What is history? What is its relevance to the air power strategist? These are important questions; however, air forces have not embraced historical study to the same extent as have their army or navy counterparts. Nevertheless, in 1911, in the same year as the first ‘bomb’ was dropped by an Italian aircraft over Libya, US naval historian and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote that ‘the study of military history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practices.’ While history does not provide clear lessons, the study of the past can provide a lens through which to understand and reflect on the challenges currently faced by modern air forces. In this lecture, Dr Ross Mahoney will discuss the relationship between the study of history and the education of air power strategists. He will describe the purpose of history and the challenges of applying the past to the present, outline how air forces have used history as a tool for education, and reflect on how history can be used to educate strategists in the continuing challenge to achieve professional mastery in air forces.
Dr Ross Mahoney
Dr Mahoney is an independent historian specialising in air power and the history of air warfare. He is the Editor of From Balloons to Drones, an online platform that seeks to provide analysis and debate about air power history, theory, and contemporary operations. Between 2013 and 2017, he was the resident Historian at the Royal Air Force Museum in the United Kingdom, and he is a graduate of the University of Birmingham (MPhil and PhD) and the University of Wolverhampton (BA (Hons) and PGCE). To date, he has published several chapters and articles, edited two books, and delivered papers on three continents. He is also an Assistant Director of the Second World War Research Group (SWWRG) as well as a Director of the SWWRG’s Asia-Pacific Regional Group.