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O.G.S. Crawford, Inventor Of Aerial Archaeology

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Author Topic: O.G.S. Crawford, Inventor Of Aerial Archaeology  (Read 744 times)
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« on: July 10, 2008, 10:58:53 am »

A subsequent unpublished book, Bloody Old Britain, gave Kitty Hauser the title for this wonderfully captivating biography. With startlingly crass timing, he submitted it in 1943 to Methuen, which described it as "quite unnecessarily bitter . . . like hitting a man when he is down". Hauser adds that it is also "appallingly misanthropic and misogynistic . . . hysterically funny . . . you fear for the man as you laugh. He is so very angry." It is to be hoped that it will now at last be published.

Crawford's grandiose aim was to analyse Britain of the early mid-century as an archaeologically inclined anthropologist: he was, in spite of himself, an artist, and predictably loathed art though many artists revered him. He scrutinises Britain's often malfunctioning, invariably cosmetic consumer products: the fire irons and ornaments of the showplace front parlour; ergonomically hostile tumblers and soup spoons; industrially produced foodstuffs such as Krusto. He rails against hotels, the "hospital corners" on the beds, the nasty cooking, the disobliging staff. He hates gravel pits, arterial road ribbon development, jerry-built houses, the Forestry Commission, advertising, the depiction of England as quaintly bucolic (H V Morton, Batsford, et cetera). Most of all he hates his compatriots. "If ever a people wanted a sound thrashing it's the English." Save that they are crudely expressed, his attitudes were orthodoxly bien-pensant. Despising England was, and remains, a characteristically English trait.

Crawford did not let his Russophilia get in the way of an admiration of Nazi archaeology. By 1939 prehistory was taught at 25 German universities. As Hauser observes, the unworldly Crawford seems not to have realised that the archaeologists whose funding he envied were puppets of Darré's and Himmler's Ahnenerbe, the "ancestral research" department of the SS, which also measured heads, carried out medical "research" and manufactured brand new prehistoric pots at its Allach factory in its effort to prove the primacy of Aryanism. As late as December 1938, he told the (British) Prehistoric Society that he hoped that Germany's "eastward drive, already begun in other spheres, may be accompanied by archaeological activities". That "other spheres" is comically terrible. Yet he also financially supported the German Jewish refugee Gerhard Bersu, who excavated Little Woodbury, just south of Salisbury.
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