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Space and Representations of Civilian Heroism in London during the Second World War

Matthews, Ellena (2020) Space and Representations of Civilian Heroism in London during the Second World War. 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:81817)

Language: English

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This thesis examines how, as the Second World War bought modern conflict into the domestic spaces of the nation, civilians were increasingly represented and constructed as heroic. While the effects and demands of war on the Home Front offered civilians increased opportunities to engage with traditional ideals of heroism, these ideals were also blurred as men and women of varying ages adopted new roles and responsibilities. Equally, as civilians fulfilled vital roles on the Home Front in production, protection and defence, different virtues and behaviours were celebrated and recognised as heroic. This thesis contributes to the current historiography of the Second World War by showing that the manufacture and production of Home Front heroism was multifaceted and complex. By tracing how Home Front heroism was framed, this thesis examines how constructions of heroism carried social and cultural meaning, and how popular representations of heroism influenced how behaviour was conceptualised. Through examining four interlinking themes; space, material culture, the body, and death, this study uses a range of methodological approaches to demonstrate that Home Front heroism was fashioned in various ways and for specific purposes. As familiar peacetime spaces became sites of conflict, the civilian population were offered opportunities to behave heroically, through fulfilling production demands, displaying bravery and endurance, protecting people and property, and caregiving. Moreover, objects elevated heroic status; as bodies were adorned and decorated with clothing and medals, the civilian body became a site where the potential for, or recognition of, heroism could be articulated. However, modern warfare also placed the civilian at increased risk of injury and death. Indeed, as civilians were injured and lost their lives as a consequence of enemy action they were increasingly aligned with the armed forces; the state particularly valourised civilians who were killed by bombardment. This thesis offers a detailed study of Home Front heroism to highlight that the heroic civilian was a powerful creation during wartime; heroic virtues permeated the public sphere and were particularly contingent to periods of stress and strain, as such, this research highlights that studying heroism provides insight into the virtues and values that a society, or group of individuals, considers noteworthy.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Anderson, Julie
Thesis advisor: Pattinson, Juliette
Uncontrolled keywords: Civilian Heroism, Home Front, London, Second World War, Space, Gender, the Body, Material Culture, Injury, Wounding, Death.
Subjects: D History General and Old World
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2020 11:10 UTC
Last Modified: 11 May 2021 09:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Matthews, Ellena.

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