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Lucy Allwright - ePortfolio

I recently completed a PhD in the department of History at the University of Warwick.

I completed a a BA in History at the University of Warwick in 2005. In 2006 I took an ESRC funded taught MA in Eighteenth Century Studies. This fueled an interest in spatial theory and the relationships between social and cultural history. Following my masters I took a little while out to work and travel the world. I returned to academia and a new century to explore the impact of bombardment on 1930s-40s London.

My Research

Thesis Title: The War on London: Defending the City From the War in the Air, 1932-1943.

Department: History

Supervisor: Dr Mathew Thomson

Funding: Economics and Social Research Council

Thesis Summary

During the 1930s the massive expansion of London and fears over the uncontrolled, unplanned modernity of the city coincided with fears over the ability of the new technology of the bomber and aerial warfare to decimate cities. My thesis explores the relationship between London as a governed, practiced and represented site, and aerial bombardment. It considers the impact of the new technology of aerial bombing on city space, by looking at the policies that emerged to deal with the consequences of bombardment, specifically through analysis of Air Raid Precautions. It follows these policies on a trajectory through to the actual bombing of the city and the public commemoration of that bombing in 1943.

The thesis explores the competing visions of city life opened up by the lens of aerial warfare, providing a cultural history of the defence of London. It considers how fears about how to protect the city from bombs offered the opportunity for political commentators, local authorities, architects, engineers and planners to voice their concerns about how to protect the urban population at war. Contained within these debates are particular visualizations of the population of London. The thesis thus considers social imaginations of London between 1932 and 1943. It suggests that ARP offered a means to present and articulate different ideas about how to govern and manage an urban population. It also reflects on how these ideas changed over time.

Ultimately it moves between the universal and the particular, exploring how and why blitzed London came to stand for the nation during the war, and in so doing provided a collective consciousness for the nation at war. At the same time by interrogating the representations that made up that collective consciousness, I move to the particular, considering how representations of London under fire were mediated by local experiences and urban practices.

The thesis seeks to offer a nuanced account of London’s modernity through showing the complexity of responses to the problem of managing and imagining a city under fire.