Book Review: Airship: Design, Development and Disaster


by John Swinfield

Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Pp. 336. Illus., plans, appends, notes, biblio, index. $45.95. ISBN: 159114034X

A history of the British experience of the rigid airship from its beginnings to the present, ending with some thoughts on the future. 

Despite the book's title, reflecting his origins, journalist Swinfield is focused on British developments rather disproportionately.  This is valuable given that the British chapter in the history of the airship is often overlooked in favor of German and American developments and experience.  Despite his slant, Swinfield does include useful coverage of the history of the airship in those two nations, and also adds material on Italian, Norwegian, French, Spanish, and Russian developments usually overlooked.  He provides the reader with an enormous amount of interesting detail on the science and technology behind the airships, both rigid and semi-rigid, with occasional references to the non-rigid variety.  Swinfield populates the book with profiles of many people who played a role in the history of the airship, most of whom are today largely forgotten.  His account of airship operations covers both war service and peacetime passenger service, in both instances with sometimes surprising detail.  Naturally several disasters figure prominently in the book, and are well told.  Although the omission of the last of the great airships, Graf Zeppelin II, sister ship of the Hindenburg, is curious, Airship is an excellent contribution to the literature of these unique craft.

Airship is an excellent contribution to the literature of these unique craft.

Note: Airship is also available as an e-book, ISBN 978-1-8448-6209-2



Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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