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Localities of Memory, Localities of Mobilisation: British Military Communities and the Great War, 1919-1939
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This thesis examines the role of British localities in the production of military force during the 1920s and 1930s. I argue that, during an era so disenfranchising for the armed forces in national politics and culture, the ‘Local’ provided a haven for servicemen and military units. Rather than theorising mobilisation as a set of state centred economic or technocratic proscriptions, this research takes the social and cultural renewal of military units as a starting point. Drawing on a range of historical and anthropological methodologies, I have set out to uncover what were – to borrow Foucault’s phrase – ‘regimes of truth’: multiple ideological currents and social contexts that legitimised service identities during this period. Local spaces are not only useful arenas for dissecting these operations; local people and identities were crucial formative elements in these processes. Two case studies have provided the ground for this investigation: Newcastle and Glasgow. The thesis dissects the body of the British military machine at these entry points, viewing the configuration of military and naval power at ground level and the emergence of manpower from the collision between state directives and local society. It also examines the communities (soldiers, veterans) that arose through this. Focus moves from military to urban spaces, revealing the characters (pressmen, politicians) and practices (sociability, ritual, performance) that legitimised these communities. Much of this cultural work evoked the memory of the Great War and here the thesis intervenes in academic debates surrounding Commemoration after 1918. The final chapter unites these perspectives in a chronological elaboration of the period 1935-1939, detailing the ground level effort for national and civil defence. As well as enlivening our understanding of 20th century mobilisation, this research explores the depths of British local and national identities and the intricate ways in which the armed forces were framed within both.
AuthorsO'Keeffe, Eleanor Katherine
- Theses