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Museum to offer funded PhD in conjunction will King's College London

Published on: 10 February 2016

The King's College London logoThe Royal Air Force Museum is delighted to announce an exciting collaborative research project on ‘The Business History of the British Aircraft Industry’ which will make use of its unrivalled archival resources and expertise.  

This PhD project with the  Department of History and the Sir Michael Howard Centre for the History of War at King’s College London is funded by King’s College’s Professor Sir Richard Trainor Scholarship scheme, honouring its former Principal,  Sir Richard Trainor, and which aims to support research in collaboration with external partners. 

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.’

An early aircraft from deHavilland

The core of this project will be focused on the aviation company records held by the Museum. The aim of this research is to provide the first archive-based account of the history of British aircraft companies. The research seeks to address the many important issues left open in the histories which have transformed our account of this industry over the last generation, particularly about leadership, ownership, politics and innovation. 

In the older histories, whether by historians of the air force, airlines, British war production or the British economy, the story was told of a weak peacetime industry which rose to great heights in wartime but which, not least through government incompetence, was unable to reap the rewards due to it in peacetime. By contrast, in the last generation, historians have told a very different story, in which the industry was primarily military and strong in both peace and war. Indeed, the strength of the industry followed from the particular warlike strategy of the British state, throughout the twentieth century. 

Various Research and Development aircraft at the Museum's Cosford site.

The industry was strongly committed to innovation, to new methods of production, to pushing the boundaries of aviation. In each of these areas, the research will draw on new work which has changed our understanding of the nature and ideology of the British business/technical elite, the history of production and the nature of innovation in the aircraft industry.

The PhD student will be supervised by Professors David Edgerton and Joe Maiolo from KCL with Dr Ross Mahoney, the Museum’s Aviation Historian as the partner organisation supervisor. 

Professor David Edgerton, a world leading expert on Britain’s aviation industry and a member of the RAF Museum’s Research Board, said: 

‘This is a wonderful opportunity for a historian to work on a topic of obvious significance and interest to the history of twentieth-century Britain – the British aircraft industry – and to do so in collaboration with a great museum.’

The Eurofighter DA2  Typhoon

Dr Ross Mahoney 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.’

The student will be primarily based at the Museum’s London site, and the scholarship will provide an annual payment of £15,000 which can be used to cover tuition fees and/or living costs. 

Application for the studentship closes on 29 February 2016.

Further details about how to apply for this exciting opportunity can be found here


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