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Munitions of the Mind Posts

The Distortion of Private Space in Wartime London, 1939–1941

Written by Oliver Parken.

In Post D (1941), a loosely fictionalised account of his personal experiences as a London air-raid warden, John Strachey picked up on the extraordinary ordinariness of life during the Blitz. ‘What a domestic sort of war this is. It happens in the kitchen, on landings, beside washing-baskets…Even its catastrophes are made terrible not by strangeness but by familiarity’. For Strachey, it was war’s ability to transform once familiar spaces which defined its jarring nature.

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Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders and Collaborators: Conference Report

Written by Kate Docking. There has been a lack of meaningful scholarly engagement with the utility of the terms ‘victims’, ‘perpetrators’, ‘bystanders’ and ‘collaborators’ as historical concepts. Too often, the word ‘perpetrator’ is used by historians without any explanation as to its meaning. But what exactly makes a ‘perpetrator’? How do we define a victim? Have the connotations of these terms changed over time or been overly politicised? Is it the job of the historian…

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New Publication: David Welch, World War II Propaganda: Analyzing the Art of Persuasion during Wartime

World War II Propaganda: Analyzing the Art of Persuasion during Wartime. Published in 2017 by David Welch (Professor Emeritus and founder of the Centre for War, Propaganda and Society at the University of Kent), World War II Propaganda explores many of the key themes of the Second World War through primary source material. Examples of propaganda disseminated by both Axis and Allied nations are considered, contextualised by accompanying analysis. Breaking free of Euro-centric confines, the…

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New Publication: Linsey Robb and Juliette Pattinson (eds.), Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War

Men, Masculinities and Male Culture in the Second World War. In this new edited volume, Linsey Robb (Northumbria University) and Juliette Pattinson (Head of the School of History at the University of Kent) bring together collected essays exploring British masculinities and male culture during the Second World War. Focusing on combatants, prisoners of war, and civilians, the volume tracks the gendering of war through its varied male experience. The volume also considers how male culture…

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Nineteenth-century guerrilla and counter-insurgency warfare colloquium

A two-day colloquium to be held at the University of Kent, on 27-28 October 2018. The term ‘guerrilla’ tends to evoke twentieth-century connotations. ‘People’s war’, Mao and Che Guevara all conjure up notions of revolutionary warfare, of ‘new’ warfare far removed from the supposedly state-centric armies and strategies of the nineteenth century. Yet recent research has demonstrated the diversity both of the guerrilla and of counter-insurgency throughout history. The nineteenth century offers a particular opportunity…

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the 2018 Guernsey Heritage Festival

Written by Richard Guille.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) is a Studio Canal film directed by Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral), based on the award-winning 2008 novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It follows a young English writer, Juliet Ashton (Lily James), who is contacted in 1946 by Dawsey Adams, a Guernsey pig farmer (Michiel Huisman). Learning of his membership of a unique book club formed during the German occupation of Guernsey, 1940-45, Ashton visits Guernsey to discover more. In the process, she learns about the occupation and the experiences of islanders during the war, notably the tragic story of one woman, Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay). Whilst the film downplays the grittier parts of the book in favour of the story’s romantic dimension, a number of controversial and marginalised aspects of Guernsey’s occupation are portrayed. This article teases out the themes presented by the film and the implications of these for public occupation memory in Guernsey. It considers the films’ promotion in Guernsey, with this years’ Guernsey Heritage Festival (30 March to 10 May 2018) focusing solely on the occupation. This latest foray into presenting the public history of Guernsey’s occupation retains a focus on well-trodden ground at the expense of marginalised areas in occupation memory depicted in the film.

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Mapping the Future: The Diercke Atlas in the Third Reich

Written by Mike Anderson.

Cartography has only become a tool for historical research in the past few years. Traditionally, geography and history have been separated – the old adage ‘geography is about maps, history about chaps’ meant that there were few interdisciplinary crossovers. However, in recent scholarship maps have begun to be viewed as tools to understand the worldview of historical cultures and historical actors in and of themselves. When applied to Nazi Germany, this new perspective on cartographic agency reveals a hitherto largely ignored method of instilling propaganda. This article examines how the portrayal of the conquest of Lebensraum in Eastern Europe in geography classrooms and the Diercke Schulatlas für Höhere Lehranstalten, the most popular German school atlas, eclipsed any scholarly or factual analysis of the area.

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New Publication: David Budgen, British Children’s Literature and the First World War: Representations since 1914

2018 sees the publication of British Children’s Literature and the First World War by Dr David Budgen, Associate Lecturer in the School of History and member of the centre for War, Media and Society, University of Kent. Dr Budgen’s study focuses on changing perceptions of the First World War throughout the 20thcentury in children’s literature. Drawing on novels, school textbooks, and story papers, Budgen charts how perceptions of the conflict have changed from 1914 to its…

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ANNUAL LECTURE 2017/18: Commissars in the Republican Popular Army during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939

Written by James Matthews.

On 17 July 1936, a faction of the Spanish army rose up against the Second Republic, triggering a violent conflict that developed into the Spanish Civil War as groups loyal to the government rallied to its defence. The military plotters essentially considered themselves to be defending traditional Spain from the threat of social revolution and regional separatism. In the days following the partially successful coup d’état, the two antagonistic camps scrambled to generate stopgap armed support. The forces available to the Republic immediately after the uprising were a disjointed combination of party and union-based volunteer militia, reinforced and at times led by members of both the Spanish security and armed forces. In Republican-held territory, the regular pre-war conscript army disintegrated and government authority in many places collapsed. Although some of these former soldiers joined the conflict as volunteer militiamen, the army effectively ceased to be a tool at the state’s disposal.

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Chronicling Trust in the Cold War

Written by Mark Hurst.

In a contemporary climate dominated by fake news, political spin and online legions of anonymous figures fighting information wars, it is apparent that a question repeatedly posed may come to define the era: What information do we trust? This was at the forefront of the campaigns conducted by human rights activists during the Cold War, who sought to support persecuted prisoners of conscience by obtaining reliable and trusted information on human rights violations and using this material to petition positions of power to put pressure on oppressive governments.

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