Event — Webinar

Princely airs: aerial navigation and the question of sovereignty in Colonial India

What did the princes in colonial India do after they took to the skies in their airplanes? Joppan George (postdoctoral fellow at IIAS) will talk about it during our first webinar. 

Please note: It's no longer possible to register for this online lecture. We have reached the maximum capacity of participants.

The British imperial agenda of aviation in the interwar years accented the promise of shrinking the vast distances connecting London to Cairo, Karachi and Calcutta, all the way to Darwin. In tune with the imperial design of seamless skyways, the advocacy for peacetime aviation soared among the princes and the pilots in colonial India. This unalloyed enthusiasm, however, was burdened by questions that had not been raised before, but which now had the potential to ground interwar aviation indefinitely. What constituted the colonial airspace was the first of those questions. The patchwork quilt of the sub-continental geography stitched together by British India and the semi-autonomous princely states — which had variegated regimes of quasi sovereignty settled through decades-old customs, engagements and practices — complicated any simple resolution of this question of airspace and the rights therein. Could the princes, under the suzerainty of the Crown, claim also the sovereignty of the air above their territories and deny the flight of British or European airmen? Could the British legal precept of aerial sovereignty, forged in response to the interwar internationalism in Europe, answer the peculiar aviatic conditions of Britain’s empire in India? How did the princes negotiate the slippery terrain of the law of the air?

The speaker

Joppan George, a postdoctoral fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies, Leiden, is a historian of science, technology, and colonial society in South Asia. He earned his PhD in History at Princeton University in 2019, and is presently working on his first monograph on the culture and politics of aviation in colonial India.

The webinar

The lecture will take about 30 minutes. After that, you will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage directly with the speaker and the rest of the audience.