An informative account of an Imperial flight by an inexperienced air traveller appeared in the Field in the summer of 1935. An Imperial ticket bought some comfort and security, but not lightning speed. The Imperial Airways Chairman, Sir Eric Geddes, was adamant that speed was a secondary consideration for many Empire travellers. Air services were beginning to choreograph imperialism, especially in places not yet touched by mechanised land transport. In 1932, a disillusioned South African reckoned that Imperial was unlikely to have its passenger contract renewed in Central and Southern Africa. Whimsy percolated an article published in 1939 in the Journal of the Royal African Society about 'the romance' of the air mail to Africa. Like the African airway, the new air route to India was an irresistible subject for writers.
Imperial flying was not just about machines, timetables and routes; it was also about ideas, values and practices. This book focuses on the way airborne mobility itself expressed imperialism. Imperial Airways projected an idealised Britain to the Empire, and interpreted and refracted the Empire to Britons. Passengers in commercial aircraft had adventures in the early days of Empire flying, in a mild way, fleeting, organised overnight stops at foreign places. Writing about and publicising imperial flying in the 1920s and 1930s created the first caricatures of Empire aviation. Words and images about long-distance air journeys, aircraft, landing grounds, passengers, crew and landscapes were necessarily selective and partial. Amy Johnson, in a BBC broadcast, said Great Britain was ready to make a decisive bid for world supremacy in the air. Wealthy people were the passengers (acronym 'PAX' in current airline parlance) on scheduled civil aircraft services in the 1930s on routes between England, Africa, India and Australia. The flying crew and ground staff personified the values of their employer and the Empire. Making the public 'airminded' was certainly part of deliberate acculturation in late imperial Britain; Imperial Airways tapped the Empire for publicity. The virtual mobility, presented by the 1930s texts and images, were enjoyed by earthbound readers and viewers. However, the first life of Empire aviation ended in 1939. In the past six decades, Empire aviation has been actively re-imagined and reincarnated as historical subject, hobby, and period artefact and icon.
British film director revealed that he persuaded his boss, Alexander
Korda, to send him to Burma to fetch film costumes and props, and
make contacts. At the age of eighty-one he recalled his
Imperialjourney from Southampton to Rangoon in 1937 as
one of his happiest travel memories. He exaggerated flying on
average 2,000 miles a day (half that is more likely), but he
by the British with great difficulties – vicious fighting
continued into the early 1870s – and this had seriously
disturbed British ideas about colonial order.
Trollope’s final imperialjourney, to South
Africa, also took place at a strategic moment in British relations
with South Africa. The Transvaal had recently been annexed, which
Trollope supported after considerable doubts
Christopher Ondaatje, Woolf in Ceylon: An
ImperialJourney in the Shadow of Leonard Woolf
1904–1911 (Toronto, 2005), p. 39.
Ann Stoler, ‘Making Empire
Respectable: The Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in
Twentieth-Century Colonial Cultures
Popular imperialism in Britain, continuities and discontinuities over two centuries
John M. MacKenzie
papers. While it could be said that
his Barchester and Palliser series of novels were little influenced by
these imperialjourneys, there is no doubt that many of his short
stories were derived from them, as were aspects of his
characterisations. His novel John Caldigate was partly set in the
Australian gold fields. Moreover, judging by the scale of the
publishers’ advances he received, his travel
Trembling rocks in sensation fiction and empire Gothic
described, as I have said, not just as different from England but as
closely resembling Egypt, before being invaded by its atmosphere to the
extent that it becomes indistinguishable. It is as if the mini-imperialjourneys are finally magnified into the real thing: our narrators become
immersed absolutely in the alien atmospheres.
The Devil’s foot
Cornwall’s clifftops are
Christopher Ondaatje, Woolf in Ceylon: An
ImperialJourney in the Shadow of Leonard Woolf,
1904–1911 (London: HarperCollins, 2005 ), pp. 180–1.
‘The Last King’s Jail Cell’,
accessed 25 November 2016