A thesis update

I haven't written for a while on where I'm up to in terms of the PhD thesis (you know -- the reason why, ultimately, this blog exists!) I'm nearly at the (nominal) half-way point, and I think it's coming along ok. Last month I finally completed a draft of chapter 2 (the evolution of the knock-out blow, 1932-1941), which along with chapter 1 (the origins of the knock-out blow, 1893-1931) and the (very preliminary) introduction, adds up to 29500 words. It took me much longer to write chapter 2 than I expected, partly because I was tutoring in 2nd semester, but also because there are just so many sources: it's twice the length of chapter 1, despite covering only a quarter as many years.

So now I am working on chapter 3, logically enough. This is on defence panics and high technology. By "defence panic" I mean something very much like a moral panic, except that the focus of anxiety is an external threat to society, instead of an internal one -- phantom airships (for example) rather than mods and rockers. It seems to me that in the early 20th century, (largely) media-driven defence panics were a prime means by which public opinion on the threat of bombing was influenced, transmitting and amplifying for a wider audience the warnings of the airpower experts I've examined in chapters 1 and 2. The connection with high technology is that very often defence panics hinged upon the predicted impact of some new technology -- gas being the prime example.

Other objectives for this year include getting a couple of papers out (one probably based on chapter 2), attending a conference or two, and getting over to the UK -- by hook or by crook!

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14 thoughts on “A thesis update

  1. CK

    Well done Brett. What you need to do now is give some thought about how the thesis gets trimmed down for popular consumption. Apart from researching and writing the actual thesis I mean.

    Said only half in jest. Who would have thought tomes like 'Stalingrad', 'Berlin', and 'Dresden' would have been such runaway best-sellers? There's definitely a market.

  2. Post author

    Yeah, I think I'll be concentrating on actually writing the thesis first :) Not having published anything yet, I might just be a flake for all anyone knows ...

    I don't see it as bestseller material, anyway; as it stands, it would take a lot of work to make it accessible to a popular audience. But perhaps more importantly, unlike Stalingrad et al, there won't actually be a lot of warfighting in it. Lots of talking about war, but not so much of the real thing.

    Besides which, any audience I might have had will likely have their appetites sated by Ian Patterson's forthcoming book!

  3. Nabakov

    I do hope you have checked out "A History of Bombing" by now. Of course you have. What am I saying?

    Another whizzo read is John Pearson's Biggles: The Authourised Biography which is a great pastiche of WE Johns prose style while also fleshing out Biggles as a real human being. Not to mention Lord Bertie's late 30s daillance with a thinly veiled Hanna Reitsch. But don't worry, it all turns out happily in the end.

    Anyway, I still have this vid of a 1936 RAF Pageant which is yours on indefinite loan in exchange for a very dry martini and a spin in a Hawker Fury. I recall Christine Keeler and Barista could well be into some bumps and circuits at cocktail hour too.

    Very much looking forward to your thesis being spun off into a book with many attractive colour plates and a nice foreword by Boom Trenchard.

  4. Nabakov

    I gather from the deafening lack of response to my offer above, y'all are worried you may end up cornered for several hours by a crazed airhead who wears a vintage flying helmet and googles 24/7.

    Which is actually not the case. I do take 'em off in the shower so I can instead savour the tactile feel of an authentic Mae West lashed by seaspray for a change.

    If not though: wilberforcepike(at)hotmail(dot)com
    The first few rounds of martinis are on or in me.

  5. Post author

    No, no, no, sorry, I'm just really slack is all! I'll email youse tonight. Or tomorrow.

    a crazed airhead who wears a vintage flying helmet and googles 24/7.

    I thought that was me. I certainly google nearly that much.

  6. I think I have read about half of your blog in the six hours since I discovered it! first THANKS.
    Next, do you know some of the books by Freeman Dyson? In "Weapons and Hope" he describes, as he saw it, the outlook for a young Briton in 1937. "Feeling ourselves doomed, we were comforted by the thought that the whole society in which we lived was doomed equally. The coming war would certainly bring massive bombings of civilian populations. We expected bombing, not with old-fashioned high explosives, but with poison gas such as the Italians had recently been using in Ethiopia, or with the anthrax bombs that Aldous Huxley described in Brave New World." (There's an exxay in another book where he talkes about his experiences in Bomber Command, where he got to know Tait, one of the commanders of 617 Squadron.
    (I suspect you know of Dyson already, but if you don't. . .)
    thanks again! and wishing you well with your thesis! Pete Peterson

  7. Post author

    Glad you've enjoyed my ramblings! I do know of Dyson -- he's a brilliant guy (I think the first I heard of him was in connection with his Dyson sphere concept).

    But I didn't know of that quote, it's most interesting. Thanks for the tip!

  8. Nabakov

    Y'know Brett, never mind reworking your thesis as a nice scholarly but lively Pimlico publication, why not churn and saucier your research into a sly, knowing yet delivered with gusto alt-history novel a la Well's 'War In The Air' meets Moore's 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' via 'Crimson Skies' and 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' yet set in a post WW1 European cockpit.

  9. Nabakov

    Oooh very tasty CK. And that's a Handley Page Hercules too that is.

    Are you in for a drinkie poos with Brett, m'self and possibly Barista (who can vouch for my offline carnet) in an utterly cool and private Melbourne CBD venue quite redolent of thirties glam travel in the next week or two?

    I'll even do my impersonation of Harry Hawkes even if you squiffpecificallylly request I don't.

    We could talk about aviation.

  10. CK

    It'll have to be a toast to absent friends I'm afraid Nabs. Somewhat in the manner of Bertram and Klausmann I'm beached about 1500 clicks up the coast and the gyrocopter's absolutely U/S.

    Can I suggest you lot do a few circuits around the bar doing the "dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka-dakka" scene from BoB? That should put the other patrons at their ease.

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