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There are few historical events with a cultural legacy as enduring as that connected to the Second World War. The conflict occupies an important place within many personal, as well as national, narratives. Those interested in its history and heritage are confronted by an enormous range of writing, on a wide variety of themes.
The BBC began broadcasting television programmes from its own studios in 1932 and launched a regular TV service in 1936, only to shut it down when, three years later, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Edward Stourton’s Auntie’s War: The BBC during the Second World War is therefore about radio, and in particular the tug of war within the corporation between 1939 and 1945.
Lesley Milne’s Laughter and War: Humorous-Satirical Magazines in Britain, France, Germany and Russia 1914–1918, offers a well written overview of the humour of four nations during the Great War, and in turn, four satirical magazines that provoked laughter in these combatant countries.
Sonya Rose’s initial interest in national identity was sparked by the patriotic fervor that burst forth following the declaration of the first Iraq War (1990–1). ‘I wondered at how easily patriotic sentiment and the sense of belonging to a nation under threat – even if that threat was so far away – could be aroused’ (p. 285).
The literature of the British home front differs distinctly in both quantity and nature between the two wars themselves.
In between small model spitfires and Sherman tank key rings, visitors browsing the shelves of the Imperial War Museum’s gift shop will find their gaze met by the reassuringly familiar smile of a round-faced rag doll, beaming from the side of a tote bag.
Donald Hankey was – and has remained – one of the most enigmatic personalities to feature in the narrative of the Great War.
‘World War I is one of the most studied topics of modern scholarship.
Rachel Duffett has written a fine social history of British rank and file soldiers, or rankers, and their experiences of food during the Great War. She states, ‘The ranker’s relationship with food was a constant thread, woven throughout his army experience … every day, wherever he was, a man needed to eat’ (p. 229).
Introduction: trauma, modernity, and the First World War