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Museum offers funded PhD in conjunction with Exeter University

Published on: 18 July 2016

Brabazon’s passenger, proving that pigs do fly, 4 November 1909The Royal Air Force Museum is delighted to announce an exciting collaborative research project on ‘A biographical study of Lord Brabazon and the politics of air power,’ which will make use of its unique archival resources and expertise. 

This Ph.D. project with the Centre for War, State and Society at the University of Exeter 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.
Karen Whitting, the Museum’s Director of Public Programmes, said:

‘The RAF Museum is delighted to be supporting this exciting partnership as part of our Research Programme. It will draw on the Museum’s extensive archive collection and develop our understanding of this important area of aviation history.’

Aviator’s certificate No.1

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.

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.

Lord Brabazon with female pilots of the Air Transport Auxiliary, White Waltham, 1941

Professor Martin Thomas of the University of Exeter said:

'The Centre for War, State and Society (CWSS) at the University of Exeter is delighted to be working with the RAF Museum in offering a fully-funded PhD studentship to research the life and work of Lord Brabazon, aviation pioneer and a key figure in the development of Britain's military and civil aircraft industry. The successful candidate will be based in Exeter University's History Department and will have the opportunity to work through Lord Brabazon's private papers in conjunction with RAF Museum staff.'

Dr Ross Mahoney, the Museum’s Aviation Historian, said:
‘This will be a fantastic opportunity for both the Museum and the selected student. This project illustrates the Museum’s commitment to developing our relationship with our academic partners while making use of an underutilised aspect of our extensive collection. The student will have the opportunity to research a significant aspect of Britain’s aviation heritage and make vital contribution to our understanding in this area.’

Lord Brabazon declaring the competitions open, World Gliding Championships, Great Hucklow, 19-23 July 1954

The PhD 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 PhD will ideally commence in September 2016. UK/EU level tuition fees will be paid as part of the studentship, together with an annual 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.

More details on how to apply for this exciting opportunity can be found here

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