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.

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.

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.

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.

Apparently aviation has historically had some slight connection with the United States...

Dominick A. Pisano (ed.) The Airplane in American Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003. I've actually used this collection before, for Jill D. Snider's excellent chapter on the aerial bombardment of Tulsa in 1921, but there is much else here of value for me. In particular, Pisano's own chapter on 'The confrontation between utility and entertainment in aviation' highlights a key tension in aerial theatre.

Jenifer van Vleck. Empire of the Air: Aviation and the American Ascendancy. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 2013. A history of the American century through the lens of the spectacular growth through to the 1960s of Pan Am under Juan Trippe. Starts out with a chapter intriguingly called 'The Americanization of the airplane', which by implication might explain why I've been able to get away without paying too much attention to American aviation culture: for my period it wasn't so dominant as it became from the 1940s.

Prudence Black. Smile, Particularly in Bad Weather: The Era of the Australian Airline Hostess. Crawley: UWA Publishing, 2017. I've been fortunate to hear some presentations relating to Pru's ARC project on the history of Australian air hostesses, and it's fascinating stuff. Drawing partly on oral history interviews, she charts the changing roles and gender expectations of air hostesses from the rough days of the 1930s, through to the glamorous jetset era, up to the increasing professionalisation by the early 1980s.

Sue Rosen (ed). Scorched Earth: Australia's Secret Plan for Total War under Japanese Invasion in World War II. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2017. Largely a reproduction of a fascinating document from the NSW State Archives outlining civil preparations for a Japanese invasion, with some editorial contextualisation and some evocative illustrations. It's a fascinating plan for last-ditch resistance and resource denial, but you have to wonder how much would have been carried out in reality. (Luckily, that was never likely to be tested.) Review copy (not for Airminded).

David Stephens and Alison Broinowski (eds). The Honest History Book. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2017. The book of the website! A collection of essays arguing for the proposition that 'Australia is more than Anzac -- and always has been', half on putting Anzac in its place, the other half on what Anzac has hidden.

Richard Toye (ed.) Winston Churchill: Politics, Strategy and Statecraft. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. 'Not another Chuchill book!' I groaned on seeing this. But then I bought it, because it's got an essay by Richard Overy on 'Churchill and airpower' (plus a few other interesting things).


Owen Hatherley. The Ministry of Nostalgia. London and New York: Verso, 2017. Hatherley's misapprehension about the origins of Keep Calm and Carry On got me an article in The Conversation, so I figure I owe him a book sale. But I also suspect that he's on to something with his (much) larger argument about the memory of the Blitz (etc) as a form of austerity nostalgia.

Mathew Radcliffe. Kampong Australia: The RAAF at Butterworth. Sydney: NewSouth, 2017. Butterworth was a name I was familiar with growing up, but knew next to little about. For most of the Cold War, it was the RAAF's only permanent air base outside Australia, located in what is now northern Malaysia. The strategic purpose was to defend against communist and Indonesian threats, and RAAF Sabres, Mirages and other aircraft were stationed there from the 1950s through to the 1980s. But this book (based on a PhD) isn't really about that: it's much more a social history, about life in this far-off western enclave of military personnel and their families inside a foreign society at the end of an old empire and the start of a new nation. And I think it will be all the more interesting for it!


After reading Bill Fanning's Death Rays and the Popular Media, I looked at a murky 1937 claim of an official British death ray, supposedly on the authority of Sir Thomas 'Caligula's horse' Inskip, Minister for Defence Co-ordination. That turned out to be not quite what happened. But I was also intrigued by something else Bill said, in the context of other press stories of Air Ministry interest in death ray inventions:

The government made such announcements about 'invisible walls' and 'rays' for two reasons. One was to reassure the public that Britain was safe from air attack in the event of another general European war, the other, according to a press release in July 1945, a deception to cover the real work going on with radar.1

The reason why this intrigues me is that I've long wondered why the British government didn't make more of an effort to promote confidence in Britain's air defences in the late 1930s. Firstly, Britain's air defences were stronger. On Inskip's recommendation the RAF's rearmament priorities from 1938 onwards had been rebalanced to favour fighters more, and the extension of the Chain Home radar system around the coast began in 1939. Secondly, regardless of the actual ability of Fighter Command to intercept and repel enemy bombers, even the mere belief that it could do so would be valuable, given that fear of bombing was in itself thought to be one of the greatest dangers. In my book, I suggested that a greater confidence in air defence was responsible for a scepticism about the knock-out blow from the air in 1938-39, though without really being able to prove this directly.2 Perhaps the death ray debate can shed light on this.
...continue reading

  1. 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), 108. 

  2. Brett Holman, The Next War in the Air: Britain's Fear of the Bomber, 1908-1941 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 74. 


Brett Holman. The Next War in the Air: Britain's Fear of the Bomber, 1908-1941. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. Yes, I'm one of those authors, the kind who buys the paperback edition of their own book, just to see what it looks like! At least I'll get some of that back in royalties...

Mike Milln. Wing Tips: The Story of the Royal Aero Club of South Australia. Book I: 1919-1941. Kent Town: Avonmore Books, 2011. This has lots of useful information about the founding of the RACSA and its activities in the interwar period, including the 1936 aerial pageant at Parafield -- which I'd discussed in a conference presentation a few days before I found this book, when it would have come in handy!

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.