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Professor Adrian Smith 

Emeritus Professor of Modern History

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Professor Adrian Smith is an Emeritus Professor of Modern History at the University of Southampton.

The Man Who Built The Swordfish: The Life of Sir Richard Fairey, 1887-1956

Early 2018 will see publication (by I.B. Tauris) of my biography of a key figure in British aviation. Until his death in 1956 - the year Fairey Aviation built the first aircraft to fly at over 1000mph – Sir Richard Fairey ran one of Britain's largest and most innovative aircraft companies. In wartime Washington he headed the British Air Commission. ‘CRF’ also founded Fairey Marine, reflecting his accomplishments as a yachtsman whose challenge for the America's Cup was thwarted by the Second World War.

Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt – the Search for a Song

I am currently writing a book about the Bob Dylan, The Band, and the little known song ‘Dear Mrs Roosevelt’ which they performed at the Woody Guthrie memorial concerts on 20 January 1968.  How did the song come to be written, in the autumn of 1948, what was the relationship between Woody Guthrie and FDR and Mrs Roosevelt, and why did Dylan choose to sing a sanitised version of the politically charged original after two years of relative obscurity in Woodstock?  The first half of the book constitutes a personal memoir, focused upon Dylan, Guthrie, and Roosevelt.

Mountbatten (and Mannock)

Completion of the Dylan book will facilitate a return to the life of Lord Mountbatten, having previously written two major articles about his experience during and after the Suez crisis in 1956, and in Mountbatten Apprentice War Lord (I B Tauris, 2010) re-assessed his career from 1900 to 1943.

A previous biography, ‘Mick' Mannock, Fighter Pilot: Myth, Life, and Politics (the basis for BBC2's 2009 Timewatch documentary, ‘WW1 -Falling Aces'; and republished by Palgrave in 2016), echoed earlier work on the British Left and within the broad area of war studies/civil-military relations.

Biography informed the collection of essays, City of Coventry: Twentieth Century Icon (I B Tauris, 2006), as did my continuing interest in the history of sport – especially rugby union.

'Captain Keith Douglas, killed Normandy, 9.6.1944 - the soldier-poet seventy years on'

My inaugural lecture was given on 9 June 2014 to mark the seventieth anniversary that day of the death of Keith Douglas, acclaimed poet and author of From Alamein to Zem Zem, a classic account of the Desert War. The lecture, accompanied that week by an essay on Douglas in the New Statesman, can be downloaded via:

‘Great War Unknown War’

I am actively involved in the University of Southampton’s programme of events marking the centenary of the First World War, details of which can be found at: 

Following study days on Gallipoli in 2015, Jutland in 2016, and Lawrence of Arabia in 2017, my next WW1 study day is on 30 June 2018: ‘DAZZLE – Disguise and Disruption in War and Art’.





Research interests

Recent Project

Sir Richard Fairey and the British aircraft industry, 1910-1956

This is a major three-year project, commencing summer 2013, on the British aerospace industry, culminating in a biography of Sir Richard Fairey (1887-1956), founder and head of Fairey Aviation. The project is funded by the Fairey family and under the umbrella of the University's Marine and Maritime Institute, in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal Navy's Fleet Air Arm Museum. Tranches of Sir Richard's papers held at the FAA Museum are held temporarily in the Hartley Library's Special Collections. His company’s papers can be consulted at the RAF Museum, Colindale.

For further information re the authorised biography of aviation pioneer and industrialist, Sir Richard Fairey, see:

For access to the project blog:

Sir Richard Fairey
Sir Richard Fairey
Fairey d2
Fairey d2



Book Chapters

Professor Adrian Smith
Building 65 Faculty of Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom


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