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Fighting for Britain?

Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War


Wendy Ugolini and Juliette Pattinson

This edited collection focuses on the negotiation of national, geographic and cultural identities during the Second World War among the constituent countries of the United Kingdom. Adopting a four nations approach, it contributes to our understanding of how pluralistic identities within the multinational state of Britain informed the functioning of Britishness during the conflict. In particular, it explores the ways in which Wales, Scotland and England related to the overarching concept of Britishness and analyses the relationships between Britain and the island of Ireland. This volume addresses wartime Britain as both a site of cultural contestation and of shared experience, exploring what «fighting for Britain» meant for those who served in the British armed forces as well as for those who did not fight in active combatant roles.
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Negotiating identities in multinational Britain during the Second World War



The Second World War has been defined by Paul Addison as the ‘culminating moment’ in the history of Britain, a multinational state which since the eighteenth century ‘had drawn the English, the Scots and Welsh into an ever closer union.’1 The wartime period, in particular 1940 with the signal events of Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, is acknowledged as constituting the ‘high-water mark of Britishness’: a time when a sense of common purpose bound together the constituent countries of the United Kingdom and heightened a British consciousness.2 Since its inception, Britishness has been ‘imagined and narrated in interacting dimensions which include regional and internal national borders, class, ethnicity, gender and other notions of communal identity.’3 Paul Ward suggests that the period from 1870 onwards has essentially been about ‘the continuing definition’ of Britishness and that the active and ongoing ← 1 | 2 → engagement of the people in the construction of British national identity has, in itself, ‘made Britishness a resilient force.’4 As he writes, identities of place have also frequently been multiple, ‘combining allegiance to street, neighbourhood, locality, town, county, region, nation(s) and even a global empire.’5 This volume contributes to our understanding of how hybrid and multiple identities within the multinational state of Britain and within the constituent countries informed the functioning of Britishness during the Second World War.6 With a primary focus on military identity formation, underpinned by an examination of civilian identities, this book explores the multinational character of...

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