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APRIL 2018

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I I I : G E T T Y

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One hundred years ago this month, the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service were combined to form the Royal Air Force (RAF). Britain’s commemoration of the centenary will surely be coloured by its role in the Second World War, which many believe to be the RAF’s nest hour. In this month’s cover feature, on page 25, military historian Patrick Bishop revisits this period to argue that of all the three services, it was Britain’s air force that contributed the most to victory over the Axis. It’s a view that I’m sure many of you will respond to and we look forward to your letters and social media messages over the next few weeks.

Another icon of Britain’s past making headlines this month is Isambard Kingdom Brunel, about whom a major new museum is opening in Bristol. Famously declared the ‘second greatest Briton’ in a 2002 BBC poll, Brunel’s reputation has soared in recent decades. But has this adulation prevented a more nuanced view from taking hold? Professor Crosbie Smith believes so and he explains why on page 40. We’ve already had several enquiries about the dates of this year’s History Weekends and I’m pleased to con rm that we will be returning to both Winchester (5 7 October) and York (19 21 October) in 2018. Tickets are due to go on sale in the next few weeks. But if you can’t wait until the autumn for live history, then you may well want to book yourself onto our Bayeux Tapestry event taking place in Oxford on 17 June. Full details are on page 94.

Rob Attar Editor BSME Editor of the Year 2015, Special Interest Brand

THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS

Rana Mitter I’ve been travelling through China nding the places where some of the most important Chinese lives of the past two millennia have been lived: from the cosmopolitan conqueror Kublai Khan to feminist and radical activist Ding Ling. P Rana profiles six influential Chinese lives on page 32

Patrick Bishop In Air Force Blue, my new book describing the achievements and ethos of the wartime RAF, I argue that the air force was critical not only to Britain’s survival in the early years of the con ict, but also to its ultimate victory. P Patrick describes the RAF’s war-winning effort from 1939–45 on page 25

Hetta Howes In the Middle Ages, women’s bodies were seen as imperfect and leaky. However, the ecstatic practices of medieval mystics show how women transformed this misogynistic view, using their bodies to help create a hotline to God. P Hetta reveals the lengths to which mystics would go to get closer to God on page 45

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