Propellors and propaganda

I'm giving a talk next Wednesday as part of the History Department's Work In Progress Day, and that's the title I would have given it, had I been the least bit imaginative the day I wrote the abstract. Instead I have a nothing title ("Airpower and British society: plans and progress"), and to go along with it, a nothing abstract:

My thesis is on the impact of airpower propaganda on the British people between 1908 and 1941. During this period, air panics -- most importantly the fear of the 'knock-out blow' of civilisation by bombing and gas attacks -- replaced naval and invasion panics as the most characteristic and significant expression of public concern about the defence of Britain. More positively, some looked to aviation to promote peace through deterrence or collective security. The ways in which these hopes and fears were articulated and manipulated have been little studied and provide insights into some perhaps surprising aspects of British society.

Of course, I am merely following the time-honoured academic tradition of writing the abstract long before the paper is written, or even thought about, which explains the nothingness! I will actually just be giving a general overview of what my PhD is about, what themes I hope to explore, what the sources are, and so on. I'm in the second-last slot of the day, so most people will probably be dozing off by then and I can slip my talk in without getting noticed :D 20 minutes plus 10 for discussion, a little razzle, a little dazzle, some laughs, some tears, and that's all there is to it.

Actually, it will be good to get it out of the way, because it will satisfy one of the conditions for the confirmation of my PhD candidature, which means I can get funding for overseas travel. It's the first talk I'll have given for my PhD, which probably should be confronting, but WIPD is apparently a very relaxed environment (59 other students from the department will be giving papers -- cleverly, they all chose interesting titles like "Sexing the belly: the cultural politics of Britney Spears' pregnant body"), and anyway I have given a couple of papers at big international conferences before, so I am not without experience. Mind you, I gave them very badly, but perhaps I have matured with age ...

The department is also revamping its website, and now has a list of its postgraduate students, including yours truly. This proves what I have suspected for a while, namely that as a British historian (historian of Britain, whatever) I am in a distinct minority in my department! What's with all this Australian history, sheesh.

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