Noakes, L. ‘Gender and British national identity in wartime: a study of the links between gender and national identity in Britain in the Second World War, the Falklands War and the Gulf War.’
D.Phil. thesis completed 1996, Sussex University
Particular use is made of Mass-Observation. This focuses on the representation of men and women as wartime citizens on the public stage. Considers how ideas from the Second World War were re-appropriated for later wars. The thesis concludes that images and memories of the Second World War, which are central to ideas of British national identity, often appear to be clearly shaped by gender.
Abstract: In each case, the thesis examines the links between gender and national identity in wartime, focusing on the representation of women and men as wartime citizens on the public stage, and the ways in which Mass-Observation correspondents’ wartime writing may have been shaped by their gender. The Second World War is identified as a key moment in dominant, contemporary ideas of British national identity, and the creation of a widely shared definition of national identity during the war itself, and its re-appropriation during the Falklands War and the Gulf War, is examined. The introductory Chapter explores relevant work on national identity, gender and wartime, and sets out the theories and viewpoints which have informed the arguments used here. The Second Chapter examines the role of the Second World War in British national identity in more depth, focusing on representations of the war in contemporary museum displays as a means of illustrating its importance. Chapters Three and Four return to the Second World War itself: Chapter Three examining the gendering of citizenship in the war through a study of army education material and women’s magazines, whilst Chapter Four looks at the wartime writings of Mass-Observation correspondents, considering ways in which the writing points towards gendered concepts of national identity. Chapter Five examines the shaping and gendering of national identity during the Falklands War through a study of daily newspaper and the writing of Mass-Observation correspondents. Chapter Six analyses newspaper coverage and Mass-Observation material from the Gulf War in the same way. The thesis concludes that images and memories of the Second World War, which are central to ideas of British national identity, often appear to be clearly shaped by gender.