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Balloons and Airships (Hardback)

A Tale of Lighter Than Air Aviation

Aviation 19th Century

By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 208
Illustrations: 60
ISBN: 9781526719492
Published: 30th September 2019



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This book tells the often dramatic and always fascinating story of flight in lighter than air machines. For centuries man had dreamed of flying, but all attempts failed, until in 1782 the Montgolfier brothers constructed the world’s first hot air balloon The following year saw the first ascent with aeronauts – not human beings but a sheep, a duck and a cockerel. But it was not long before men and women too took to the air and became ever more adventurous. The aeronauts became famous giving displays before crowds of thousands, often accompanied by special effects.

In the early years, ballooning was a popular pastime, but in the 19th century it found a new use with the military. Balloons were used to send messages out during the Siege of Paris and later found a role as observation balloons for the artillery. But their use was always limited by the fact that they were at the mercy of the wind. There were numerous attempts at steering balloons, and various attempts were made to power them but it was the arrival of the internal combustion engine that saw the balloon transformed into the airship. The most famous developer of airships was Graf von Zeppelin and the book tells the story of the use of his airships in both peacetime and at war. There were epic adventures including flights over the poles and for a time, commercial airships flourished – then came the disaster of the Hindenburg. Airships still fly today and ballooning has become a hugely popular pastime.

This is a very entertaining book, covering a key period in the development of manned flight, and even if it doesn’t have a massive amount of directly military material is still of great interest.

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History of War

A fascinating and delightful review of the history of lighter than air aviation from its first days through to today. This well written text is supported by images throughout the body of the book, mostly in full colour on gloss paper . – Very Highly Recommended.

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This is a timely publication, coinciding with the release of the new blockbuster movie The Aeronauts, starring the great Eddie Redmayne, as it tells the true stories of flight pioneering in balloons and airships. Absolutely enthralling.

Books Monthly

As featured by

Antiques Diary, January/February 2020

Generously illustrated, this fluid-reading survey will entertain aviation enthusiasts.


As featured on SF Crowsnest

SF Crowsnest

This is a very good book, an excellent amount of pictures and information. The information doesn't go too far deep or get so technical but just enough to entice the reader and keep them interested. The stories go right back to the start of flight at the beginning when airship/balloon travel we're in their infancy. I often think it was a shame that airship didn't make it to worldwide everyday travel but I suppose you can the main problems. I really enjoyed the book, especially the history of the subject but then that's by area. I would recommend this book to both the passing reader and the avid airships fan.

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UK Historian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this book, my husband loved this book, and my children loved this book! We all learned a lot, quite a lot actually and had great family time learning together! Get this book!

NetGalley, January Gray

Tells the often dramatic and always fascinating story of flight in lighter-than-air machines.

Bookseller Buyers Guide

Informative, enjoyable book on airship history

I enjoyed this book. I found it highly informative yet it doesn’t get bogged down in minutiae. Anthony Burton writes with a conversational tone and with some humor. In terms of subject matter, it is similar to John Swinfield’s Airship, but the latter more concentrated on the British airship program while the Burton effort was broader scope. They are both fine books and I recommend each of them.

NetGalley, Stephen Goldberg

It educated, entertained and engaged. Triple E. And now I’m quite well informed on the subject too... So yeah, really enjoyed this book, it was succinct, well written, informative, interesting and provided a deliciously ample supply of visual aid, be it art or photos. Seriously, so many nonfiction books skimp on visuals, it really deserves kudos how generous this author was with his audience. This book is just as good as the word dirigible, which is an absolutely terrific word. Well worth a read.

NetGalley, Mia D

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Great book that takes the reader through the early days of the Montgolfier brothers to von Zeppelin to the modern era of non-rigid airships. Hot air balloons were instrumental in getting messages out of Paris during the Prussian siege, then dirigibles were used for reliable transportation and, unfortunately, the bombing of cities in the First World War...then back to commercial transportation.. I'm middle-aged and still fascinated when there's a blimp in the air, so I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

NetGalley, Jesse Lewis

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This gives you great insight into how much work it took to get us into the air. I loved learning about all the things and it was fun.

NetGalley, Lindsey Crockett
 Anthony Burton

About Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton, is a much respected and published author of industrial and transport books, starting with his first book, Remains of a Revolution, the author has ongoingly researched and had published many volumes on the history of industry in Britain and abroad.

He has a passion for canals, stationary steam engines, railways and industrial history, which he has recorded for the last fifty years.

The author is probably Britain's foremost authority on the history of industry, from its beginnings to the present day, this is his one hundredth book.

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