Monthly Archives: January 2017

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John T Collins, Aerial Pageant

A drawing by an Australian, John T. Collins, perhaps as a student exercise. Unlike in Britain, there was no dominant 'aerial pageant' here but rather many local ones, so it seems like a generic advertisement. It's dated to 1932 or 1933, but assuming the context is Australian then those would be Hawker Demons and it would be more like 1935 or 1936, when they entered RAAF service and represented the latest thing in aerial warfare down under.

Image source: State Library of Victoria.

Nicholas Booth. Lucifer Rising: British Intelligence and the Occult in the Second World War. Stroud: History Press, 2016. The intersection of two potentially very dodgy topics, black magic and black propaganda; but I'm reassured by the author's statement that he doesn't believe in the occult (not sure where he stands on British intelligence...) and fairly extensive use of The National Archives. Everybody from Dennis Wheatley to Rudolf Hess is here; Aleister Crowley is listed in the index under his own name and as 'The Beast'!

William J. Fanning, Jr. Death Rays and the Popular Media, 1876-1939: A Study of Directed Energy Weapons in Fact, Fiction and Film. Jefferson: McFarland and Company, 2015. Does what it says on the tin (as they say): provides a thorough, if not exhaustive, study of deaths rays in (mostly) British, American and Australian (go Trove!) newspapers, novels and films -- including claims of actual death rays. After the mid-1920s and popularisation by Grindell-Mathews and stories of French aircraft mysteriously losing power over Germany, the idea became so widely recognisable that it was used in contexts far removed from speculative literature.

Peter Gray. Air Warfare: History, Theory and Practice. London and New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016. Relatively short but very well-referenced. Looks like it would be an excellent postgrad-level textbook (which is exactly what it was designed for).

Alistair Horne. Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth Century. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016. Horne's first book was published more than 60 years ago (!) but this is the first I've read. An engaging account of some key battles (Tsushima, Nomonhan, Moscow, Midway, Inchon and Dien Bien Phu), loosely connected by the knock-on effects of one battle on the next, and the theme of hubris.

Robert H. Kargon, Karen Fiss, Morris Low and Arthur P. Molella. World's Fairs on the Eve of War: Science, Technology, and Modernity 1937-1942. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015. I think I ordered this because of the whole aerial theatre/technology as spectacle thing, but I'm not sure. Takes in Paris, Düsseldorf, New York, Tokyo (cancelled) and Rome (cancelled). Well-illustrated for an academic monograph.

Bernard Lowry. Pillboxes and Tank Traps. Oxford and New York: Shire Publications, 2014. A small book with lots of photos of British fortifications from the Second World War. Nicely produced but obviously just skims the surface.

Glen O'Hara. Britain and the Sea since 1600. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. A synthesis which combines a thematic (trade, migration, war, etc) and chronological approach very well. Made me think about what a Britain and the Air since 1900 might look like...

Francis Spufford. Red Plenty. London: Faber and Faber, 2011. Everybody but me has read this so it's probably time I caught up.

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I wrote about the strange, sad story of A. D. Harvey back in 2013. He is an independent PhD historian who has published a number of books and articles across a wide variety of topics, including my own field of airpower history, though his best known work is probably Collision of Empires: Britain in Three World Wars, 1793-1945. But as Eric Naiman revealed in a long Times Literary Supplement article, Harvey has also fabricated (falsified, faked) sources in their entirety. In one case (writing as Stephanie Harvey) he made up a meeting between Dickens and Dostoevsky which he published in a scholarly article supported by citations that led to sources which he had also made up. The two never met in reality, or rather there's no other evidence that they did; which is the point, because Harvey's claim was beginning to work its way into the scholarship on Dickens, in particular. He has admitted to all this and much more (he has published under a variety of pseudonyms, often citing and commenting on his own work) but the invented Dickens-Dostoevsky meeting alone is enough to put Harvey beyond the pale as far as the historical profession goes.

Or at least it should be. The strange thing is that he is still getting published:

The World of the Georgians is a special publication produced by BBC History Magazine, a well-known popular history magazine (I've even written for them). Harvey has an article in it titled '"My brilliant career'". The magazine's copyright date is 2016, long after his exposure. Surely he is not the only person qualified to write a popular article on Pitt the Younger; BBC History Magazine should find a better historian.
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