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John Feather. A History of British Publishing. London and New York: Routledge, 2006. 2nd edition. Most of my primary sources, so far, are books; this will help me understand the economics and the ideologies of the book publishing industry.

Corey Robin. Fear: The History of a Political Idea. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. On the political uses of fear, from an American perspective. I like the titles of the first three chapters: "Fear", "Terror", "Anxiety".

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Welcome to History Carnival 31! Mr Wells' celebrated Time Traveller voyaged into the distant future, but we will have the levers on our time machine set firmly in the reverse position -- less chance of running into a Morlock that way. To help us navigate the currents and eddies of the historical ether, we read the latest bulletins from the Time Transit Authority before we set out: one on the need to respect privacy, and another on the world-historical significance of 26 April. Our perusals of historical mystery novels may or may not prepare us for our possible encounters with crime throughout history, but they are entertaining. Finally, we are ready; we seat ourselves on the saddle, and depress the lever; night and day blur into one, and a strange din fills our ears ...

Our first encounter with the past is in South Korea in the mid-1970s, where we learn of the reasons for a dictatorship's intolerance of popular narcotics. Otherwise, we quickly pass through the late 20th century, hoping to avoid the shoals of Franco-German anti-Americanism, but instead are drawn into the complex timestreams of the Middle-East. We observe the difficulties of Arab liberalism, but find cause for hope. Trying to skirt the clouded issue of the relative importance of realism and idealism in the US recognition of Israel, however, only leads us into one of the key topographical features of the 20th century timescape, anti-Semitism. Indeed, it appears to be a recurring feature at this time, in both Germany and the Arab world. We observe the death of the individual most responsible for this, Adolf Hitler but also note the strange post-1945 rumours of his survival, as though his death was somehow insufficient in light of his effect upon history. Lingering in 1943, we examine the evidence for one of his extermination units (and it is amazing that there are those who can deny the reality of such evil, even those with no apparent ideological axe to grind), when our attention is diverted by a somehow airminded flavour to the time continuum: it appears that there is to be a cinematographical remake of the story of the RAF's breaching of the Ruhr dams. (We earnestly hope that Mr Jackson retains the music of the original.) But perhaps Guy Gibson et al not need have done it all, were it not for the support of German nobility for the Nazis from the 1920s onwards.

We finally break free of the Second World War, hoping to find happier timelines. Instead, we are witness to the misery of the American dustbowl in the 1930s. We are distressed to observe that Mr Gandhi's powerful philosophy is being misrepresented; and regret the missed opportunity for a meeting of the minds between Mr Tagore and Mr Einstein. But at least the Powerpoint edition of the history of contraceptives relieves the gloom! We barely have time to wonder if the US government's war on rats inspired noted thespian Mr James Cagney before a sudden gust of the time-winds sends us hurtling back past the Great War altogether and into another century ...

The 19th century is as war-ridden as the 20th, at least in later memory. Grierson's Raid, in the American Civil War, has been re-presented in many different forms in subsequent years, while the battle of Pueblo in 1862 is celebrated by Mexicans to this day -- not without reason, as the invading French army was defeated, to the surprise of all. Also surprising, perhaps, is the relative lack of present-day remembrance of the censure of US President James Polk for engineering a war he had long desired. History may not actually repeat, but on occasion it does seem that we have been this way before.

It is at this point in time that we relive the ghastly story of the anthropophagous Donner party, but more particularly how its Wikipedian retelling holds lessons for the modern student. But it is time for a rest in our chronological journey. We adjust the levers, braking our progress. We barely have time to register the War of 1812 and the salutory story behind the US national anthem before we come to a complete halt. We now stand on the threshold of the 18th century, where the modern shades into the early modern. Looking backwards (or is it forwards?), we wonder if there are new ways to frame the American 19th century, and are surprised to learn of the different interpretations of public morality in the northern and the southern United States.

We have come far, over two centuries. But there is much more history yet to be explored: we therefore make certain adjustments to the mechanism, so as to accelerate the rate of our travel down the river of time. And so on to early modern England! We indulge in the rowdy revelries of London's May Days before examining the significance of 1688. We also discern, around the turn of the 17th century, some of the political theologies which perhaps played a part in eventually bringing the Glorious Revolution about. The flow of time confines us to England, for the moment. We note how the transition was made between medieval plays and their early modern successors (such as Shakespeare's Coriolanus), and the introduction of finest china into England. And from on high we observe where Henry VIII's six wives lived. But here is an anomaly -- Chaucer suggesting pickup lines for medieval historians in the 21st-century (some of which, it may be suggested, could have broader appeal -- Baroness Thatcher might warm to the line 'Art thou a disastrous poll tax? Bycause I feele a risynge comynge on.') A 14th-century chrononaut, perhaps?

The pace of our temporal journey continues to quicken. We find ourselves drawn to smaller, hitherto neglected medieval sites, full of interest for the curious time traveler -- a Byzantine church, for example, or a Swedish manor house. The years pass like minutes now, the centuries like hours. The stroboscopic flickers of light from the Sun's daily journeys are mesmerising. We have come 20 or so centuries from our starting point; yet we are not so far distant that we cannot discern correspondences with our own time. The uses of fear in Roman politics should sound a warning to the free peoples of the 21st century. Less threatening, perhaps, are the reverberations and reflections of ancient religions back to our own century. But debating who were the four greatest ancient Greeks, and reflecting upon the dignity of immigrants from the Polynesians onwards puts our own meagre claims to historical significance to shame. We gaze upon the works of Imhotep, and despair.

And so we resolve to push on. We depress the lever still further, and hurtle back into realms of time beyond the knowledge of historians -- first into the domain of archaeologists, then those of geologists, astronomers and finally cosmologists. There is a pervasive heat, a thickening and a constriction of space, an implosion of light ... oh! the singularity!

YOU HAVE BEEN READING ...

Abdusalaam Al-Hindi; Ahistoricality; American Civil War Gaming & Reading; American Presidents Blog; archy; Atlantic Review; Axis of Evel Knievel; Blogging the Renaissance; blogographos; Break of Day in the Trenches; diamond geezer; Done with Mirrors; Earmarks in Early Modern Culture; edwired; Frog in a Well (Korea); Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog; Google Earth Blog; Great War Fiction; History is Elementary; History News Network; Holocaust Controversies; homo edax; Living in Egypt; Living the Scientific Life; Mideast: On Target; Mode for Caleb; Muhlberger's Early History; My London Your London; OhmyNews International; OUPblog; Patrick in Detroit; PhDiva; Philobiblon; Respectful Insolence; Salto sabrius; The Dougout; The Little Professor; The Moor Next Door; The Rhine River; the skwib; World History Blog.

PS The next History Carnival will be hosted by Amy Stevens at Acqueduct, on 1 June. Please send your nominations to amy AT amystevensonline DOT com or use the form.

It's 80 years to the day since the end of the 1926 General Strike, which lasted just nine days. It had long been anticipated or feared (depending on ideology) as the precursor to a socialist revolution, on the 1917 Bolshevik model, but this turned out not to be the case. It was begun, in somewhat half-hearted and disorganised fashion, by the Trades Union Congress on 3 May in support of the miners who were facing steep pay cuts; it ended on 12 May without any promise by the government to preserve wages. Several million workers went out on strike. But the TUC's position was virtually censored; civilian volunteers and the armed forces kept transportation and basic services going; and the peace was generally kept apart from localised and small-scale incidents. The strike did not appear to be achieving anything other than alienating middle-class opinion; and far from being revolutionary in intent, the TUC were worried about its constitutionality, which is why they were anxious to reach a compromise with the government. The miners stayed out for another 6 months or so, and gained little apart from worse conditions or losing their jobs altogether. The possibility of another general strike receded, not only because of the failure of the 1926 one, but also because of new legislation which banned sympathetic strikes.

While the possibility of an actual revolution was a bit of right-wing myth, and despite the failure of the General Strike to achieve its ends, it has been enshrined in left-wing mythology as shaking 'the British ruling class out of their thrones' and showing 'brilliantly how collective working class action can change society'. From my perspective though, it doesn't seem like the ruling class were shaken much at all. Most of the works I've read from the early 1920s display fear of the working class or socialist revolution; for example Hugh Addison's The Battle of London (London: Herbert Jenkins, n.d. [1923]) where a general strike paralyses the country ahead of a bloody worker's uprising in London and (naturally) a knock-out blow by the Germans. However, it is very noticeable that after 1926, there is a sudden drop-off in concern about the working class. This may start to to pick up again in the 1930s during the Slump, but to me this suggests that the failure of the General Strike demonstrated to the 'British ruling class' that, despite their fears, Britain was actually pretty safe from revolution. Perhaps it had deeper or longer term effects that don't show up on the level of popular literature, though.

A good, short (but old) overview of the General Strike is Geoffrey McDonald, "The defeat of the General Strike" in Gillian Peele and Chris Cook, eds, The Politics of Reappraisal 1918-1939 (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1975), 64-87.

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I have been finishing off a long-ish post that I've been meaning to write for a while, but now I don't think I will post it. This is because I came to realise that it's actually stuff I want to write about more formally at some stage, in my thesis or in a paper. Generally speaking, the things I write about on this blog are more closely related to my actual research than many other academic history blogs, which is how I wanted it to be, but it does seem that I've reached a limit here! I guess it's because blogs have no particular academic standing, so it's like I'm giving away something (my research, my ideas) for nothing. Somebody else could take those references and ideas1 and publish them before I get a chance to, or maybe I'll say something careless and wrong that will reflect badly on me; a journal article at least passes before several more sets of eyeballs before it gets to the outside world. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say that presenting research on a blog or other non-peer reviewed forum is career suicide, but it may not be particularly wise either. Now, I don't mind posting snippets of interesting or curious information which I don't have any particular use for, and which I may or may not use some day. That can be a helpful form of thinking aloud, for one thing, and it may lead to something more formal. But it seems to be different when it comes to my core research. Posting about that makes me nervous, I find, so I tend to talk about somewhat peripheral (but hopefully still interesting) subjects. That may be safer, but it probably also reduces the potential benefits of having a research blog.

So, I might re-work the post not posted into a shorter, more general piece. And it's not like there's a lack of interesting but non-threatening things to blog about -- the trouble is finding the time to do it! I suspect, too, that my more central research concerns will be easier to write about on here when I am also writing them up for publication or presentation. But I don't know. Am I being too paranoid? Not paranoid enough?


  1. Not that I am claiming to have had any brilliant ones ... 

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The Camels are Coming

Airminded is hosting the 31st History Carnival on 15 May, a week from today! I already have a good number of nominations, but I need more. Please send your suggestions for the best recent posts in the historioblogosphere to me by way of the form, or drop me a line through the contact page. And note that earlier is better than later, since I'm in Australia, many timezones ahead of most potential contributors.

Given my own nationality and specialisation, I'd be especially pleased to hear of anything relating to Australian history or to 20th century British history -- the Antipodes and the anti-Antipodes, if you like. But of course, posts about any and all periods, regions and subjects, whether academic and non-academic in nature, are welcome! As long as it's history, it's fair game.

Image source: www.biggles.info.

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Air University Press, the publishing arm of the USAF's Air University, has most of its books available in PDF format for free download. As one might expect, the subject matter is mostly American and recent, but some are on-topic for me, including Williamson Murray's Strategy for Defeat: The Luftwaffe, 1933-1945, George K. Williams' Biplanes and Bombsights: British Bombing in World War I, William Edward Fischer's The Development of Military Night Aviation to 1919, and Philip S. Meilinger's The Paths of Heaven: The Evolution of Airpower Theory and Airmen and Air Theory: A Review of the Sources.

Stephen Dorril. Blackshirt: Sir Oswald Mosley and British Fascism. London: Viking, 2006. I'm always up for books on British fascism. This one is perhaps aiming to do a Kershaw -- a sort of history of the BUF through a biography of its leader. '[I]mportant and controversial', according to the blurb.

Medical Manual of Chemical Warfare. London: HMSO, 1939. A chance find in a secondhand bookshop -- an Australian reprint of a War Office publication dated March 1939. Lots of fun details of the various gases then known, their effects and how to treat them. Includes pictures and paintings of chemical burns and blisters, if you are into that sort of thing! (Update: it would seem to be the prior edition to this.)

P. G. Wodehouse. Right Ho, Jeeves. London: Penguin, 1999 [1934]. Somewhat lighter fare than the above!

The Great Wall

This is my reading list for the next month or so, all from the period 1932-1941. After that, I'll be back at the State Library to read some more. There's about twice as many books as there were for the preceding period (1917-1931), though not all of these will turn out to be of great interest.

Well, it's enough to be going on with, anyway!

New blog alert! Great War Fiction is the blog of George Simmers, a PhD student at Oxford Brookes. He's working on fiction written during and after the First World War, particularly the representations of soldiers and ex-soldiers therein. He has only been blogging a couple of days, but already has four posts up, including the obligatory introduction. As I am reading a lot of war fiction from the period myself, I will be reading George's blog with interest. (Via Break of Day in the Trenches.)

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An interesting quote from Robert Graves' autobiography, Goodbye to All That (London: Penguin, 1960 [1929]), 120. He was in London on leave; the date is not specified but it was before Loos, so I'd guess it was late summer, 1915.

The Zeppelin scare had just begun. Some friends of the family came in one night, and began telling me of the Zeppelin air-raids, of bombs dropped only three streets off.

'Well, do you know,' I said, 'the other day I was asleep in a house and in the early morning a bomb dropped next door and killed three soldiers who were billeted there, a woman, and a child.'

'Good gracious,' they cried, 'what did you do then?'

'It was at a place called Beuvry, about four miles behind the trenches,' I explained, 'and I was tired out, so I went to sleep again.' 'Oh,' they said, 'but that happened in France!' and the look of interest faded from their faces as though I had taken them in with a stupid catch. 'Yes,' I agreed, 'and it was only an aeroplane that dropped the bomb.'

Graves doesn't dwell on what's going on back in the UK very much (at least not so far; I'm only half-way through). But he manages to pack a number of themes into these few sentences: the gulf in experiences and attitudes between soldiers and civilians; the perceived frightfulness of civilians being attacked; and the extreme fear in Britain of the Zeppelin at this time, which Graves gently mocked. J. F. C. Fuller wrote in 1923 (in the context of his version of a knock-out blow theory) that 'soldiers are controlled by discipline, civilians by fear';1 Graves's anecdote might be another expression of the same idea. But this is from the (apparently substantially) revised edition published in 1957, so I'd want to compare it with the 1929 original first.


  1. J. F. C. Fuller, The Reformation of War (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1923), 105.