O.G.S. Crawford (1886-1957) was a man who thought history held the answers to everything, and that to study it was to know humanity’s glorious future. At first a field archaeologist, digging with his young fellow Edwardians into the mysterious mounds and ditches of rural England, he became a photographer/observer flying over the Western Front during the First World War – an experience that taught him the new skills of interpreting the earth from above and made him a pioneer of aerial archaeology. Then he fell in love with Marxism, was befriended by H.G. Wells, and travelled to the Soviet Union as one of its disciples.In the 1930s, it seemed to him that contemporary Britain would soon disappear, conquered by history’s inevitable march to world socialism, and he made a photographic study of everyday things – churches and advertising hoardings – as future evidence of how unenlightened British society had once been in its worship of God and the motor car. Later there came angry disillusionment and a book, too bitter to be published, called “Bloody Old Britain”. In recounting Crawford’s extraordinary story, Kitty Hauser uses many of his photographs and penetrates neglected but fascinating aspects of British life and belief that have themselves become history.
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