Hidden spaces
: Camouflage and the British landscape, 1936-1945

  • James Philip Robinson

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research explores the historical and cultural geographies of camouflage through an empirical focus upon the British ‘civil camouflage project’ of the 1930s and 1940s. In recent years, the practice of camouflage has received an increasing amount of attention across academic disciplines such as art, history, architectural studies, and the biological sciences, but it remains an area relatively unexplored by geography. This research highlights how a critical examination of camouflage can contributed to some of the key debates within cultural and historical geography surrounding such issues as landscape, vision, visuality and visual culture, aerial spaces and practices, and nocturnal and military geographies. Concentrating upon the practice of ‘civil camouflage’ in the immediate years before and after the outbreak of the Second World War, this research examines the attempts of camoufleurs to devise and develop camouflage strategies in order to conceal and hide a variety of ‘natural’ and industrial features in the British ‘Home Front’ landscape. Influenced by the proliferation of aeronautical technologies and anxieties over the threat of bombardment, it examines how civil camouflage emerged as a technological response to the eye in the sky, demonstrating a complex entanglement of aerial and terrestrial spaces. Following on from this, it discusses how established artistic forms of concealment were challenged and negotiated to accommodate for a variety of other knowledges: biological, optical, horticultural, engineering and aeronautical. In doing so, it draws upon a wide range of examples, from the concealment of distinctly ‘modern’ features such as oil tanks and gasometers, nocturnal camouflage, to the concealment of water spaces and interventions in architectural aesthetics and building practices
Date of Award12 Jun 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPeter Merriman (Supervisor) & Mark Whitehead (Supervisor)

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