In the Air and on the ground: Uncovering the Local and Global Layers of Civil Aviation in the Interwar Years

Andreas Greiner (German Historical Institute Washington DC)


This talk focuses on the development of world-spanning airline services in the interwar period. Between the 1920s and 1940s, state-sponsored airline companies of all major European powers and the United States developed sophisticated route networks to their far-flung colonies and dominions in Africa, Asia, Australia, and South America. The talk unfolds an entangled history. It identifies patterns of commonality, connectivity, coordinated planning – but also competition – underlying the evolution of seemingly separated airline networks. On a micro-analytical level, the talk explores how infrastructural arrangements played out on the spot. An analytical zoom into the microcosms of airfields provides new perspectives on the material dimension of civil aviation. It redirects our gaze to the fragility of logistical systems and reveals how local conditions and actors had decisive impact on global structures.

The session will be held in presence, but it is also possible to access it online. To join, please click the button below and enter the code 294582.

Biographical Note

Andreas Greiner (German Historical Institute Washington DC, USA)

Andreas Greiner is a research fellow in Global and Transregional History at the GHI Washington. His research specializes in infrastructure networks, their spatiality and materiality in the long 19th and early 20th centuries. He received his PhD in history from ETH Zurich in 2019 where he also worked as a research assistant at the Chair of Modern History. Before joining the GHI in January 2021, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the Max Weber Program at the European University Institute in Florence. His first monograph Human Porterage and Colonial State Formation in German East Africa, 1870–1914: Tensions of Transport (forthcoming 2022) explores the shifting role of caravan transport and human porterage in colonial East Africa, unveiling the resilience of precolonial structures in the era of “high imperialism.” His current research project examines the entangled history of intercontinental airline networks in the interwar period.