Civilian morale in Britain during the Second World War

Mackay, R., 2003. Civilian morale in Britain during the Second World War. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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In the light of the collapse of the home fronts in Russia in 1917 and in Central Europe in 1918, the importance of civilian morale to the vigour of a nation's war effort thereafter became axiomatic in the strategic thinking of all governments. In the interwar period, therefore, in Britain as elsewhere, government departments drew up contingency plans for the maintenance of civilian morale in war. Official anxiety about how civilians would behave in a future war was increased by other interwar developments, notably the growth of pacifism, regional separatism, fascism and communism and the creation of the long- range heavy bomber. In the event the morale of the British people, defined as a composite of attitudes and behaviour marked by optimism and commitment to the national project of winning the war, did not collapse during the six years of war that began in 1939. For three decades after the war, historians and general public held the view that morale, far from collapsing, had shown great resilience and endurance. Subsequent challenges to the accuracy of this picture have highlighted the existence during the war of attitudes and behaviours that were inconsistent with good morale: panic and defeatism, ration-cheating and blackmarketeering, looting, absenteeism and strikes. These challenges constituted the main stimulus to the research that is gathered together in this thesis. With the character and quality of civilian morale as the focus of the research, analysis was made of a wide range of data and testimony that might serve as evidence. It is concluded that most people's attitude and behaviour was consistent with good morale; but the 'performance' of a minority did not conform to the traditional stereotype. The challenges to the traditional view about civilian morale are not, therefore, without foundation. But they justify a qualification rather than an overturning of that view. The explanation for the generally sound quality of morale, it is argued, lies in an interplay between the effect of official policies to sustain it on the one hand, and facets of the national culture on the other.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Mackay, R.
Date: 2003
ISBN: 9781369324921
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 24 Jun 2021 10:03
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2023 08:42

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