Book ID: CBB651045978

Sovereign Skies: The Origins of American Civil Aviation Policy (2021)


A pathbreaking history of the regulatory foundations of America's twentieth-century aerial preeminence.Today, the federal government possesses unparalleled authority over the atmosphere of the United States. Yet when the Wright Brothers inaugurated the air age on December 17, 1903, the sky was an unregulated frontier. As increasing numbers of aircraft threatened public safety in subsequent decades and World War I accentuated national security concerns about aviation, the need for government intervention became increasingly apparent. But where did authority over the airplane reside within America's federalist system? And what should US policy look like for a device that could readily travel over physical barriers and political borders?In Sovereign Skies, Sean Seyer provides a radically new understanding of the origins of American aviation policy in the first decades of the twentieth century. Drawing on the concept of mental models from cognitive science, regime theory from political science, and extensive archival sources, Seyer situates the development, spread, and institutionalization of a distinct American regulatory idea within its proper international context. He illustrates how a relatively small group of bureaucrats, military officers, industry leaders, and engineers drew upon previous regulatory schemes and international principles in their struggle to define government's relationship to the airplane. In so doing, he challenges the current domestic-centered narrative within the literature and delineates the central role of the airplane in the reinterpretation of federal power under the commerce clause. By placing the origins of aviation policy within a broader transnational context, Sovereign Skies highlights the influence of global regimes on US policy and demonstrates the need for continued engagement in world affairs. Filling a major gap in the historiography of aviation, it will be of interest to readers of aviation, diplomatic, and legal history, as well as regulatory policy and American political development.

Reviewed By

Review F. Robert van der Linden (April 2022) Review of "Sovereign Skies: The Origins of American Civil Aviation Policy". Technology and Culture (pp. 559-561). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Launius, Roger D.
Bednarek, Janet R. Daly
NewMyer, David A.
Bilstein, Roger E.
Lee, David D.
Leary, William M.
Comparative Technology Transfer and Society
Business History Review
The Journal of Transport History
Technology's Stories
British Journal for the History of Science
American Heritage of Invention and Technology
University of North Carolina Press
Harvard University Press
Yale University
Branden Books
University of Georgia Press
Technology and government
Aviation, commercial
Aeronautics; aviation
Technology transfer
Aircraft industry
Wright brothers, Wilber and Orville
Time Periods
20th century
21st century
20th century, late
19th century
United States
Southern states (U.S.)
Latin America
Great Britain
California (U.S.)
Aerolíneas Argentinas
Federal Aviation Administration
Pan American World Airways
United States. National Security Agency

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