Here in Australia, we're just catching up on the last two series of Foyle's War, a British detective drama which differs from the estimated 734 other British detective dramas in existence by being set in Sussex during the Second World War. This is a very large part of its charm (though due regard must be given to the performances of the three leads, Michael Kitchen, Honeysuckle Weeks, and Anthony Howell -- classic English diffidence and stiff-upper-lippery all round, if you like that sort of thing). The war is used very well, I think -- plots generally revolve around some aspect of wartime experience, such as black marketeering, conscientious objectors, homegrown fascists. The Blitz and the threat of invasion overshadow the early episodes; the Yanks turn up in the later ones and start stealing all the women.

But the episode which screened last Sunday, "Bad blood", initially didn't look very promising in terms of its use of history. There were some uncharacteristically clunky references to various battles and personalities shovelled into a couple of conversations, along the lines of 'well it looks like Russia's done for, Stalingrad will be next to fall (wink wink) and what about old Rommel, eh?' Though it does at least allow us to date one scene to a period of approximately 5 minutes on the morning of 19 August 1942, because we are told that 'it looks like things might work out in Dieppe'! But all of that was forgiven as the central plot unfolded ...
...continue reading


[Cross-posted at Revise and Dissent.]

At Investigations of a Dog, Gavin Robinson has proposed organising a military history carnival, which I think is a great idea. It would aim to gather together the best posts on the history of war in all its facets -- not just military operations (AKA "fighting"), but also how war intersects with social, cultural, political, gender, economic, diplomatic, local, public ... (you get the idea) ... histories. Representations, memories and forecasts of war are perfectly legitimate subjects too. Similarly, hosts and participants need not be specialists in military history: war affects us all, in one way or another.

Various issues under discussion include how frequently it should be held, whether to exclude recent-ish events, and most importantly, what to call it! So, please head on over and have your say.


Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial

And marble, and granite, and wood ...

I wrote recently that every town in Australia seems to have a war memorial. Here are some examples, photos I took over a three day period without going too far out of my way. This post is image-heavy, but everyone has broadband now don't they?
...continue reading

1 Comment

Adrian Gilbert. POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe, 1939-1945. London: John Murray, 2006. Due to recent findings, a subject I'd like to know more about. (Over and above the thorough grounding I've received from watching The Great Escape, Hogan's Heroes, etc.) Not to be confused with the celebrated author of The Mayan Prophecies and The Cosmic Wisdom Beyond Astrology. Thankfully.

K. S. Inglis. Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape. Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2005 [1998]. A classic book which I've only just gotten around to buying. Just as in Britain (as I am led to believe, anyway), nearly every city, town and suburb in Australia, large or small, has a war memorial to commemorate their dead soldiers.

N. J. McCamley. Cold War Secret Nuclear Bunkers: The Passive Defence of the Western World during the Cold War. Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002. Who wouldn't be fascinated by a title like that? Well, most people probably. Mostly about British bunkers and post-apocalyptic contingency planning, but also has a few chapters on America and Canada. Well-illustrated.


Imperial Airways

A follow-on of sorts to a recent post.

Imperial Airways was Britain's main international airline between 1924 and 1939. It enjoyed semi-official status, as it was subsidised by the British government, and had the contract to deliver air mail throughout the Empire. Another international airline was formed in 1935, British Airways,1 which serviced European routes (and it was apparently subsidised as well, at least for the London-Paris route). Imperial did too, but only it flew the long-distance routes to South Africa, India, Hong Kong, Australia (with help from QANTAS) and points in between. I'm not sure if this was an official monopoly, or just because it was difficult to compete over such long distances without subsidies. I also wonder what would have happened if the Imperial Airship Scheme had gone into operation -- would Imperial have run that too? Anyway, in November 1939, Imperial and British were merged into BOAC, the British Overseas Airways Corporation.
...continue reading

  1. Not the current BA, though they are related. 


Via Philobiblon comes word that the British Library is facing steep budget cuts, and may have to start charging scholars for access, and/or close its fabled newspaper collection at Colindale, among other measures. See here and here. As I'm not a British tax-payer, I don't really have the right to complain, but it would be distressing to see those who do (and, entirely coincidentally, those foreigners who don't!) lose access to Britain's heritage for the sake of a measly few million pounds. At the very least they should digitise Colindale's holdings before closing it down!

I hope it's just a scare campaign to minimise the funding damage, but perhaps it's one that should work.


Jack McGowan of Smashing the Window has some very interesting reflections on his experiences in seeing his first paper through to being accepted for publication (congrats!). A timely read for me, as I start to think about doing this myself.

While I'm on the matter of writing advice, here's a chance to use the WordPress Democracy plugin I installed the other day. Near the start of chapter 3, I have a sentence which begins 'In this chapter, I will briefly examine ...' 'I'. 'I'! While I use the personal pronoun all the time on this blog, and have already done so once this sentence, I find that it really cuts against the grain to do so for academic writing. I don't think it is such a sin in writing in the humanities, but I first learned academic writing in the physical sciences, where the personal pronoun, singular or plural, is rare (though not unknown). Instead, one would use phrases like 'the present author' where in less formal writing one would say 'I'. I guess this is to avoid the academic equivalent of breaking the fourth wall. On the other hand, taking ownership of a sentence with a personal pronoun is a good way to avoid the dreaded passive voice.

So, am I worrying too much about this? Does anyone care about this any more? Should I just embrace 'I'? Here's the poll:

Edit: I have removed the poll plugin for security reasons. But here's a screenshot of the poll results as of 22 November 2011:

Person vs person