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‘Shirkers’, ‘Scrimjacks’ and ‘Scrimshanks’?: British Civilian Masculinity and Reserved Occupations, 1914–45

Pattinson, Juliette (2016) ‘Shirkers’, ‘Scrimjacks’ and ‘Scrimshanks’?: British Civilian Masculinity and Reserved Occupations, 1914–45. Gender and History, 28 (3). pp. 709-727. ISSN 1468-0424. (doi:10.1111/1468-0424.12246) (KAR id:57946)

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In both World Wars, the state retained men with essential skills on the home front. Despite needing to mobilise industry and labour in order to supply the military and to maintain key services such as healthcare and food provision, those men who remained in civilian roles were susceptible to accusations of cowardice and being derided as shirkers evading their patriotic duty. While the manliness of the ‘soldier hero’ was secure, the civilian man was susceptible to having his masculinity called into question. This article utilises a range of sources including parliamentary debates, cartoons, Mass Observation records, written testimony and oral histories to examine the policies that were implemented affecting civilian male workers deployed in essential jobs in both wars and the perceptions of men to their reserved status. While there were haphazard attempts to raise an ‘industrial army’ in the First World War, by 1939, a more systematic approach had been implemented with a Schedule of Reserved Occupations drawn up retaining key men in their work. While men on the Second World War home front were potentially diminished by the ‘soldier hero’ and the female war worker, they defined and defended their contributions to the national war effort in written and oral sources in gendered terms, making reference to job security, valued skills, significant earning power, the auxiliary position of female dilutees, positive cultural representations and the added dangers from aerial bombing.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/1468-0424.12246
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Depositing User: M.R.L. Hurst
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2016 15:20 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2022 12:21 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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