A group of history students had plans to set up a blog, so I have been giving them some advice on how to use WordPress, etc., and their blog is emerging here. I agreed to be interviewed by them (excuse the scruffiness, it was the day I was heading downwards with a cold)… the interview runs to 3 videos: see them all here.Tweet
Earlier this evening I attended this talk, see my “rough” notes below. Lucy Noakes was visiting the University of Winchester’s Modern History Research Centre.
BBC People’s War website 2003 – 2006.
Veteran memories, referred to as stories.
Cultural memory of the war!
Growing since 1960s. Defined variously Inc mythical debunking (least helpful). Not exclusive to people who have memories of an event. Politics propaganda etc. Underlying.
Term memory problematic. Joanna Bourke. Usually individually. Allowed or repressed according to social mores – or just for specific audiences. Hegemonic – fighting for dominance.
Ww2 constant point of reference – uses it’s been put to politically has been used in many different ways. People’s War – egalitarianism. 1960s-80s a struggle over meaning of the war – eg Patriotism for Falklands gulf war. Produced ideas to draw upon to qualify war against terror etc. 7/7 – blitz comparison immediate & omnipresent. Partly Pre a weekend with extra day off re war!
Austerity – ww2 ideas of all in it together – being used in current crisis. DC needs reminding that last war – big move to the left. Symbols – stoicism, bravery, humour etc – policies drawn on great ideas of the past…
Memory & the Internet
Digital revolution… Growing accessibility & ubiquity – shaped role & social use of the media. Difference the web & other sites of memory. More transient – not intended to be a permanent public shared memory. Les permanent & more accessible. Material – physically imposing – specific space. New architectural vernacular… More modernist but still imposing. Designed with eye to posterity whilst saying something about culture. Experienced individually. Form can be widely different – eg try to emulate traditional sites. Traditional wall – what about able to search for names & own memories of war etc. Differnet but all shared public spaces. Behaviour diff – esp public/private space.. Emotion felt in public space or in private but made public by participating.
Websites – more participatory. May be edited but a space for otherwise marginalised or dominated memories. Sww memories – several thousand hits. Contested memory becomes more contradictory & competing memories. Websites campaigning for physical memorials or help for specific groups.
Importance of war in peoples lives – living through history. Importance of warfare seen as important nationally at other times. National narratives with more family style memories.
The BBC website
To be archived by the British Library. Return to genealogy – families would research their families stories & that older people would not want to use technology. However – desire to tell the story – overcame any fears. Big events – encouraged contributions. Culture Online. Took buses to rural areas with 2000 volunteers – demonstrates keen interest continues. Varied style of stories – long short poems.
War continues to play part in private & public memory. Discord between 2. Continued primacy of the male combatant… Original idea was changed… 12% over 60s were using Internet at time but 80% users of the site were over 60. Hugely successful. Thought stories not worth telling or didn’t want to remember negative memories. However, liked a willing audience & a chance to tell stories.
Divided into 64 categories. Most evacuees, least women’s voluntary. Didn’t focus on historical fact – wanted stories & subjective interpretations.. Personal reflections & memories. Make visible what is usually less visible. Still absences – felt didn’t fit or… Eg only 36 conscientious objectors. None re homosexuality. Or made manageable using languages/symbols from the war – eg lights out over Britain.
Marked by fear… Has been marginalised. Eg wartime Blitz experience. Emphasises collectivity & stoicism (eg in films) rather than overriding fear. Stories emphasise the same… Repressed language of warfare 1950s. Woman’s story – catalogue of death & destruction .. But at end Hitler couldn’t get us down… Now expect counselling.
British character – seen at best during war – under pressure. Often used to negatively compare to modern day disasters. Men with active memories of active service… Particular tone – humorous understatement common to fighting men (& those from Liverpool but otherwise not humour). Descriptive language re effects on the body – quite new, eg re difficult injuries etc. Shares more of the ideas of recent films – eg Saving Private Ryan.. Handheld cameras, fear & random death – appears unmediated… Allows death to feature more positively. Would such visceral language have been used without such films?
Eg Remembrance Day – focuses on the fighting forces rather than other supporting services/civilian deaths. Plus eg service associations gives a specific memory.
No need to fight to have your story told as would in a museum but still easier if fits with dominant discourse. Cultural circuit public private stories – public frames private memories. Wanted to draw on stories for programme making. Dunkirk & D-Day particularly key – graphic realism.
Questions & Comments
Channel Islands often forgotten.
What about such websites available elsewhere?
Appeal for memories? For war? Different to memories of wartime?! Do marginal memories remain marginal? Eg sexual violence & rape in genocide. Does war set ‘boundaries’.
Stories cross referenced across categories. Still privileged are the land sea air memories. Post categorisation & can’t know how chosen.
Significance of Iraq war? Not released immediately but… Useful to have positive memories of war.
Mass Observation – responses to recent wars – all referred back to ww2.
Few comments under entries – several removed. Opens dialogue but decades old dialogue. What about new memories – exist – maybe not same funding.
Migration? Why people moved? Family histories. Results published as definitive answers from 18th C. But those who didn’t have families can’t tell a story. It’s all partial.
Continued sense of centrality – excludes all those who moved here since then.
What picture emerges from these stories – the White nation pulling together. Last legitimate war? All wars since don’t have population behind it since.
Do they say anything about Poland?
Where is Wales [lists England, Scotland, Isle of Man]?
Why no body language via video? Why text?
Can’t ask questions of them.Tweet
On Saturday 15 May the University of Winchester’s MA in Religion, Rhetoric & Death held it’s first ‘Death Day‘, a really interesting event with a great balance of interesting speakers. I missed the first session, but then listened to really thought-provoking talks from Cribb’s funeral parlours, the UK Manager of Cemeteries, and a conductor of ‘secular funerals’ – covering a range of ideas about how the funeral business has changed and is changing. After an interesting lunch sat with a number of ‘Revs’ it was time to give my paper (above), combining with a paper from Helen Frisby on mourning practices in Victorian Britain… followed by a paper on the use of effigies before the ‘Rock & Roll’ session of the day: ‘Slasher movies’ and the use of obituaries for celebrities, especially when suicide is involved (and drew our attention to a new magazine: Eulogy). Lots of food for thought from the day, especially enjoyable when it’s a conference not related to either of the subjects I teach (History & Media Studies) and just a chance to enjoy!Tweet
Lecture given on Thursday 6th May to first years on History module “Creating and Consuming History”, encouraging them to think about the possibilities of digitisation in museums (the heritage sector/historical research), and the benefits and otherwise of some of the tools currently available:
Below are photos of the information the students brought forward about their experience of digitisation in museums. Having asked their permission, the students are keen to see responses, and hopefully they will also continue the discussions on here:
King Alfred’s College: 7th June 2002
“The Centre provides a forum for research into the gendered nature of educational provision, practice and thought in order to provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice in respect of education for women and girls. The Centre takes a broad cultural definition of Education: one which transcends schooling to encompass learning and teaching (formal and informal) at any phase of the life-cycle, in any setting or historical period, including the recent past.”
I presented a short paper on ‘informal education’, the representation of men/women in VD posters.Tweet
Research Day: National Identities
King Alfred’s, Winchester, September 21st, 1999
This was a very successful, well attended event. Short papers were given by a student and tutor from each research centre on the common theme of national identities.
The day included a paper given by myself, entitled ‘World War II Propaganda and the Image of Britain’. Once a brief definition of propaganda and the job of the poster had been established, three posters from the First World War were considered, demonstrating the belief that most appealed to either a mythical past, a sense of good sportsmanship, or obedience to a sense of authority. The Second World War was even more of a ‘total war’ than the First had been, and those involved needed to know that they were not only fighting AGAINST something, but also FOR it. The main focus of the paper was then upon two posters ‘Your Britain, Fight for it Now’, produced in 1942, around the time of the Beveridge Report. On the one hand we saw the nostalgic image, depicted by Frank Newbould, of a pastoral and rural Britain, which encourages effort in order to maintain perceived past traditions, whilst Abram Games depicted an urban image as an image of change for a better Britain, a real fight for the future.
This paper was presented as part of a research day at King Alfred’s College concerning national identities. I was the only postgraduate from the department to present a paper, and was made aware of the 20 minute deadline by the cooking timer ticking away!
This is a definition in progress: “the attempt to influence opinions and attitudes, or to reinforce existing ideas and beliefs, through suggestion and persuasion, rather than by physical or financial inducement.” (p.8, Undergraduate thesis)
Posters needed to be recognised as an important form of propaganda, although by World War II their importance was rather overshadowed by radio, cinema, etc. However, there is more of an element of choice in these, as it is easier to turn the radio off/not buy a cinema ticket, than to avoid a (large) poster.
Defining the Purpose of a Poster
- Intended to be assimilated quickly from a distance
- Demonstrate attitudes of those who produced them
- Give some clues about those who perceived them.
It is generally agreed that there should not be too much information in any one post, as most posters need to be read at speed, although some, at bus stops, etc. can have more information on them, as people are more at leisure to take in more complex ideas, although must still be emphasised that should not be TOO complex.
Poster design is important, although even if it is controversial it may be a successful poster, as it may have caused the message to be absorbed more than a conventional design would. The images and slogans used give us clues about the attitudes of those who produced the posters, in this case the government, towards those they were targeting, in this case the general public at war, which can give us clues about those who perceived the posters.
First World War Posters:
Although the project is focused upon Second World War posters, it can prove useful to consider posters produced by the govt. in the First World War, and see if there are any discernible changes in attitude towards those that they governed, and see what they considered people needed to hear. First World War posters were largely concerned with recruitment and give the general impression that the general idea appears to be that the war was a great, heroic, ‘sports match’ in which soldiers were ‘players’ were on opposing ‘teams’. Several posters were based upon the mythical past of England, such as a poster which depicted George & the Dragon, which equated soldiers with the knights & heroes of the past.
I think you could say that this was the most famous poster of all time, at least in Britain. It illustrates the opinion held by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, who published the poster, that the masses, if ordered, would follow a hero of past wars into battle.
Second World War Posters:
These posters appear to have been both more pragmatic & more ideological, and tended to depict the ‘ordinary person’, such as ‘Is Your Journey Really Necessary?’ which depicts the ‘ordinary soldier’ appealing to his fellow men/women – this did not constitute an order.
Second World War recruits were not professional soldiers, they were ordinary citizens who needed to know that they were not only fighting AGAINST something, but also FOR something. Those on the home front, most of whom were the families of such soldiers, were no different, and the Beveridge Report, which formed the basis of the Welfare State when produced in December, 1942, was greeted with great enthusiasm.
The Beveridge Report, 1942
The Beveridge Report, 1942 had ambitious proposals:
- Free National Health Service
- Policies of full employment
- Family allowances for all children
- Comprehensive social insurance, leading to the abolition of poverty
The reforms proposed in the Beveridge Report, including those listed here, were much wider than originally intended when enquiries were begun in 1941, when small changes were intended to keep the unions happy. The publication of the report was in fact postponed [from October] as it was felt to be too revolutionary, but once published, it was widely publicised by the Ministry of Information, the lead government department for propaganda on the home front, responsible for MOST home front posters, although not all.
The Beveridge Report was published in atmosphere of optimism, soon after the battle of Alamein, which was seen by many as a turning point in the war, and the report was widely regarded as a blueprint for post-war reconstruction, although there were widespread fears that the ideas would not be implemented, particularly after the fiasco after the First World War with the non-appearance of ‘Homes for Heroes’. It was also probably partly due to views that Churchill’s expressed that he didn’t want to give people false hopes and expectations, and that the country needed to concentrate upon the present, otherwise there would be no future.
Your Britain, Fight for it Now
A series of posters entitled YOUR BRITAIN, FIGHT FOR IT NOW, was produced by Army Bureau of Current Affairs, which was charged with educating the soldiers on the front line, some reflected some of the ideas in the Beveridge Report.
Weight claims that ABCA was generally believed to have been staffed by leftist intelligentsia, who highlighted the failures of conservatism, whilst spreading ideas of a ‘new Jerusalem’, and this poster by Abram Games certainly seems to reflect that, presenting an optimisitc, radical view. In fact, Churchill felt that this depiction of the child with rickets was such a slur on pre-war Conservative policies, that he managed to get this particular poster withdrawn. The image is an optimistic vision of the urban future. Urban areas are often regarded as the bastion of civilisation, as their formation had made the collective emancipation from a feudal lifestyle possible. Immigrants often make up a large proportion of town populations, of a less fixed culture, their influence can be felt in making people more open to new ideas, with more hope for the future. There are also many public meeting places in urban areas, and these are where socialistic ideas tend to make the most imprint.
Beveridge named ‘5 giants’ in his report: “Idleness, Want, Squalor, Ignorance and Disease’, and the background image depicts squalor, and names ‘Disease’ and ‘Neglect’. The image would have been even more familiar to people, as the blitz caused such devastation of homes. This dereliction, however, allowed THE FUTURE to be placed as a clean slate over a bad past. The image ignores the reality of the dirt that would inevitably collect, and does not really measure up to the jaundiced view that we now hold of such architecture. In the same series was this image, a more conservative view, presented by Frank Newbould.
Frank Newbould’s view of the Sussex Downs depicts a rural, pastoral idyll. Bunce claims that the image demonstrates a defence of the traditions of old orders, and denied the reality that those whom this poster was aimed at, the soldiers abroad, came from. However, although most people were urban dwellers, most would have associated with the image of ‘England’s green and pleasant land’. In times of social tensions, when there is a fear of the future, we tend to return to the rural idyll: the countryside image that is associated with fresh air; moral purity; the good life and wholesomeness. It shows stability in a time of conflict, showing the ‘everlasting’ links between man and his territory, and harks back to a nostalgic, simpler age, without the pressures of modern day life. Short sums it up: “It has become the perfect past to the imperfect present and uncertain future.” Its aesthetic beauty is shown in the ‘picture postcard’ timeless village, unaffected by war, bathed in sunlight, the shepherd wandering along with his flocks, whilst nature does the hard work. The image is unconnected with the real back-breaking work of the countryside, and similar images were also used in several other posters, including ‘We could do with thousands more like you‘, and ‘Lend a hand on the land‘, with the consequence that the wrong type of applicant was attracted to the work. Particularly the idea of a ‘farming holiday camp’ attracted those who believed that they had come to the country for a picnic. E.g. There were stories of women turning up in heels, which demonstrates the often misunderstood image of rural life that urban dwellers can often have. [They appreciate the beauty, but not the work]
These posters, both produced in 1942, present two very differing images of Britain. On the one hand we see the presentation of the nostalgic & pastoral image of rural Britain, encouraging effort to maintain past traditions. On the other hand we have the urban image presented as an image of change for a better Britain, a real fight for the future. Neither image is based entirely on reality, but propaganda tends very rarely to present the whole truth, and in this case citizens were to be encouraged to fight for their utopias.x}