Conferences and talks

Aviation Cultures Mk.VI call for papers

New Deadline: 13th March 2022
Aviation Cultures Mk.VI: Connecting the Regions

Didn't have time to get your proposal in? Don't worry! We are excited by the submissions we have received and invite others – experts, professionals, academics, and practitioners – to discuss the impact aviation has had throughout the regions at the local and global level.

The Aviation Cultures Mk.VI Conference will be held from the 15th to the 17th of July 2022, both at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba and online. Prizes for best papers will be awarded, and further details will be released closer to the conference date. We are keen to see wide participation from early career researchers and people with expertise rarely shared to a wider audience, as well as experienced specialists.

Submit an Abstract

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[Edited version of an oral summary of 'Mutual aid in an air-raid? Community civil defence in Britain, 1914-18’, International Society for First World War Studies Virtual Conference 2021: Technology, online, 16-18 September 2021.]

The first thing to note is that the German air raids on Britain of the First World War were much smaller in scale than those of the Second World War: they killed 1100 people compared with 43000. They are significant, however, precisely because they were the British people’s first war from the air, and so informed expectations, and preparations, for the next one. And in terms of civil defence, nearly every major aspect of the air raids on Britain in the Second World War was first encountered in the First World War.

But the air raids of the First World War are also important because of their emotional effects, the way that people responded to the entirely novel experiences, and spectacles, of air raids: fear, terror, even panic, but also anger, calm, excitement, boredom, curiosity, complacency. Again these emotions informed behaviour in air raids. These emotional responses could themselves, it was thought, be dangerous. Panic could be contagious. Curiosity might lead people to endanger themselves. Anger might result in the diversion of military resources from the front or even endanger the government politically. So these air raid emotions had to be managed.

Graphic, 5 February 1916, 8

It was largely left up to the press and other moral actors to define 'corrrect' emotional behaviour during air raids. An emotional regime centred on the idea of ‘British pluck’ or stoicism valorised the mastery of emotions during air raids as a particularly British trait. This prefiguring of the 'Blitz spirit' was opposed, of course, to the Germans, who were thought to be cowardly, both as bombers and bombed. Fear and panic, when it did occur in Britain, was at first excused, but increasingly as the war went on, excised from 'Britishness' altogether, through transference onto the Jewish or 'alien' minority.

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Victory Through Air Power

A few weeks back I previewed my cohosting of the 1943 Disney film Victory Through Air Power for History at the Movies Australia and Aviation Cultures Mk.V. Both the conference and the livetweeting went splendidly (I think!), but I didn't get around to lazyblogging the latter... until now.

The evening began with the half-hour short documentary Flight Plan, made in 1950 by the Australian Department of Civil Aviation, which you can watch here.

[tweet id="1375357664641773573" conversation=false]Conference jokes and airline jokes -- together at last. Yes, this is going to be a good night in...

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Victory Through Air Power (1943)

Back in the depths of last winter (and the great Melbourne pandemic lockdown of 2020) I had great fun as the co-host for the Historians at the Movies Australia (#HATMAus) livetweet of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Tomorrow I'm going to be doing it again, this time along with James Kightly and Daniel J. Leahy as a special #HATMAus-Aviation Cultures co-presentation of the 1943 Disney film Victory Through Air Power, based on Alexander de Seversky's book of the same name. It's a wonderful example of both wartime and airpower propaganda, and I hope you'll join me for it. If you need more convincing, just before the main feature we'll be giving the 1950 Australian short Flight Plan the same treatment. If you need even more convincing, it's all free (you don't need to buy a conference ticket -- though please feel free to do so! -- and the movies are publicly available.) It starts at 7pm, Friday, 26 March 2021, on Twitter; the details and links are all here. See you there!

Image source: Victory Through Air Power (1943).

Aviation Cultures Mk.V conference


Aviation Cultures Mk.V is an online conference for researchers, practitioners and curators to come together to share their knowledge of and ideas about aviation, and its place in history and society. The conference will take place online between 25 and 28 March 2021 and will align with the centenaries of the Royal Australian Air Force and Australian civil aviation, though we welcome papers relating to any place or period. For more information, see

We are now asking for submission of abstracts for papers from participants from academia, the aviation industry and the wider community on the following themes:

• Commemorating the centenaries of the RAAF and civil aviation in Australia: International & local perspectives on the civil & military aviation symbiosis
• Aviation Identities: Finding diversity; cultures; mentalities
• Help from Above: Search & rescue; aerial fire-fighting; aeromedical evacuation and
disaster response
• Launching Places: Airports and airplaces
• Aviation Pop Culture: Air displays; art and advertising; music; film
• Aviation Collections: Aeronautical heritage; museums; restoration and artefacts; vintage aircraft operation

Papers can be delivered as videos, slides, or text. Videos should not be longer than 20 minutes; papers should consist of not more than 25 PowerPoint slides, or 2,500 words. Panel members need to be able to present their work and interact with the conference and audience live over the Internet, in Australian daylight hours. A fast stable connection, web camera and audio are minimum requirements. Technical advice and support for presenters will be available closer to the conference. There will also be a ‘Blitz’ talks session, and an ‘Object in 5 Minutes’ session. These talks will allow speakers to rapidly highlight new ideas, current research or local collections. They will be 5 minutes long with no more than 5 slides, and no question time.

Please nominate in your abstract whether you are applying for a standard, Blitz or Object talk. Abstracts should be no more than 200 words. Proposals for standard and Object in 5 Minutes sessions must address the conference themes, and abstracts for standard presentations should nominate the applicable session. Blitz abstracts do not need to address our themes. A 1-page presenter CV and, if desired, a photograph should accompany each abstract.

Please submit your abstract and CV to Submissions are due by Friday 15 January 2021, with decisions notified by late January. Some abstracts for standard presentations may be accepted as Blitz talks only.

Brett Holman, on behalf of Aviation Cultures Mk.V Core Committee

On Wednesday, 27 May 2020, I was privileged to give a seminar to the Contemporary Histories Research Group at Deakin University on my aerial theatre research -- via Zoom, as is the current fashion. I really enjoyed giving it, and I think it was a great success (and thanks to everyone who listened in and especially those to took the time to ask questions). Because the seminar pulls together some of the different things I've been working on in some kind of coherent way, I wanted to make it available to a wider audience, and so yesterday I post-tweeted my own seminar. And to make it less (?) ephemeral, now I'm embedding the entire 51-tweet thread here in a blog post. It is of course very much a condensed version of what I said, but it's always surprising how much of the essence gets through in tweet form. (Well, I understand what I'm trying to say, but then I would, wouldn't I?)

The seminar title is 'History from below, looking up: aerial theatre, emotion and modernity'. The abstract is:

In the early 20th century, the aeroplane was the symbol of modernity par excellence. Technological change is an essential part of this sense of modernity, and few technological changes have been as dramatic or as unmistakable as the conquest of the air. For the first few decades of the twentieth century, flying was the object of intense popular fascination, and yet few people actually flew themselves, even as passengers, before the tremendous expansion of aviation during and after the Second World War. Even so, their experience of flight was often intensely exciting, since one of the most common ways to encounter flight was through seeing it, as an aviation spectacle in the form of aerial theatre such as air displays and air races. People flocked to aerodromes in their cumulative millions to watch aircraft in flight, performing aerobatics or fighting mock battles. This was a mass form of popular culture, which explicitly and implicitly made claims about the present and -- even more so -- future ability of technology to change the world, for better or for worse. In this talk I will sketch out an emotional history of aerial theatre, focusing on how it helped to construct popular ideas about modernity, primarily in Britain and Australia.

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Pearson's, April 1901, 475

It is sometimes1 claimed that ballooning was an event at the 1900 Paris Olympics. I don't think it can have been. But it's genuinely a bit murky, because this was only the second modern Olympics and the planning process evidently was not as formalised as it later became. The Olympics were held that year as a minor part of the Exposition Universelle running from April to November 1900, and a number of Exposition events were only retrospectively judged to have been Olympic events too (which is how cricket gets to be an Olympic sport).
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  1. Most notably, at a trivia event at the otherwise brilliant Aviation Cultures Mk IV conference, and no, I'm definitely not bitter for being judged wrong, why would you even think that. []

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In two weeks from today I'll be leaving Armidale for good, and heading back to Melbourne, my hometown. It's mostly for excellent personal reasons, but in part it's also because of the usual early-career academic story of precarious employment. My colleagues at the University of New England have supported me as much they could, but work is drying up and it's clear that any kind of secure position is, at best, a long way off. In addition, with a faculty restructure and as a casual, access to research support is increasingly limited (unfortunately, I had to give up my KCL fellowship). So, after 5 years it's time to leave.

Not that there's a job waiting for me down south, but there are five or six times as many universities in Melbourne as there are in Armidale, so that must help my chances! In the short term I'll have to readjust to life as an independent historian again. I will continue to research and to write, including as part of the Heritage of the Air project, and attend conferences when I can (starting with the International Society for First World War Studies conference in Melbourne, as it happens). Airminded will likely see more activity than it has in the past few years, too.

I will miss my friends here in Armidale. But there's a lot to look forward to in Melbourne!

On Remembrance Day, 11 November 2016, I was privileged to be part of a joint seminar with Dr Richard Scully and Dr Nathan Wise, highlighting the teaching and research we do around the topic of the First World War (Richard is the author of British Images of Germany: Admiration, Antagonism & Ambivalence, 1860-1914, Nathan of Anzac Labour: Work and Workplace Cultures in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War). Richard provided the context and graciously introduced Nathan and I, who each then gave a short presentation explaining our respective reaearch programmes. You can see the whole seminar above. Nathan went first; the abstract for his part is as follows:

Citizen-soldiers: Contextualising military service during the First World War

For decades, the otherworldliness of the First World War has fascinated Australian historians. Since the 1960s there has been a steadily growing genre of social and cultural histories of military environments. This genre analyses people in the military by the same standards that scholars would otherwise use when assessing people in civil society. What did they believe, how did they behave, how did they relate to each other, how did they actively shape the world around them? Part of this approach is designed to challenge the assumptions of the traditional genre of military history, and to attempt to explore these environments through ‘civilian lenses’. In this talk, Dr. Wise explores how this scholarly approach impacts on research and teaching activities at UNE.

And the abstract for mine (which starts at about the 26 minute mark, but listen to Nathan's too!) is:

Zeppelins and Gothas: The British People and the Great War in the Air

As a cultural historian of aviation, I am primarily interested in the ways that people in the early 20th century thought and felt about the new technology of flight and its incredible potential for changing the world. Over the past couple of years I have focused especially on the Great War, during which aircraft moved from being merely entertainment to efficient and deadly weapons. In this talk, I will outline my current research programme which aims to understand how the British people experienced and interpreted what was then a new and terrible experience: the aerial bombardment of London and other cities, first by Zeppelin airships, then by Gotha aeroplanes. This research has already resulted in three articles and eventually will lead to a book, in what is a surprisingly under-researched field.

As you can see, it's essentially a preview of my next book, or what will be my next book if I ever get around to it...