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Tag: Second World War

Is the Future of History Digital? : Online Resources

Written by Mario Draper.

Were someone to walk into any room of historians and mention the word ‘technology’, they would undoubtedly illicit a reaction. Contrary to popular opinion, it may not always be that of fear-induced negativity, but rather an increasing acceptance of how digital media can enhance what academics already do. Teaching and research are the bread and butter of the academic profession and both are becoming increasingly entwined with the world of online dissemination. One need look no further than the importance attached to pubic engagement elements of research; much of it achieved through the streaming of events, the writing of blog posts, the recording of TV shows and podcasts, never mind the casual posts, rants, and streams of consciousness so prevalent on social media.

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Online Resources

Written by Megan Kelleher.

As COVID-19 continues to be a key discussion point worldwide, the heritage sector is continuing to adapt to suit the needs of the public. One such organisation is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), who care for the graves and memorials of the 1.7 million men and women who died in the armed forces of the British Empire during the First and Second World Wars. While the CWGC’s work is often at the forefront of much of the commemorative services for key anniversaries of the two World Wars, much of the day to day work it conducts has only recently begun to be told to the public through their website and ever-increasing social media presence. Their digital output has grown dramatically in light of the current crisis, and details of a selection of some of these online resources are detailed below:

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Annual Lecture 2019/20: Brief Encounters: Grieving and Remembering the Dead in Post-War Britain

Written by Ellena Matthews

On 29 January 2020, the Centre for War, Media and Society had the pleasure of welcoming Professor Lucy Noakes (Essex) to the University of Kent to present their annual lecture. The lecture coincided with the release of Professor Noakes’ new publication Dying for the Nation: Death, Grief and Bereavement in Second World War Britain.

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Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself: The Downfall of Ordinary Germans in 1945

Reviewed by Charlie Hall.

The question at the heart of Florian Huber’s book is: why did so many ‘ordinary Germans’ take their own lives at the end of the Second World War, in an act of mass suicide which has no parallel in modern conflict? There is no doubt that this is an important question, and one which promises to shed new light on the personal stories and experiences of individuals who lived (and died) in the Nazi age of extremes. However, while Huber’s work is a compelling, and often powerful, collection of stories, it struggles to reach a conclusion which satisfactorily answers this main question.

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Keep Smiling Through: British Humour and the Second World War: Conference Report

Written by Ellis Spicer.

In the current political climate of upheaval and uncertainty, it was certainly agreed by all that some light relief was in order. Therefore, on the 12th and 13th September, scholars covering a truly international spectrum gathered at the University of Kent for a symposium on British humour and the Second World War – entitled ‘Keep Smiling Through’. Organised by Dr Juliette Pattinson of the University of Kent and Dr Linsey Robb of Northumbria University, the two days promised engaging with the many ways war could, in fact, be quite amusing.

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On Reading an Account of the Battle of Britain without Words

Written by Tony Pratley.

The story of the Battle of Britain, when written down, almost always begins with a quote.  It is not a rule, more a convention.  ‘What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.’ Winston Churchill’s famous declaration even introduced the opening title sequence of the film Battle of Britain (1969).  Chroniclers in search of something less common do have plenty of choice.  King George VI, ‘I feel happier that we have no allies to be polite to and pamper.’  Air Chief Marshall Dowding, ‘thank God we are alone now.’  Even Hermann Goering, ‘we’d forgotten the English fought best with their backs to the wall.’ Any one of these quotes will do and it will set the narrative agenda, telling the reader that the story to follow will be about an extraordinary episode in the life of an exceptional nation.   It is an oft-repeated tale – a myth, a ‘memory’, a confection of fact and fiction. Whatever it is, though, is of little concern here. I am more interested in the story-teller.  This is because, since the beginning of the 1990s, there have been more and more occasions when words won’t do.  Such an occasion will be outdoors and involve a crowd numbered in the thousands, and then a Spitfire flypast will do very well instead.

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Fighting the People’s War

Reviewed by Oliver Parken. The notion of the Second World War as a ‘people’s war’ remains an established, and highly contested, tool for understanding the experience and representation of the conflict. Transmitted through wartime propaganda and cultural codes, scholars have tended to assess its workings in the home front context. In the British case, citizens were, after all, drawn into the front-lines of war as targets of enemy bombardment as well as forming the back-bone…

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CFP: ‘Keep Smiling Through’: British Humour and the Second World War

Two-day interdisciplinary symposium – 12/13 September 2019

University of Kent

In conjunction with Special Collections and Archive, home to the British Cartoon Archive

In wartime, as circumstances become increasingly bleak with military losses and civilian deaths mounting, something very distinctive happens to humour. There is an evident demand for an opportunity to laugh: a release from the increased working hours, the separation from loved ones, the dual burdens of work and maintaining a household, the fear of sustaining battle wounds and death. Indeed, war and comedy are intimately connected. In the Second World War, variety shows which included comedy sketches and humorous songs performed for servicemen provided an essential means of respite from both the boredom and the horror of battle, while home front popular culture, in the form of radio programmes, feature films, documentary films, newsreels, cartoons and songs, parodied the conflict and were crucial morale-boosters as the war evolved into a protracted struggle. But it was more than just a coping strategy and a form of escapism; it was also a key element of ‘Britishness’. As Sonya Rose asserts, humour served to define British national character, much of which was constructed in opposition to the humourless Nazis. And of course since 1945, the Second World War has sparked the imagination of scriptwriters. Unlike the First World War, the cultural memory of the later war is replete with stories about the conflict that use humour as a device.

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Spaces, War and Heroism

Written by Ellena Matthews.

Exploring space and place is a burgeoning field of historical enquiry. Indeed, the study of space is no longer solely the interest of geographers and social scientists, its application has broadened and the ‘spatial turn’ is becoming an important line of enquiry for historians. But, as Nicola Whyte has questioned, what does space do for our understanding of the past? Indeed, utilising a spatial methodology reminds us that spaces are complex, social and temporal; that they both shape social experience and are shaped themselves by the lived experience of individuals within them. Therefore, the study of space is integral to the study of history as it enables greater analysis to be placed upon the relationship between people, places and environments.

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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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