11 January 2009

Primary history sources on Aeropolitics in the 1940s

Those with an interest in international aeropolitics will know that some of the most critical decisions were made in the 1940s, during and in the aftermath of the Second World War.

This was the period that saw in 1944 the drafting of the Chicago Convention, that lead to the founding of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Three of the key players in Chicago were the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. In total 54 countries participated with the Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia deciding not to attend, Argentina not being invited, and Germany and Japan excluded.

It also saw the negotiation of bilateral air services arrangements UPDATED (note in particular the "resolution" at the end of the document) between the United Kingdom and the United States in Bermuda from 15 January to 11 February 1946. Bermuda 1, as it is now called, become a model for thousands of subsequent bilateral air services arrangements as attempts to establish a widely-accepted multilateral agreement covering all then five "freedoms of the air" failed.

With a particular interest in what happened about the "fifth freedom", a major subject of contention in Chicago, and limits on foreign ownership and control of international airlines (El Salvador was very far sighted on this at Chicago but gained no support), I have recently been hunting on the web for some of the primary history sources for this period and have found some interesting "nuggets", examples of which follow.

ICAO has now made available some of the original documents UPDATED from the Chicago Conference (1 November - 7 December 1944) relating to its founding.

From the United States:

  • A large 259-page collection of papers relating to the Chicago Conference, including the lead up to it
  • A 27 June 1949 secret bulletin reporting on post-Bermuda British Commonwealth developments that were of concern to the United States
  • An oral history interview with George P. Baker
From the United Kingdom:

  • A 12 February 1946 oral question and answer in the House of Lords about the outcome of the Bermuda negotiations
  • A 21 February 1946 report from Flight magazine on the outcome of the Bermuda negotiations
  • The Hansard transcript of the 19 December 1946 House of Lords debate of the Air Navigation Bill that was among other things to implement to Chicago Convention
From Canada (there is more material available for the late 1940s in the civil aviation sections of Documents on Canadian External Relations):

  • A memorandum dated 13 February 1946 assessing the implications of the Bermuda agreement for Canada
From Australia (there is more material available in Documents on Australian Foreign Policy which has good indicies):

  • A secret cable from London on 2 January 1944 reporting on the UK government's assessment of the likely United States position
  • A cable from Hodgson (Secretary, Department of External Affairs and member of the Australian delegation) on 28 November 1946 reporting on progress at the Chicago Convention
  • A secret cable from Drakeford (Minister for Civil Aviation and head of the Australian delegation) on 5 December 1944 asking whether to sign the Chicago Convention
Australia, supported by New Zealand, had what was in retrospect one of the most idealistic/bizarre proposals at Chicago.

I have come across a reference to an article by Dutch aviation historian Marc Dierikx, "Shaping world aviation. Anglo-American civil aviation relations, 1944-1946", in: Journal of Air Law and Commerce 57(1992) nr. 4, p. 795-840 and suspect that he has made use of many of these sources.

I will look to add some more to this posting when I find more sources.

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