A year has passed since my article on the debate in Britain over whether to bomb German civilians in reprisal for the Blitz was published. Under the Australian Journal of Politics and History's self-archiving policy I can now upload my own copy of the final, peer-reviewed text for anyone to read for free. So here it is. And here is the abstract:
In Britain, popular memory of the Blitz celebrates civilian resistance to the German bombing of London and other cities, emphasizing positive values such as stoicism, humour and mutual aid. But the memory of such passive and defensive traits obscures the degree to which British civilian morale in 1940 depended on the belief that if Britain had to 'take it', then Germany was taking it as hard or harder. Contrary to the received historical account, opinion polls, Home Intelligence reports and newspaper letter columns show that a majority of the British supported the reprisal bombing of German civilians by Bomber Command. The wartime reprisals debate was the logical legacy of prewar assumptions about the overwhelming power of bombing; but it has been forgotten because it contradicts the myth of the Blitz.
AJPH's attitude to self-archiving is more generous than some journals I could name. Or at least it was — its RoMEO entry doesn't seem to suggest 12 months as a standard embargo period, if I'm reading it right, but (maybe) 24. There's nothing I can see about it on AJPH's website either, so maybe it has got worse in the meantime. Hopefully not. In any case, my agreement says what it says.
My peer-reviewed article, 'Dreaming war: airmindedness and the Australian mystery aeroplane scare of 1918', has now been published in the latest issue of History Australia, which can be found here. This is the abstract:
Numerous false sightings of mysterious aeroplanes, thought to be German and hostile, were reported by ordinary people around Australia in the Autumn of 1918. These reports were investigated by defence authorities, who initiated a maximum effort to find the merchant raiders presumed to be the source of the aeroplanes. The scare is interpreted in the context of reports that a German seaplane had flown over Sydney in 1917; fears that the German offensive in France would lead to an Allied defeat; wartime paranoia about German subversion; and the growth of negative airmindedness thanks to the wartime press.
As I've previously discussed, this is my first mystery aircraft article, and hopefully not my last!
I'm also self-archiving the version originally submitted to History Australia, that is, before it was peer-reviewed. This can be downloaded for free from here. I don't normally like to do this, since the text usually changes significantly after peer-review. That is indeed the case here: I swapped the introduction with the following section, the graphics have been redone, and there are some other smaller, but important, changes. But, per my contributor agreement with History Australia, this is only version I am allowed to self-archive. Because this mystery aeroplane scare is virtually unknown, I'd like to make the information and ideas in the article widely available, even if not necessarily in the form that I would like. Otherwise, if you aren't a member of the Australian Historical Association or don't have institutional access to History Australia, the final, peer-reviewed (and better!) version should be open-access in 2015.
History Australia, the journal of the Australian Historical Association, has accepted my article 'Dreaming war: airmindedness and the Australian mystery aeroplane scare of 1918' for publication in the August 2013 issue. This is the second time my blogging to conference paper to peer-reviewed article workflow has borne fruit. I stumbled across the scare nearly two years ago, became curious, and started digging in the National Archives of Australia about six months later. Once I was convinced there was something to the topic, I proposed a talk for the AHA's 2012 conference, and when that was accepted started blogging around the material intensively (here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). With some help from the AHA/CAL writing workshops, the AHA National Writing Cluster pilot, and of course the article's referees, I can now (well, soon, anyway) say that I'm an Australian historian in both senses of the term!
My plan is to use this article as the foundation for a larger project on mystery aircraft scares. Ultimately this could embrace scares in Australia, Britain (the next and current phase), New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, the United States, and maybe even beyond. To do this right will involve archival research and so at least some funding from somewhere. Because there's little existing historiography on mystery aircraft to draw upon, my idea is to use this article to show that the topic is a solid one which is worth further research, and to suggest where I'm going with it. Ideally this project would lead to a book, but even if it doesn't work out that way I'll at least get a few articles out of it. For now, getting an article on the Australian mystery aeroplane scare of 1918 out there is a good start.
The current issue of Wartime, the official magazine of the Australian War Memorial, has an article by me on the Australian mystery aeroplane scare of 1918. I'm very pleased with how it's turned out — it's beautifully illustrated and put together. The theme of the issue is 'air warfare', which I imagine may be of interest to readers of this blog. For example, there's Richard Overy on the legal and ethical status of Bomber Command's campaign against Germany, Richard Frank on whether the Japanese should be considered victims of the atomic bombs, Greg Gilbert on the aerial aspects of the Dardanelles (okay, Gallipoli) campaign, and a lot more. You can read Lachlan Grant's article on 460 Squadron RAAF's daylight raid on Berchtesgaden for free, but for the rest you'll need to buy a copy from the AWM or from any good newsagent, or a few indifferent ones for that matter. Recommended, and not just because I'm in it!
It was less than two months ago that my peer-reviewed article 'The shadow of the airliner: commercial bombers and the rhetorical destruction of Britain, 1917-1935' was accepted by Twentieth Century British History, but it's already available online, thanks to the journal's advance access policy. (So while the article has been typeset, the page numbers are only temporary, pending its formal publication at a later date.) This is great; otherwise it could easily take six months before making its appearance.
The publishers of Twentieth Century British History, Oxford Journals, also have an enlightened policy of allowing authors to put a free-access URL to the article on their own website: 'The article should only be viewed from the Oxford Journals site, and not hosted by your own personal/institutional web site or that of other third parties, though you or your co-authors may post the URLs on your own sites or those of your institutions/organizations'. What this means is that if you follow this link (abstract), this link (full text) or this link (PDF) you can read the whole article for free! Technically I suppose this is a form of Green OA, but no money changes hands; it's just part of the service. I suppose they realise that library subscriptions represent the vast bulk of their income, and letting authors provide free access to their articles from their websites is not going to undercut this. This also is great.
Here is the abstract:
Aerial bombardment was widely believed to pose an existential threat to Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. An important but neglected reason for this was the danger from civilian airliners converted into makeshift bombers, the so-called 'commercial bomber': an idea which arose in Britain late in the First World War. If true, this meant that even a disarmed Germany could potentially attack Britain with a large bomber force thanks to its successful civil aviation industry. By the early 1930s the commercial bomber concept appeared widely in British airpower discourse. Proponents of both disarmament and rearmament used, in different ways and with varying success, the threat of the commercial bomber to advance their respective causes. Despite the technical weakness of the arguments for convertibility, rhetoric about the commercial bomber subsided only after rearmament had begun in earnest in 1935 and they became irrelevant next to the growth in numbers of purpose-built bombers. While the commercial bomber was in fact a mirage, its effects on the disarmament and rearmament debates were real.
Here endeth the tale of the Unpublishable Article of Doom.
I'm pleased to say that Twentieth Century British History has accepted my article 'The shadow of the airliner: commercial bombers and the rhetorical destruction of Britain, 1917-1935' for publication. It should appear online by the end of the year and in print some time after that. Conceptually, though not really intentionally, this article links with the ones I've written on the international air force and the 1935 air panic. The topic is the idea that civilian aircraft could be swiftly converted into effective bombers, which had its origin in the First World War and became extremely common in airpower discourse between the wars, thanks partly to P. R. C. Groves. This is something which has been little discussed by historians, with the main exception of those working on the proposed internationalisation of aviation. I argue that the commercial bomber functioned rhetorically to create a threat from Germany during the Weimar and early Nazi periods, when it was disarmed in the air but strong in civil aviation. Conversely, the issue quickly disappeared from view when the creation of the Luftwaffe was announced.
I have discussed this article here before, actually, though without saying what it was about: it's the one I asked for crowdsourced help in fixing it, after it had already been rejected and rewritten a number of times. Since it was then accepted by the next journal I sent it to (even if not immediately), for me this vindicates the idea of crowdsourcing the editing process in this way. I wouldn't do it as a matter of course, but I'd certainly do it again if (and when) I run into trouble. So thank you to the following people who provided feedback on the article draft:
Alan Allport, Christopher Amano-Langtree, Corry Arnold, Katrina Gulliver, Wilko Hardenberg, Lester Hawksby, James Kightly, Beverley Laing, Ross Mahoney, Andre Mayer, Bob Meade, Andrew Reid, Alun Salt
You'll all be in the acknowledgements, so if I've forgotten anyone, please let me know!
One painful lesson I learned while seeing my Blitz reprisals article through to press was to stick. To. The. Bloody. Word. Limit! The article as accepted was well over and as a result I caused myself and the editors much grief while we worked to cut it down to an acceptable size. Never again.
Because they stood somewhat apart from the main argument of the article, the first cut I made was to delete two paragraphs addressing Tom Harrisson's theory, in his (generally invaluable) 1978 book Living Through the Blitz, about the demands by the British press for reprisals, which is effectively a conspiracy theory insinuating press manipulation as cover for Bomber Command's area bombing policy. Harrisson was co-founder and wartime head of Mass-Observation, and I think one of the main vectors of the idea that the British people didn't want reprisal bombing of German civilians, especially if they'd been bombed themselves (which as I argue in the article itself is, at best, misleading). In the first deleted paragraph I showed why his conspiracy theory doesn't make sense, and in the second I more tentatively (and much less convincingly, I think) gestured towards an explanation of why he came up with it. In relation to the published article, these paragraphs came just before the conclusion on page 406, and after the discussion of examples from the Mass-Observation archives of exactly the sorts of spontaneous demands of reprisals in blitzed areas that Harrisson explicitly denied ever happened. So these two paragraphs were also intended to help explain why he misrepresented the evidence in this way.
Since they stand on their own fairly well (the reference to Marchant is to the article she published from Coventry), I thought it worth posting the deleted paragraphs here, as a sort of teaser for the real article. I haven't changed the text, except to expand the bibliographic references.
My peer-reviewed article '"Bomb back, and bomb hard": debating reprisals during the Blitz' has just been published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, an invited submission for a special issue on the topic 'War and Peace, Barbarism and Civilization in Modern Europe and Its Empires'. It can be downloaded from here. Here's the abstract:
In Britain, popular memory of the Blitz celebrates civilian resistance to the German bombing of London and other cities, emphasising positive values such as stoicism, humour and mutual aid. But the memory of such passive and defensive traits obscures the degree to which British civilian morale in 1940 depended on the belief that if Britain had to 'take it', then Germany was taking it as hard or harder. Contrary to the received historical account, opinion polls, Home Intelligence reports and newspaper letter columns show that a majority of the British supported the reprisal bombing of German civilians by Bomber Command. The wartime reprisals debate was the logical legacy of prewar assumptions about the overwhelming power of bombing; but it has been forgotten because it contradicts the myth of the Blitz.
I'll put up a self-archived version here in a year (if I remember!)
It's now a year since my article 'The air panic of 1935: the British press between disarmament and rearmament' was published in the Journal of Contemporary History. As noted noted previously, as it was with SAGE this means I can now self-archive the accepted version (i.e. which has passed peer review).
This is the abstract:
The British fear of bombing in the early 20th century has aptly been termed 'the shadow of the bomber'. But the processes by which the public learned about the danger of bombing are poorly understood. This paper proposes that the press was the primary source of information about the threat, and examines a formative period in the evolution of public concern about airpower, the so-called air panic of 1935, during which German rearmament was revealed and large-scale RAF expansion undertaken in response. A proposed air pact between the Locarno powers enabled a shift from support of disarmament to rearmament by newspapers on the right, while simultaneously supporting collective security. Paradoxically, after initially supporting the air pact, the left-wing press and its readers began to have doubts, for the same reason: the need to support collective security. This episode sheds new light on early rearmament, and how the government was able to undertake it, despite the widespread feelings in the electorate in favour of disarmament.
And the article itself can be downloaded from here or from the Downloads page.
An article of mine has been accepted for publication in the September 2012 issue of the Australian Journal of Politics and History, to be entitled '"Bomb back, and bomb hard": debating reprisals during the Blitz'. I'm very pleased with this for a number of reasons. Firstly, it's been a while since I last had an article pass peer-review (and not for lack of trying either). Things were starting to look a bit lean; but now I'll have something published each year since finishing my PhD, which is not too bad a rate. Secondly, it was an invited submission for a special issue resulting from the AAEH conference in Perth last year. That's nice because it's an honour to be asked (I'll have more details on the other AAEH articles when the publication date comes around), but also because the humanities conferences are rarely published (unlike in the sciences, though there conference proceedings are not usually peer-reviewed as this one is) so it's rare to get a publication out of a talk so directly.
Finally, I think this shows the way ahead for me, assuming I continue in my current mode as an independent (slash alt-ac) historian. That is, in part, through Airminded. The initial inspiration for my AAEH paper came through post-blogging the Blitz; I worked through much of the evidence and issues here in a series of posts on various aspects of the reprisals debate. Then I presented the paper in Perth; and now I'll have an article in AJPH. Without the goal of a PhD (or a grant) to drive towards, having a process like this seems like a good way of keeping some focus and producing publishable research — rather than just ambling along with the blog and drifting into unseriousness. Of course, there will always be unserious ambling here, and the drift will probably happen eventually; but if I can repeat this process a few times (i.e. posts to paper to article) I can hopefully keep myself at least theoretically employable for a few years more. And in fact I've already started on the next iteration, the topic of which is probably easy to guess for those paying attention! Watch this space.