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British Society at War 1939-1945

Course plan:
This course will deal with events leading up to the Second World War with emphasis being laid on the so-called “guilty men”. They apparently bear the responsibility for letting the quest for peace be transformed into excessive appeasement policies. During the course of the war, the political tide was to gradually turn giving Labour a distinctadvantage and far more leeway to introduce the sort of social reforms they had been hankering after since 1906 when the party emerged as a political force to be reckoned with.
We will also look at what happened during the war on the home front including the Blitz, evacuation, day to day organisation, political organisation and employment. Hopefully, this will enable us to dissipate a few ofthe myths surrounding WW2, especially its popular image as having been “The People’s War” conveyed so skilfully by the wartime medias. Major international events will also be listed enabling students to have a global vision of the conflict.
Finally the impact of the Beveridge Report will be studied and the need to establish a “New Jerusalem”. One of the pillars of the future welfare state wasestablished during the war in the shape of the 1944 Butler Act. A closer look will reveal that although this law did provide free education for all children, it also maintained the traditional hierarchy within the school system.
The establishment of the welfare state after WW2 was perhaps the ultimate reward for the sacrifices made by the population during the war. Despite Winston Churchill’simmense popularity, the Labour Party won a landslide victory in 1945 showing perhaps that things had definitely changed during the war and that British society would never be the same again.

The Treaty of Versailles

Abroad: events leading up to WW2
the situation in Germany
the Abyssinian crisis
the remilitarisation of the Rhineland
declaration ofwar

The Phoney War
the rise of Churchill
the spirit of Dunkirk
"New Jerusalem" or old Britain?

The Battle of Britain and the Blitz

The social myth of the Blitz


The global situation

The Home Front
the kitchen front
the utility scheme


The radio and press

The Beveridge Report

The global situationThe 1944 Butler Act


The Treaty of Versailles

The Treaty of Versailles perhaps sowed the seeds of WW2 in 1919. It committed Germany to the repayment of “war” damages inflicted on the Allies and their countries. Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France. The Rhineland was demilitarised and occupied by the Allies for 15 years and the German army was limited to 100000 persons.Conscription was prohibited as was the use of tanks and aircraft and all the German colonies were placed under the control of the League of Nations.
Keynes was quick to point out as early as 1919 that bringing Germany economically to her knees would not turn her into a useful business partner all the more so as before the war she had been one of Great Britain’s main customers. Great Britain hadenormous debts after WW1 and it would be in her interest to have Germany as a business partner once again.
There were two schools of thought concerning the way in which Germany should be treated after WW1: i) prevent Germany from being in a position to rearm by crushing her and thus stifling the country’s potential to cooperate, ii) integrate Germany into the League of Nations (founded in 1920whose aim was to maintain international peace through collaboration).
Repayment became a perpetual thorn in the side of the League of Nations. Terms and conditions were constantly revised and it would appear as if the main aim was to accommodate payment evasion rather than anything else. The Great Depression in 1929 made it clear to the average German that repayment – and thus the Treaty of...