I'm preparing for my PhD confirmation, which means I'm nearly a year in. (Eeep!) This means giving a paper (done), writing a report justifying what I've done and plan to do, and appearing before a committee to discuss my report and progress. A cynical viewpoint would be that this is just a hoop-jumping-through exercise which is just something to get out of the way, but it's actually very useful to be made to step back, consider the bigger picture of the overall thesis, and have to explain to somebody else what it is that I'm actually doing, and what I plan to do in future.
So this is essentially the chapter plan. The basic idea is to explain and analyse the knock-out blow paradigm, and then the proposed responses to it -- what ought to be done about it. I've mostly been working on chapter 2, the research for which is largely complete, and has been written up for the period up to 1931. (It's a big chapter; it may need to be split into two.) Next, I will probably move on to chapter 3.
- Airpower advocates and sceptics. Who addressed the British public on the subject of airpower, how they were organised, and what their affiliations and ideologies were. This will include individuals and groups such as the Air League of the British Empire and the National League of Airmen.
- The knock-out blow. The construction and evolution of theories of aerial bombardment in the public sphere. The two main types of knock-out blow: attacks against infrastructure, and attacks against morale. From the pre-history of the knock-out blow before the First World War, to the 1930s when it became something more than an abstract possibility.
- High technology. The role of new (and sometimes non-existent) technologies in modifying the perceived threat of aerial bombardment. This includes, most importantly, chemical weapons, but also robotic aircraft, stealth technology, atomic weapons, and the conversion of civil aircraft to military use, all of which promised to make air attack more difficult to defend against. However, sound location and death rays provided some hope for the defence.
- Mitigation and prevention. How the threat of the knockout blow was mobilised in support of air defence, air raid precautions, disarmament, the limitation of bombing, or appeasement.
- Deterrence and the new order. How the threat of the knockout blow was mobilised in support of a stronger bomber force, an international air police, or a world state with airpower as its foundation. Turned inwards instead of outward, airpower threatened to undermine democracy.
This covers most of the things I want to talk about. I'm not completely happy with the last chapter -- I don't know if it will be strong enough to finish on. Appeasement would be a safer option, but perhaps less interesting. The other problem is that I haven't quite worked out how to fit in the connection between fascism and aviation. I've put it in chapter 5 here (as part of a "new order"), but it feels a little forced. A logical place for it may become clearer later on, or I may just have to ditch it. Of course, much of the thesis plan may change in future, but for the moment it shows where I intend to head.