My dissertation, "The Ascending Republic: Aeronautical Culture in France, 1860-1914", explores how France, through its relationship to ballooning, became the center of pre-WWI aeronautics. By tracing how aeronauts navigated the interstices of politics, culture, and technology to rehabilitate the balloon (an artifact that became discredited soon after its invention in 1783), I show how French civil society cultivated a thriving form of early airmindedness decades before the advent of the airplane—one that encompassed such distinct cultural strands as sacrificial patriotism, aristocratic modernity, and technological cosmopolitanism. I argue that ballooning became a patriotic endeavor that people from all political stripes could get behind, and was a key practice in helping shape the image of France as a nation in which technology, quality, and style came together in a single package. In developing my argument I incorporate from and contribute to a variety of fields—from the history of science and technology to celebrity studies and the history of civil society in Third Republic France.
On December 6th, 2017, I successfully defended my dissertation. If you would like a copy of it, don't hesitate to get in contact, and I will provide you with the password to download the file.