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Charity, Material Culture and Disabled Ex-Servicemen in Britain, 1914-1929

Bartlett, Emily Charlotte (2018) Charity, Material Culture and Disabled Ex-Servicemen in Britain, 1914-1929. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:74473)

Language: English

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This thesis examines the fluctuating relationship between charity, material culture, and disabled ex-servicemen in Britain from 1914-1929. It adopts a cross-disciplinary approach to draw attention to the importance of 'things' within charitable efforts to assist maimed soldiers after the First World War, and explore the impact of 'stuff' upon post-war perceptions of disability and war-disabled bodies. It focuses upon a number of specific every-day objects to examine the ways that charities adopted and adapted existing conceptions of these items for the benefit of disabled ex-servicemen, including cigarettes, artificial flowers, eggs, and chickens. By tracing the 'social life' of charitable artefacts at various stages throughout their production, consumption, and eventual (traceable) use, it examines the fluctuating cultural meanings and materialities of these things, and highlights the various ways that the changing cultural and material characteristics of objects contributed to popular perceptions of disability and charity. Significantly, this study views war-disabled bodies as material remnants of the First World War that were intimately, and indistinguishably, incorporated into a variety of charitable activities and encounters, and were likewise shaped by charitable action, as well as physical and social interactions with other things.

In so doing, this thesis reveals that disabled ex-servicemen and non-human 'charitable objects' were inextricably entangled things that were each physically and symbolically shaped in relation to the other. Encounters between war-disabled men and charitable stuff both represented, and physically mediated, disabled ex-servicemen's reintegration into British society. Material culture offered opportunities for employment, financial independence, and physical intimacy with nondisabled members of the public. Moreover, object encounters between maimed soldiers and charitable items incorporated disabled ex-servicemen into numerous bodily interactions that shifted perceptions of corporeal 'difference' and distinguished masculine, heroic disabled ex-servicemen from idle, dependent, and isolated disabled civilians. Charitable objects consequently elevated the social status of disabled ex-servicemen upon a 'hierarchy of disablement' that conceptualised certain types of war-disabled bodies as masculine and heroic, and especially privileged war-maimed bodies over those of 'crippled' and invalid civilians. Material encounters between disabled ex-servicemen and non-human objects likewise reconceptualised these particular items as desirable consumer products, and in a number of cases, physically altered the materiality of things according to the emergent needs of deserving disabled ex-servicemen and British society. Finally, this thesis suggests that the use of things for charitable purposes more broadly altered the role of charity within British society, and raised the profile of a number of organisations upon a 'hierarchy of charity'. Charitable activities involving 'valuable' objects encouraged members of the public to contribute to these particular schemes over others, and further incorporated charitable action into the broader social reconstruction of Britain in the immediate post-war period. This thesis ultimately demonstrates that the social and commercial values attached to charitable organisations, 'everyday' material culture, and war-disabled bodies were inextricably connected, and each fluctuated according to the conceptions and materialities of the other. This thesis offers the first full length study of disabled ex-servicemen and material culture in the aftermath of the First World War, and underscores the significance of studying things to illuminate the histories of disability and conflict.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Julie
Uncontrolled keywords: Disability, Material Culture, Charity, First World War
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
Funders: [UNSPECIFIED] Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2019 11:34 UTC
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2021 15:55 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Bartlett, Emily Charlotte.

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