Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War
‘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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