I'm very pleased to announce that I have been awarded an Australian Bicentennial Fellowship by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King's College London. This is a travel grant which I will use to come to the UK to continue research for my next book, a history of Britain under the German air raids of the First World War, tentatively entitled Zeppelins and Gothas. I'll have more to say about the book in due course (i.e. when I've got a publisher!) but for now it's very exciting to be able to start thinking about my next research trip (it's nearly three years since my last one, which this will be building upon). A few things will have to line up first, but if they do the trip will be in the first half of 2018, likely in the spring, and will take in London and probably Leeds, and perhaps elsewhere. I'll have more to say about all that in due course too.
Here I would just like to thank not only the Menzies Centre for the Fellowship, but also Dr Dan Todman and the School of History at Queen Mary, University of London, who kindly agreed to host me during my stay, as well as the two academic referees who supported my application but who I won't embarrass by naming here!
Paul Gooding. Historic Newspapers in the Digital Age: 'Search All About It!' London and New York: Routledge, 2017. I was hoping for more of a practical guide to the many methodological issues involving the use of digitised newspapers than this provides; it's much more about the theoretical issues surrounding digitisation and how that connects (or disconnects) with how users actually interact with digitised newspaper archives. Still looks interesting.
Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwing. War Planning 1914. New York: Cambridge Universty Press, 2010. A useful survey of the evolution of how the major European powers planned to fight in 1914 -- and 1915, since Italy is included, though Turkey is not.
G. Gibbard Jackson. The Splendid Book of the Army and the Air Force. London: Sampson Low, Marston, [1932?]. A very splendid book aimed at splendid children to tell them of the splendid work done by the Army and the Air Force -- in the latter case including Hendon and air control, in a way which Baden-Powell could have found no fault. A gift: thanks, Richard!
Michael John Law. The Experience of Suburban Modernity: How Private Transport Changed Interwar London. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014. Cars, bicycles, motorcycles, yes, yes. But there's also a whole chapter on 'Suburban airmindedness', including (but not limited to) the experience of air displays such as (but not only) Hendon. Excellent.
Susan Pedersen. The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. A very well-received study of the mandate system, its limitations, its failures and its critics. Of most interest to me, though, is the chapter on the response to the French bombing of Damascus in its Syrian mandate in 1926, a subject of which I am quite ignorant.
Above is a pair of stereo photos kindly sent to me by Tim Lees, who found them in his father's collection. There's a slight mystery as to the occasion. The label at the top reads 'Hendon - July '28', which suggests they were taken at the RAF Display at Hendon in 1928, but that year it was held in June. So there's an error somewhere: either the day (it was on the last day of June) or the year (the 1927 and 1929 Hendons were both held in July). Or perhaps it wasn't at Hendon at all, but at one of the regional displays where RAF squadrons sometimes reprised their Hendon performances? It might not have been labelled until some years after the event. There's no real way to tell.
The photos themselves show reasonably well-dressed spectators standing in amongst their motor cars, watching two vics of what look like Armstrong Whitworth Siskins, judging from the sesquiplanes (click to zoom in). There's not enough detail to say much more, but that certainly fits the period: Siskins were highly maneuverable (the RCAF even used them for an early aerobatic team) and they featured at Hendon between 1925 and 1931.
C. D. Coulthard-Clark. The Third Brother: The Royal Australian Air Force 1921-39. North Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1991. The classic history of the early RAAF (not that there is much serious competition). People, policies, institutions, infrastructure -- it's all here, even air displays!
Richard P. Hallion. Strike from the Sky: The History of Battlefield Air Attack, 1911-1945. Shrewsbury: Airlife, 1989. In a different way to Coulthard-Clark, another classic -- less detailed but equally comprehensive, including coverage of the role of combat air support in the various small and smallish conflicts in the interwar period.
Thomas Hippler. Governing from the Skies: A Global History of Aerial Bombing. London and Brooklyn: Verso, 2017. Follows up Hippler's previous work on Douhet by tracing a thread from air control to area or terror bombing to nuclear war the potentially unlimited (geoographical, but also and more importantly legal) reach of drone strikes. Looks like an interesting update of Sven Lindqvist's A History of Bombing.
Stefanie Linden. They Called it Shell Shock: Combat Stress in the First World War. Solihull: Helion, 2016. Based on PhD research into hundreds of case files on British and German shell-shocked soldiers, which should be a fascinating comparison. Also examines the effect of the study and attempted treatment of these men on the practice of medical research itself. One chapter touches on the Angel of Mons, though alas there seem to be no phantom airships.
In an earlier series of posts I discussed Australia's first airship, the White Australia, which flew in 1914. It turns out that there was an earlier Australian airship, of a sort: the Airem Scarem. Indeed, according to a 1907 newspaper advertisement it was the 'First Airship below the line' (equator, presumably). From the above photo, taken in 1908, Airem Scarem was a trim little vessel, though the envelope is a bit on the small side and the propulsion system, which seems to consist of no engine and two tiny propellors fore and aft, hardly seems adequate. Fortunately the Airem Scarem was assisted in its flights by being suspended from a cable -- which has been crudely whited-out from the above photo -- because it wasn't a real airship at all but rather an amusement park ride, at Wonderland City in Tamarama, a beachside suburb of Sydney.
It is seventy years since since 24 June 1947, when Kenneth Arnold saw nine crescent-shaped objects flying at high speed past Mt Rainier; in other words, seventy years since the emergence of the UFO phenomenon. Often, when I talk or write about phantom airships, the topic of UFOs comes up, and with good reason. The similarities are obvious: both modern UFOs and the earlier mystery aircraft are to a large extent unknown objects seen in the sky, upon which we project our own fears and fantasies. Once those fears and fantasies reflected the concerns caused by coming of flight; then they reflected the concerns of the dawn of the rocket/atomic age.
And yet, when the topic of UFOs does come up, for the most part I will do no more than note the obvious correspondences, and disclaim any interest in the modern manifestation of the phenomenon. In other words, I run the other way. So why is that?
Here in Australia, yesterday, the first Sunday in June, was Bomber Command Commemorative Day. The occasion was marked with ceremonies in most state capitals. The major event, at the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra, spanned the whole weekend and included a flypast by a RAAF Hornet and a wreathlaying ceremony, which remarkably is claimed to be the third-most attended commemoration at the AWM, after Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
A. Bowdoin Van Riper. Imagining Flight: Aviation and Popular Culture. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. In some ways this feels like similar territory to Joseph Corn's The Winged Gospel, but as the title suggests it has more of a popular culture focus (especially film). It also has much more of a worldwide and comparative scope, which together with its conciseness might make it a good introductory text on airmindedness.
Some big news. Today the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced that it is funding Linkage Project LP160101232, 'Heritage of the air: how aviation transformed Australia' to the amount of $440,000 over three years, with financial and/or in-kind contributions from Airservices Australia, the National Museum of Australia, the Civil Aviation Historical Society, and the SFO Museum. The project's official summary reads:
This project aims to generate new understandings of how aviation has transformed Australian society over the last hundred years, and how the technology of global mobility has shaped people, cultures and communities. Whilst aviation has transformed Australian society over the last hundred years, its heritage is under-appreciated and at risk. The project will build a partnership between the aviation industry, community groups, museums and a multidisciplinary academic team to develop fresh insights from under-utilised sources of aviation heritage, communicate their unique stories to the public through innovative exhibitions and publications, and help conserve it for future generations. As a result, the project will make an important contribution to culture and society by enabling community access to neglected and at-risk sources of aviation heritage, and engage the public's fascination with aviation through new interpretations of its extraordinary social and cultural impact.
The reason why this is big news, apart obviously from the scholarly value of this research, is that I am on the project as a Partner Investigator. What that means is that I will still be working as a lecturer, but some of my research time will now be devoted to Heritage of the Air working as part of the project team:
I'll no doubt have more to say in future about the actual plans and progress of the project, and my involvement in it. But for now I'll just say that this is a big deal for me, as it's the first major grant I've been a part of, and it's the kind of thing that humanities academics increasingly need on their CV these days, at least in Australia. So I'm grateful to Tracy for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to working with her and the rest of the team over the next few years!
Image source: National Library of Australia.
David T. Courtwright. Sky as Frontier: Adventure, Aviation, and Empire. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2005. Looking at the history of aviation as the expansion into a frontier is an interesting approach, especially in terms of the American experience, as examined here. But it's also a useful entry point to the key transition from the 'age of the pioneers' to the 'age of mass experience' (actually the main section of the book). As a bonus Courtwright also takes his argument up to the Space Age.