Monthly Archives: October 2017

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As I discussed in a previous post, the arrival of the Armistice on 11 November 1918 suddenly made the Aerial League of the British Empire's foray into wartime propaganda films irrelevant. Yet the bizarre coincidence that the film happened to give a prominent place to the time and date of the Armistice suggested the possibility that the League's investment might be recouped by somehow marketing Eleven, Eleven, Eleven as a novelty. The sole mention of the film in the British press, in the Preston Herald in December 1918, was pretty clearly planted with a friendly journalist in an attempt to do just that.1
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  1. Possibly through the offices of E. Jerome Dyer, in effect the film's producer; his name turns up in the Preston press quite frequently in connection with the Vegetable Products Committee which was active there. 

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This summary of an unreleased and untitled film is from the 'Grave and Gay' column of the Preston Herald for 7 December 1918:

In this film a man dreams that England is under German rule, and various scenes are shown depicting the organised brutality of the Boche. But, in the dream, there is a movement to throw off the German rule. The head of the movement is a chemist and inventor who has discovered a new force. Secret meetings are held in his underground laboratory, on the walls of which is a huge placard with the words, 'Eleven, Eleven, Eleven!' It is decided that the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is to be the hour of the successful uprising and of England's freedom.1

A couple of things make this interesting, or at least unusual. One is that 'These scenes had all been actually photographed long before the armistice', and so the prominence of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the plot was both 'very remarkable and beyond the possibility of dispute'.2 The other is that the film was produced by the Aerial League of the British Empire, which seems hard to explain, given the apparent lack of any aerial theme at all. So what was going on here?
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  1. Preston Herald, 7 December 1918, 2

  2. Ibid. 

Jon Cooksey. The Vest Pocket Kodak & The First World War. Lewes: Ammonite Press, 2017. A small book on an interesting topic. The utility and portability of the Vest Pocket Kodak camera made it incredibly popular with soldiers in the front lines and behind them, mostly British here (though the French and Germans are not excluded). As you'd hope, well-illustrated, including one or two photos of actual combat and even atrocities -- and a koala!

Lawrence Freedman. The Future of War: A History. Allen Lane, 2017. This looks like a lot of fun. Exactly what you'd expect from the title, though it does concentrate on the post-1945 era (not surprisingly given Freedman's own areas of expertise). I'm please to see the knock-out blow features prominently in the early chapters, though!

Robert Gerwath. The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-1923. Penguin, 2017. I saw a preview of this research back at the Perth AAEH in 2011 and I'm glad to have finally have the results in my hands. Why did the First World War fail to end? Because violence continued in many parts of Europe after the Armistice, not only in actual wars and civil wars but at the paramilitary level too. The focus is rightly on Russia, Germany, and parts in between, but I'll be interested to see what he has to say about western Europe too.

David G. Morgan-Owen. The Fear of Invasion: Strategy, Politics, and British War Planning, 1880-1914. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. One I've been looking forward to; a critique of the refusal of British military, naval and political leaders to properly think through the implications of decisions such as the committment to a continental expeditionary force over home defence, forcing the Navy into a defensive and reactive posture when war came. A disturbing lack of Zeppelins in the index, however.

Christopher Schaberg. Airportness: The Nature of Flight. New York and London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. What does airmindedness look like now, when flying is as routine as most of the early air prophets dreamed -- but also therefore mundane and often tedious? It could look something like airportness.

Alan Stephens. Going Solo: The Royal Australian Air Force, 1946-1971. Canberra: AGPS Press, 1995. A random secondhand bookshop find; doubly appropriate as I was reading Coulthard-Clark's equivalent volume for the 1921-39 period at the time. Yoink!

Postcard of Amy Johnson c. 1930

Things have been a bit quiet here lately, which I hope will change soon. But I haven't been entirely inactive in blogging terms: I've written a guest post on the construction of authority in early British aviation for the German Historical Institute's History of Knowledge blog. The history of knowledge is a newish historiographical endeavour, which falls somewhere in between, as well as across, more familiar areas like the history of ideas, the history of science, the history of books, and so on. As explained at History of Knowledge itself:

Knowledge does not simply exist, awaiting discovery and use. Knowledge is produced, adapted, forgotten, rejected, superseded, expanded, reconfigured, and more—always by human beings (at least in this more-or-less pre-AI age), alone or in communities, always in culturally, socially, economically, and institutionally specific contexts.

Knowledge is central to most purposeful human practices, whether at work, in the family, or for worship, whether implicitly or explicitly, whether passed down by hands-on training or through books and other storage and retrieval systems. Both product and basis of human interactions, knowledge has a history. Indeed, human history cannot be understood apart from the history of knowledge.

Writing the post gave me the chance to put together a few ideas I had about how and why certain people -- I mostly discuss S. F. Cody, along with Hiram Maxim, Baden Baden-Powell, Claude Grahame-White, P. R. C. Groves, Amy Johnson and H. G. Wells -- gained the status of aviation experts in the public sphere. It didn't always have much to do with actual flying ability or even experience; it was in least part socially and culturally constructed. Much more could of course be said about the topic, but for the moment you can head on over to History of Knowledge to read my post.

Thanks to Mark Stoneman for the invitation!

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.