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Fighting for Britain?

Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War


Edited By 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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‘Some idea of our country’: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in early wartime documentary film


Film was a powerful tool for promoting unity and a shared sense of national identity to the British public during the Second World War. Working with the film industry in an initially tense but increasingly productive wartime relationship, the Government’s Ministry of Information considered cinema to be a persuasive means of furthering British war aims, of influencing public opinion and of maintaining public morale, in tandem with the more altruistic motivation of meeting popular demand for information about the progress of the war.1 The extent to which film propaganda constructed and imposed a sense of shared experience and commitment among the British people, or whether its output was a genuine, if heightened, reflection of how people already felt about their involvement in the conflict, is still a matter for debate. However, the imagery and tone of wartime films has remained potent as a medium for the idea of a People’s War bringing together the whole British population across the divides of class, gender and national origin. Films carrying this message constitute part of the culture of nostalgia which constructs, or reinforces, understandings of the Second World War as a key moment of British national unity.2 Whether ← 261 | 262 → these films are subjected to critical examination and interpretation or, as is more common, are taken at face value as historical record, the documentary, newsreel and feature films produced during the Second World War have since provided a staple of moving picture content supplying the prolific output of television documentaries...

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