, identifies that this is a book occupied almost exclusively with the 'official mind'.  Yet the topic it addresses – British fears of invasion – were far more widely held than the corridors of officialdom. Moreover, the public and official discourses on this issue were related and had considerable and, to my mind, under-rated influences upon one another. This was particularly true in terms of the influence which broader opinion had upon discussions of strategy.

This raises two questions: firstly, why did this book not seek to address these broader issues? And secondly, what scope is there for additional research in a more holistic sense?

As to the first: I felt that 'official' aspects of this question were a rich and deep enough topic to merit a standalone work. The result, I hope, has been a volume that adds to our understanding of the role of government in forming strategy more broadly. The enduring importance of this topic is obvious, but in an historical sense it also has implications for our understanding of processes behind British decision making during the War itself.

Regarding the broader backdrop Christian rightly alludes to, this is a rich area of enquiry. The work of M. Michael Matin, Harry Wood, and others (more of which can be found here: all attest to the importance of 'invasion' as a theme in the public sphere. Indeed, Christian's own PhD research will, I am sure, add to this discourse shortly. As to the relation between the public realm and my own work on strategy, this will form the subject of my next book, which is currently under production. The work aims to examine these themes in parallel from the 19th century through to the end of the First World War, and to study the interaction between the two. When it appears, I can only hope for reviews as balanced and generous as this one.