The Next War in the Air: Civilian Fears of Strategic Bombardment in Britain, 1908-1941

University of Melbourne, 2009 (adapted for publication by Ashgate, 2014).

During the First World War, several writers began to argue that the main strategic risk to Britain was the possibility of a sudden, intense aerial bombardment of its cities, which would cause tremendous destruction and large numbers of casualties. The nation would be knocked-out of the war very quickly, in a matter of days or weeks, before it could fully realise its military potential. The theory of the knock-out blow solidified into a consensus during the 1920s and by the 1930s had almost become an orthodoxy, accepted by pacifists and militarists alike.

My thesis examines the concept of the knock-out blow as it was articulated in the public sphere, the reasons why it came to be so widely accepted in public life, and the way it shaped the responses of the British public to the great issues facing them in the 1930s: armaments and appeasement, war or peace. It mainly draws on published, but little examined, sources -- books, journals, newspapers -- produced in the period between 1908 (when aviation was first perceived as a threat to British security) and 1941 (when the Blitz ended, and it was obvious that no knock-out blow was coming). And it shows how, after having been taught to fear the bomber as the bringer of destruction to all they knew and held dear, the British people were instead taught to regard it as their best hope for victory.

The thesis can be downloaded here.

Postgraduate diploma (4th year) thesis

My 4th year thesis, entitled "The Gathering Cloud of Rumour": Phantom Airships and the British Fear of Germany, 1909-1913 closely relates to my PhD topic. In the period 1909-1913, many people in Britain claimed to see airships flying in the night sky, when in fact none were present. The general assumption was that the airships were German zeppelins, with malign intent. The thesis itself explored the development of these 'phantom airship' waves, and their genesis in fears of Germany, of invasion, of aerial attack, and of national decline. It was accepted in 2004 by the Department of History at the University of Melbourne.

Some of the material used in the thesis can be found here.