A Biographical Study of Lord Brabazon and the Politics of Air Power

About the Award

Based at the Royal Air Force Museum, London, and the University of Exeter (Centre for War, State and Society), this studentship will consist of biographical research into the politics of air power as refracted in the private papers of John Moore-Brabazon, later first Baron Brabazon of Tara, an aviation pioneer and Conservative politician.

The main objectives of the PhD are: to work on the papers of Lord Brabazon held at the RAF Museum both as the principal primary source for a PhD and as an archival resource to be catalogued; to research the life and work of Lord Brabazon in the field of aviation; using the Brabazon papers as a guide, to select a particular facet or theme for research into the history of aviation and the politics of air power; to relate findings to Lord Brabazon’s political career to wider archival research into the politics of air power in Britain; to work with staff at the RAF Museum, in publicising the contents of the Brabazon papers and their research potential; to contribute to the research culture of both the Centre for War, State and Society at Exeter and the RAF Museum, notably by attending and contributing to workshops and conferences.

Further details:

John Moore-Brabazon was the first British man to fly an aircraft fitted with a combustion engine (in 1908), but he was perhaps most famous for his late 1940s involvement in the eponymously-named project to develop the world’s largest ever propeller-driven airliner, the Bristol Brabazon. Before that, Brabazon served in Winston Churchill’s wartime coalition, first as Minister of Transport, later as Minister for Aircraft Production. An outspoken appeaser and close colleague of Oswald Mosley, Brabazon never became a senior figure in the wartime coalition. His engineering expertise and lifelong association with both the aircraft industry and the early development of the RAF makes for an interesting biographical study.

Drawing on Brabazon’s largely untapped papers held at the Royal Air Force Museum, there are numerous possible avenues of specialist research, which a Ph.D. student might follow. Indeed, Brabazon was a polymath, and his papers include material on the following areas, early aviation; aerial photography in the First World War; the Brabazon Committees on post-1945 transport aircraft; and aviation matters in general. The is also non-aviation related material in the collection that provides important context to Brabazon’s development. To support the cataloguing of the Brabazon papers, the student will be offered a full induction to the Museum and trained in related activities, such as document handling and the use of the Museum’s collection management system. The Museum would seek to involve the student in several of its activities, including the Museum’s research programme of lectures, seminars, and conferences.

The Ph.D. will thus begin by reviewing the RAF Museum’s Brabazon papers. The objective here is likely to be threefold: first, to understand the scope of the papers as a research resource; second, to begin the process of cataloguing the papers; and, third, to identify specific themes for Ph.D. study. Each of these objectives will be met in consultation with the successful candidate’s supervisory team. Once a precise research topic has been agreed between the student and the supervisory team, the Ph.D. will then explore those aspects of Lord Brabazon’s life and political career that have been identified as the core subjects for doctoral analysis. Most of this research will be conducted in situ at the RAF Museum, where the successful candidate will be offered specialist advice, desk space, and computing facilities. The Ph.D. is likely to require supplementary research in other archives, both governmental and non-governmental, although the selection of these archives will depend on the specific research themes pursued.

The Ph.D. researcher will be based at the University, although it is expected that the bulk of their research time will be spent at the RAF Museum, London. Supervision, training, mentoring and additional research will thus take place both at the University of Exeter and at the RAF Museum. The student will be supervised by Professor Martin Thomas, Director of the Centre for War, State and Society, University of Exeter. The partner supervisor will be Dr. Ross Mahoney, the resident Aviation Historian at the RAF Museum. The post-holder will have full access to the RAF Museum’s holdings of Lord Brabazon’s papers. Guidance in supporting the cataloguing of Lord Brabzon’s papers will be provided by Nina Hadaway, the Museum’s Curator of Documents.

The RAF Museum tells the story of the story of the RAF through its people and collections. The Museum’s ambition is to ensure that the Royal Air Force’s story endures and enriches future generations. The Museum is, therefore, committed to research and seeks to become a national centre of excellence for the study of air power, RAF history, and related fields.

Duration and Value of Award

The Ph.D. will ideally commence in September 2016. UK level fees will be paid as part of the studentship, together with a maintenance grant which will match the standard Arts and Humanities Research Council rate (£14,296 in 2016-17). Please note that this studentship is open to UK/EU students only.

How to Apply

Entry criteria

Applicants will normally have an MA or equivalent in a relevant discipline If English is not your native language, then you will need to satisfy our English language requirements.

To Apply

To be considered for this doctoral award you must complete an online application form where you must submit a copy of your full CV, transcripts of your previous degree results, a covering letter outlining your academic experience and interests and your reasons for wishing to undertake this research project, details of two referees and, if relevant, proof of your English language proficiency, by 31st July 2016.

In addition you must also ensure that your referees email their references to the Postgraduate Administrator at humanities-pgadmissions@exeter.ac.uk by 31st July 2016. Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline.

References should be submitted by your referees to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

All documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided if they are not in English.

Applicants will normally have an MA or equivalent in a relevant discipline. If English is not your native language, then you will need to satisfy our English language requirements.

Interviews are expected to be held in Exeter and Shortlisted candidates will be asked to prepare a ten-minute presentation on the possible outline of their Ph.D. research.

For further information or informal discussion about the position, please contact Professor Martin Thomas at martin.c.thomas@exeter.ac.uk


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