Journal Review – The Aviation Historian

The Aviation Historian, Issue No. 11 (April 2015). Photos. Colour plates. Notes. 130 pp.

Aviation Historian002Well, it was nice of someone to name a journal after my job title! Seriously, The Aviation Historian is a high quality journal dealing with the field of aviation history that deserves to be read by academic and enthusiast alike. The journal started in 2012 and is edited by two noted names in the field of aviation journalism, Nick Stroud and Mick Oakey. Both Nick and Mick worked as Assistant Editor and Editor respectively of Aeroplane until 2010. Thus, this venture is in safe hands. As the journal’s website states, the journal sets out ‘to provide fresh perspectives on flying history for enthusiasts who want to progress beyond the mainstream monthlies’ (emphasis in original). This I think it does. The journal sits somewhere between monthly magazines, such as Aeroplane, and academic journals, such as RAF Air Power Review. Thus, in many respects, it could be considered as a journalzine, as it seeks, very well in my opinion, to bridge the gap between these two very different markets.

The contents of the latest edition of the journal illustrate some of the high quality material that The Aviation Historian seeks to publish. Thirteen articles in this edition range from an examination of the British Government’s 1955 White Paper on the supply of military aircraft by Professor Keith Hayward to a piece on the development of Western Australia’s Air Beef operations in the 1950s. Both of these pieces illustrate the diversity that you find in the journal. Indeed, it also illustrates that this is not a journal about air power or just military aviation. It is much broader than that, which is good as the history of civil aviation is an area sadly lacking in academic circles. Yes, there is some work going on, but it does not appear to get the same coverage as air power and military aviation. Indeed, we should recognise that there is a difference between air power and aviation history. The former is about the application of military aviation while the latter is much broader and encompasses both military and civil aspects. While I digress, I think this is an important point about this journal and the market it seeks to fill. By not focussing narrowly on military aspects, the journal highlights the broad canvas that is aviation history. This also allows the journal to highlight unusual aspects of aviation history that often get overlooked, such as Nick Stroud’s already mentioned piece on Western Australia’s Air Beef operations. A further example of this diversity is illustrated by the piece on the United States Army Air Corps’ Cold Weather Experiment Station in Alaska during the Second World War in this edition; not something, you would see elsewhere I suspect other than, perhaps, on a blog.

Overall, this excellent journal deserves to continue to do well. You get a diverse range of articles that are backed up by excellent photos, colour plates and illustrations. The journal also includes a letters page and book reviews to keep you going.

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2 responses to “Journal Review – The Aviation Historian

  1. Cheers for this Ross. I will certainly look it up. I agree that there is space for this as a journal but I fear that academics won’t use it because of a lack of impact. As you know, there is a lot of pressure to get ranked publications for the REF. There doesn’t appear to be a formal peer review process nor a democratic way of selecting editors. I think that’s a shame because my work would slot into it quite nicely – more than the air power/military history journals.

  2. Lynsey,

    I know what you mean by impact, but I would suggest that this work is not really aimed solely at us. If we split the market up into paddlers, swimmers and divers then we are the latter. Those that read magazines such as Aeroplane are paddlers. This work is aimed at swimmers, or those who want to delve a bit deeper than the so-called Airfix school of history that we find in the magazine world. It is aimed at bridging a gap, which I think it does quite well. As for peer review, no, I don’t believe there is one, but again, it is not aimed at that sort of market; however, they do have an advisory board with some noted names in the aviation world such as Dr Richard Hallion. I would still submit something as engaging with the broader world is never a bad thing.

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