ABSTRACT

In a 1921 preface to The War in the Air ([1908] 1967, 8), H. G. Wells notes that the book was written before Blériot had flown across the English Channel and when the airship was still in early stages of development. Nonetheless, he trusts that “the reader will find it amusing now to compare the guesses and notions of the author with the achieved realities of today…. [The] book, I venture to think, has not been altogether superseded” (7). This mention of Wells’s book is an appropriate entry point to the subject of this chapter: the surveying gaze from above and how that gaze, though informed by thrill and novelty, comes front-end loaded with ground-based sensibilities, fears and expectations. In the early years of the twentieth century, there was a craze for all things aeronautical in both the United States and Europe and the proliferation of aeronautical clubs, but that enthusiasm played out in the same skies that threatened “Zeppelin scares” in advance of the First World War (Buckley 1999, 35).