1918 – The Genesis of Modern Warfare: The Birth of the Royal Air Force and the Hundred Days Campaign

Conference announcement, via the Society for First World War Studies.
2008 is the ninetieth anniversary of two landmark events in the history of the British armed forces: the creation of the Royal Air Force, the world’s first independent air service, from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service; and the ‘Hundred Days’ campaign, the greatest series of land victories in British military history. This conference marks these anniversaries. Papers will address land, air and maritime topics, including technology; tactics, operations and strategy; logistics; organisation; command; doctrine; the media; culture; and the legacy of 1918.
2-3 September 2008
Birmingham & Midland Institute
Margaret Street
Birmingham B3 3BS

Organised by the Centre for First World War Studies, University of Birmingham, Defence Studies (Army); Defence Studies (Royal Air Force); Defence Studies (Royal Navy).

Speakers include:
Gary Sheffield, Sebastian Cox, Stephen Badsey

There are a limited number of slots available for early-stage scholars to give papers. Please contact Professor Gary Sheffield (gDOTdDOTsheffieldATbhamDOTacDOTuk – replace capitalised words with punctuation) with offers of presentations.

For further details and an application form, visit http://www.1918modernwar.bham.ac.uk/

(Some chap called Todman is also speaking at the end of the second day…)


19 Responses to 1918 – The Genesis of Modern Warfare: The Birth of the Royal Air Force and the Hundred Days Campaign

  1. Brett says:

    Is it egocentric to suspect that this conference was organised just to taunt me?

    Well, yes.

  2. trenchfever says:

    Brett, I for one will be happy to share my paper, and to squirrel out others if contributors are willing to hand them over. Although I’m down to talk about 1918 in popular memory (potentially a reprise of my talk to ADFA – I think the Iron Maiden went down well last time) I want to start it by looking at what, if anything, the RAF did to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its foundation in 1943.

  3. Brett says:

    Don’t mind me — just having a whine at the gross injustice of holding an airpower conference when I can’t attend, having (a) no money (b) no time and (c) no money!

    But thanks, I’d love to have a look at your paper. Sounds like an interesting take … I can’t recall the RAF paying much attention to anniversaries, outside of reunion dinners and the like — too young and future-oriented I guess — but then I don’t go up to 1943!

  4. Ross says:

    Brett – Don’t worry I am in the UK and I can’t get to this as it is being held during the week and I will be working. Oh the injustice. Does sound very interesting and a conference I would love to attend.

  5. Stuart Mitchell says:

    I was told today that one of my old classmates (Jon Boff) is presenting on Command during the Hundred Days so I should be able to nab his paper for anyone interested.

    If there’s interest as well, I’m happy to try and badger John and Gary to sort out some method of recording the conference, perhaps with a view of posting it online. A virtual conference if you will. I figure it’s worth a shot even if it’s just sound. Although I’m not holding my breath on this side of things.

  6. Chris Williams says:

    Do it, mate – check out this recent thread on Crooked Timber as a classic example of the continuing salience of Blackadder:
    Liddell Hart is present all along. I turn up at about comment number 150 and at it gets a bit heated. . .

  7. trenchfever says:

    Chris – I had a look at that thread last night, but I felt a bit like the Liberty tank in 1919: could have done a lot of damage, if only I’d turned up in time for the main action. I wondered if your slightly uncharacteristic public smackdown of non-professional historians was deliberately designed to get them wound up? It worked. But I think you’ve had the last word now.

    Stuart – seriously, have a chat to John and Gary about what web support they’ve got lined up. Getting all those people to agree to be recorded might be a hassle, but with them all together it might be a good occasion to do a 15 minute podcast on some of the main issues. Would be a great thing to download from the CfFWWS.

  8. Chris Williams says:

    Actually, that smackdown was intended for economists and philosophers who seem quite keen on expert knowledge through proper channels in their own specialisms, but once the discussion turns to history, they come over all AJP Taylor at the drop of a hat, based on some programme they once saw on the telly. It’s a shame that my comment was a bit ambiguous: I was emphasising ‘professional _historians_’ not ‘_professional_ historians’.

    I’ve nothing whatsoever against amateur historians getting involved, so long as they do it properly. If anything, I think that professional historians (especially those funded by other peoples’ taxes) have an obligation to communicate to the general public. Amateurs don’t have that obligation, although it’s nice if they join in.

    There is a bit of a problem, though. I can look up War in History at the drop of a mouse. People outside academia can’t, and thus are much more likely to fall back onto knowledge gleaned from cheap books about tanks (admit it, we’ve all read at least one), which aren’t too hot on the learning curve.

  9. […] of the Royal Air Force and the Hundred Days Campaign June 18, 2008 — mahross I know Dan Todman has already noted this but I have been asked to spread the word as it were so here is the […]

  10. Ross says:

    I have had an email from Gary about this conference. I mentioned podcasts and he is not dure about that but he did mention there would be a book so that is somethign for those of us not able to attend.

    Chris – That thread was very interesting. Its a shame that people can’t take the time to really understand the debates and come out with informed opinion on what it was actually like and the conditions that the generals were operating under.

  11. Stuart Mitchell says:

    Just an update I’ve contacted John and Gary via email making some inquiries, and offering my services if needs be. I think the podcast idea is excellent Dan although I shudder to think of how difficult it would be to distil a whole conference into 15 mintues.

    Anyway if they don’t email me back in the next day or two I’ll badger them when I see them on Saturday.

    Chris that’s an interesting thread, but I had to skip over large swathes of it (. Reading opinions like those expressed there affect me in one of two ways; they either steel my determination to change things or sadden me deeply. Unfortunately it was the latter today. I see the word futility bandied around far too much and it makes me wonder, do people consider the implications of its use? As many a good author has pointed out, to say the war was futile is to do a disservice to those who fought and died. Anyway I won’t walk that well trodden path.

    In truth this thread, (and the IHR colloquium) have got me wondering about the nature of revisionism. Is there a ‘type’ of person more likely to be persuaded by the arguments? From personal experience I was swayed very quickly when I first sat in Dan’s WW1 Lit & Myth class, but in many ways that’s what I was at university for – to have my preconceptions challenged. So is there perhaps an ideal climate for revisionism? Could you ever foster that climate amongst the general population? Dan, out of interest have you ever had someone take your course and stick stubbornly to the ‘orthodox’ view?

  12. trenchfever says:

    Yes, I shot him as an example to encourage the others 😉

    Don’t distill the conference – if you’re sitting through it, find a question to ask the good speakers if they’ve got time at the end – ‘What’s the biggest misconception about 1918?’ for example?

    What students are willing to own up to, and what they actually think, are different things. I’ve never had somebody still shouting me down at the end, but I think that quite a lot of people aren’t totally convinced. And that’s a good thing – far less scary than those I over convince, who come out certain that it was all quite fun! I know anecdotally from fellow seminar teachers that there are students – probably the ones looking most attentive – who get the wrong end of the stick when I’m lecturing and come out convinced that I’m a right wing enthusiast for capital punishment, the enslavement of the working class and conscription (none of which is the case). At least one has been stunned to find out that I’m politically to the left of most of my Modern British colleagues (although this says more about QM than my views).

    That said, I think university students in general are in a better position to have their views changed on the First World War now than previously. They don’t usually have the same sense of family connection and ownership, and they’re at a point in their lives where they’re willing to be challenged.

    Chris and Stuart – you two can have a discussion amongst yourselves about the meaning of futility.

  13. Chris Williams says:

    WRT this, I’ve just had an invitation from _History and Policy_ to go to a seminar on ‘Communicating History’ on July 2, which is connected to the Anglo-American conference.
    I’m going to toddle on down – anyone fancy meeting up for a ‘Why oh why?’ pint afterwards?

  14. trenchfever says:

    Annoyingly, I am only just back from holiday on that day and have other meetings, although I am keen on going to the last day. But very happy to meet up at the end of the 2nd.

  15. […] Airminded commenter Chris Williams. (See also the cross-post at John Quiggin’s own blog, and some comments at Trench Fever.) It’s a good example of somebody posting some interesting ideas which resulted in a thorough […]

  16. Stuart Mitchell says:

    Another update: I’ve heard back from the elusive Gary and he’s put me in charge of looking into options etc for online content, which is promising indeed. In the coming weeks I’ll find out what University of Birmingham and Birmingham & Midland Institute have available for facilities, and see if I can’t liaise with the CfFWWS webmaster to see what online capabilities we’ve got. Once I’ve found all that out I’ll be able to see what can feasibly be accomplished.

  17. Chris Williams says:

    That’s all very well, but are you up for a pint on Wednesday night?

    Yesterday I had a 4-minute tutorial on Audacity, the OS sound-editing system. It appears to be amazingly easy to use. Might be worth a look – and I wonder if there are any very large UK universities with a thing about educational technology who would pay you to learn about the other necessary techie bits?

  18. Stuart Mitchell says:

    Thank you very much for the offer Chris but unfortunately I’ll be unable to get down to London on Wednesday. I’ve got an incredible amount of work stacking up at the moment and I need every available minute to get on top of it all. I can finally empathise with university academics who’re forever operating under the strain of institutional bureaucracy.

    I’ll take a look at Audacity I need a bit of software for my laptop, but how I go about organising this is very dependant on what the university has hardware wise, or what funds it can allocate. To tell you the truth I’ve done a fair bit of sound recording in the past so I’m starting with a decent (albeit two year old) foundation. Then again if any institution fancies paying me to update my knowledge I shall certainly follow it up. Doubt Brum would though, but I’ll ask about a little!

  19. Ross says:


    How did this conference go?


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