International Workshop: ‘Conceptualising Science and Technology in Interwar Disarmament: Convertibility and Militaristic Perversion of Aviation, 1919-1945’

Date and time

Monday 27 March 2017, 15:00-17:00(Venue opens at 14:50)


Room 309C 9th Floor, Academy Common Building, Surugadai Campus, Meiji University



Chair Mahito Takeuchi, Associate Professor, College of Commerce, Nihon University
Presentation S. Waqar H. Zaidi, Ph. D., Assistant Professor, Lahore University of Management Science


Increasingly radical proposals for aerial disarmament from the late 1920s onwards were underpinned by long-standing assumptions about the inherent nature and potential of aviation. At the heart of these proposals sat the assumption that all aviation had developed through application of science, and as such was inherently civilian in nature – it was invented by civilians, was inherently internationalising and pacifying in its effects, and would only reach its truest and greatest potential in civilian and commercial roles. Yet civilian aviation was also often depicted as being, like science itself, easily converted to military use. Many believed that because civilian aeroplanes were similar to military ones they could be quickly and easily converted into effective bombers if needed in times of war. Others argued that national civil aviation infrastructures more broadly could be utilised for military purposes. This belief in the ease of convertibility from civil to military aviation developed into a central tenant for liberal internationalism by the thirties, and became a foundational tenant in its visions of aviation and international relations. It allowed for the development of a powerful ‘militaristic perversion’ argument, and a consequent critique of militarism and government policy. The military, the argument went, was perverting civilian science and science-based technology for its own militaristic ends. The convertibility and militaristic perversion arguments were used to make the case for wide-ranging disarmament regimes that incorporated civilian infrastructure, and for even more radical proposals such as those for the international control of civil aviation. These were not however uncontested - convertibility was widely debated at international arms limitations talks such as the League of Nation’s Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference (1927-1930), and the Geneva Disarmament Conference itself (1932-1933).