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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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‘Total War on Spiritual Issues’: English feminists, Christian national identity and gender equality in wartime Britain


Relatively little is known about the intersections between faith, religious identity and feminism during the Second World War; a lacuna in British women’s history which can be traced back to assumptions that religion was antithetical to women’s emancipation. Yet more recent historical scholarship by Jacqueline deVries, Sue Morgan, and others has pointed to the need for historians to ‘overcome simplistic assumptions about religion’s conservative influence’ and shift away from viewing religion as a ‘hopelessly patriarchal institution and a primary source of oppressive domestic ideology.’1 The archival records of English feminists and organisations from the Second World War indicate a widespread interest in women’s religious identity and equality and there were two significant milestones in the development of women’s church work during the war: the 1942 creation of a female ‘chaplaincy’ to serve all women’s forces, including chaplains’ assistants for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the wartime women’s branch of the British army, and the 1944 ordination of the first female priest within the Anglican Communion in war-torn China.2 Addressing the former, this chapter elucidates the way in which both gender and religious ← 185 | 186 → identities shaped what English feminists were fighting for during the war and, also, the manner in which new opportunities and exigencies created by warfare emphasised both the ‘centrality of gender difference to the nation’3 and the persistence and relevance of English Christian national identity4 to many English in a century traditionally perceived as overwhelmingly secular. This chapter will use the female ‘chaplaincy’ scheme to...

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