October Update: Continued Research and Honors Thesis Chapters Outline

Since my last post, I have gone through a lot of logistical planning for my honors thesis. A lot of work on my honors thesis this month consisted of thinking about how I want to approach my first honors thesis draft. Honestly, taking my honors seminar (a class focused on the different components of a thesis required for all honors thesis students in the history department) has helped me a lot with this process, as the different writing assignments like primary source methods and the state of our respective fields have made me think deeper than just my proposed topic and my sources. The final grade from my honors seminar comes from completed chapter from our honors thesis. Also, last week, I met with my advisor to discuss my research and writing progress and to discuss a chapter outline of how I would like my thesis to look. After working through making this chapters outline and considering my notes I have taken so far, I have decided to make the first chapter I complete be on film representations of the Royal Flying Corps, including television shows and feature films. These were the sources I am most familiar and comfortable with and I worked over the course of the month to look at each source both individually and as a part of an evolution of culture.

Below, I have included the rough outline for my honors thesis so far, mainly consisting of chapter headings and brief descriptions of the sources and ideas associated with each. This upcoming month, my main goal is to flesh out this outline to include more in-depth arguments for each section and choose the segments of each source I will use to support these claims in preparation for my first draft of a chapter.


    • Argument: Similar to the admiration for the RAF of the Second World War, the RFC is central to British culture and identity, as well as to portrayals of the First World War. Although these RFC representations have certain core images, they change over time. With the public’s perception of the flying ace seen as the “ideal”, a traditional, upper class masculine ideal, popular culture focused more on this image at a time when the more traditional view of British culture and an ideal was challenged. By showing a connection between these different representations, it is evident that the portrayals of the RFC not only reflect British society during the war, but also an evolution of British culture and the respective cultural norms in the post-war years.  
    • How is this different from the place of the Second World War RAF pilot in British culture?
    • How does the portrayal and interpretation/representation of the RFC change over time? What factors influence this change? What does this say about British culture and its evolution over time?
    • Historiography on the RFC…How is this project different? (most of introduction)
    • What does the reader need to understand in order to understand the greater significance of the project?
    • Key terms/concepts (abbreviations, etc.)

Social Identity Theory

    • How do you define Social Identity in regards to the RFC? What factors contribute to this definition of social identity?
    • Why does this matter in this time period (Industrialization, New Imperialism, etc.)
    • Things to think about: Social class and masculinity (and factors that influence this perception) and how might social identity manifest itself

Royal Flying Corps: Background

  • Formation
    • Key Figures + Background
    • Royal Flying Corps vs Royal Naval Air Service
    • Intent for RFC within the context of the armed services
  • Training
    • Presence and role of coming in with prior education
    • Flying Officers/Observers vs Ground Crew, NCOs, etc.
    • Original requirement for prior training 
  • Recruitment Tactics
    • Recruitment Posters (Design, Color Scheme/Imagery, Language, etc.)
  • Squadron Life
    • Demographics (Squadron Rosters)
    • Duties
    • Mess Life
    • Personal Correspondence
  • Wartime Reporting
    • Newspaper Articles: Common themes, language, etc. 
    • Origin for a lot of the stereotypes/perceptions of WW1 pilots (“idealized” their image for a patriotic agenda)

Literature: Memoirs and Fiction

    • “New Genre”
    • Timeline/Patterns in publication dates
      1. McCudden’s Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps (Published Version vs Manuscript)
      2. Lewis’ Sagittarius Rising
      3. Gould’s Open Cockpit
      4. Cronyn’s memoir
      5. Key factors in memoirs: Background, language, way they describe their wartime experiences (how did they get into the RFC?) , way they describe their squadron mates, etc.
      6. Development of the genre: patterns in publication, reception, etc.
      7. Literature reviews?
      1. Novels: What role did they play?
      2. Journey’s End
      3. Winged Victory 
      4. Biggles
      5. Novels from UVa
      6. Development of a new genre of fiction
      7. Literature reviews?

Film and Television (1930s vs 1970s vs 1980s)

  • Hell’s Angels (+ Film Reviews)
  • Dawn Patrol
      1. 1930 Film vs 1938 Film
      2. Connections to 56 Squadron…Started the trope?
  • Wings TV Show (1977-1978) (+ Film Reviews)
  • Aces High (+ Film Reviews)
      1. Why is it significant that it is an adaptation of Journey’s End? Why is it significant that it adapts the story to fit the RFC?
      2. What are the character archetypes?
      3. Why is it significant that this film came out in the 1970s? 
  • Blackadder Goes Forth: Private Plane (1989)…Lord Flashheart (+ Film Reviews)


    • RFC popular culture presented an ideal “masculine” image (further enforced by a romanticized, stereotyped portrayal) and was a very clean image to show a lighter sight to a very dark war and failing stronghold on British culture (i.e. knights of the air stereotype)
    • What does this say about British culture and its evolution over time? 
    • Current place of RAF in British culture?