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Gordon Pirie

Pilots, politicians and propagandists all publicised the possibility and desirability of imperial flying. British newspapers and magazines, several radio broadcasts, and vigorous book publishing for children and adults contributed accounts about imperial aviation and flying experiences. The encyclopaedic Air Annual of the British Empire represented specialised serial publishing about Empire aviation most voluminously. The world air route maps published periodically in The Times and in Aeroplane and Flight, as well as in aeronautical books, transmitted a powerful message about tenancy of the sky and about imperial communications. In the early 1930s the market for books about British aviation appeared inexhaustible. The BBC's Radio Times billed the programme as a sound-panorama of the development of flight since the Middle Ages. Empire air transport reappeared on the National Service in 1938 as part of a series of four radio programmes entitled 'Lines on the Map'.

in Cultures and caricatures of British imperial aviation
Passengers, pilots, publicity
Author: Gordon Pirie

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.

Robert Bickers

Britain. The tone of Indiscreet Letters is of imperial adventure, and the achievement of great things. This rugged individualism was a characteristic virtue incorporated into the self-image of Britain in China. In memoir, fiction and popular memory the Boxer rising served as Britain in China’s equivalent of the Indian ‘mutiny’, and thereby almost as a rite of imperial passage

in Britain in China