From dazzle to the desert: a cultural-historical geography of camouflage

Forsyth, Isla McLean (2012) From dazzle to the desert: a cultural-historical geography of camouflage. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2012ForsythPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (10MB)
Printed Thesis Information:


'To bewilder the enemy and mislead him continually as to our real positions and attentions is one of our most hopeful tasks and to do this ingenuity, imagination and daring are required.'(Ronald Penrose, 1941, Home Guard Manual of Camouflage, p.13)

This thesis approaches the cultures and geographies of military conflict, charting the history of military camouflage through a multi-faceted biography of this technology’s life-path. By studying the scientific biography of Dr Hugh Cott (1900-1987), eminent zoologist and skilful artist turned camoufleur in WWII, entwined with the fragmentary mobile biographies of other camouflage practioners, including artists, animals and even a magician, the sites and spacings of camouflage’s life-path from the late-nineteenth century into the Desert War are traced. The military’s enrolment of diverse outside specialists practised in visual literacy is examined to reveal that technological development led to transformations, not only in military knowledge, but also in the militarism of knowledges such as science and art. Moving through the scientists’ fieldsite, the committee boardroom, the military training site and the soldiers’ battlefield, this thesis uncovers the history of a most ambiguous military invention, exposing its darker patterning and thus subverting a long-dominant narrative of camouflage as solely a protective technology. Furthermore, this camouflage biography is narrated from the perspective of the technology’s inventors and practioners as a means to encounter the situated and also embodied nature of technological innovation in military conflict. It demonstrates that, as camouflage transformed battlefields into unsettling theatres of war, there were lasting consequences not only for knowledge and technology, but also for both the ethics of battle and the individuals enrolled in this process. Overall, this geographically structured biography explores how camouflage is a jarring technology, combining aesthetic and artistic appreciation with complex scientific theory, to guileful and deadly effect.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: cultural-historical geography, camouflage, deception, technology, biography
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
U Military Science > U Military Science (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Lorimer, Dr. Hayden
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Ms Isla Forsyth
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3445
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:07

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year