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Fighting for Britain?

Negotiating Identities in Britain During the Second World War

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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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Scottish cinema-goers at war: The popular reception of British and Scottish films during the Second World War

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The Second World War is often identified as the point at which British film acquired cultural significance. While a sizeable production industry had developed from the late 1920s, assisted by the protection afforded by legislation which required exhibitors to screen a growing proportion of footage that was ‘British’ in origin, its output had rarely enjoyed either commercial success or critical acceptance.1 Such problems would be overcome in the altered circumstances of wartime. While film production fell in volume to levels not seen since the mid 1920s, this smaller output offered, it has been argued, a more coherent view of a nation united by the stresses of war and which resonated with a cinema-going population close to its numerical peak.2 In Robert Murphy’s words the war placed film at ‘The Heart of Britain’, while for Charles Drazin, these were, for a cinematic few, unquestionably The Finest Years.3 Nor is this an interpretation bestowed by posterity. Speaking in September 1944 at a lunch to mark the press preview in Edinburgh of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s ← 137 | 138 → A Canterbury Tale (1944), Ritson Bennell, Divisional Superintendent of the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation in Scotland, remarked on the enhanced standing of British films in wartime. Justifying his claim, Bennell pointed to titles which have subsequently secured acceptance as part of a critical canon of culturally meaningful films, including 49th Parallel (1941), In Which We Serve (1942), The First of the Few (1942), The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), and The...

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