Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Seminar 6

Seminar 6: The British Nation and the Second World War

1. Did the Second World War break down social divisions within the British nation or help expose them?

2. To what extent did the Second World War bring about a transformation of the relationship between the state and the nation in Britain?

3. How did the war alter women's roles and responsibilities?

4. What was the longer-term significance of the Second World War for national identity in Britain?


James Cronin, ‘The British State and the Structure of Political Opportunity’, Journal of British Studies, 27 (1988), 199-231.

Steven Fielding, ‘What did the “People” want? The Meaning of the 1945 General Election’, Historical Journal, 35 (1992), pp.

Jose Harris, ‘War and Social History: Britain and the Home Front during the Second World War’, Contemporary European History, 1 (1992), 17-35

Brian Harrison, ‘The Rise, Fall and Rise of Political Consensus in Britain since 1940’, History, 84 (1999), 301-24

Sonya Rose, Which People's War? (2003), see especially "Geographies of the Nation" for a discussion of multi-national Britain. And for gender, see "Be Truly Feminine" and "Temperate Heroes." Much of this work is available online via googlebooks.

And for a historical overview of this period: Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory, pp. 216-247


Further Reading

Paul Addison, The Road to 1945: British Politics and the Second World War (1975)

John Agar, ‘Modern Horrors: British Identity and Idenity Cards’, in Jane Caplan et al (eds.), Documenting Individual Identity (2001), 101-20

Angus Calder, The Myth of the Blitz (1991)

Angus Calder, The People’s War: Britain, 1939-1945 (1969)

James Cronin, The Politics of State Expansion (1991)

Martin Daunton, ‘Payment and Participation: Welfare and State-Formation in Britain 1900-1951’, Past & Present, 150, 169-216.

David Edgerton, Warfare State: Britain, 1920-1970 (2005)

S. Fielding, N. Tiratsoo, & P. Thompson (eds.), England Arise: The Labour Party and Popular Politics in 1940s Britain (1995)

G. Finlayson, ‘A Moving Frontier: Voluntarism and the State in British Social Welfare, 1911-1949’, Twentieth Century British History, 1 (1990), 183-206.

Jose Harris, ‘Did British Workers want the Welfare State?’, in J. Winter (ed.), The Working Class in Modern British History (1983)

Jose Harris, ‘Political Thought and the Welfare State, 1870-1940: An Intellectual Framework for British Social Policy’, Past & Present, 135 (1992).

Jose Harris, ‘Society and State in Twentieth-Century Britain’, in F.M.L. Thompson (ed.), The Cambridge Social History of Britain, Vol 3.

Harriet Jones & Michael Kandiah (eds.), The Myth of Consensus: New Views on British History, 1945-64 (1996)

Rodney Lowe, ‘The Second World War: Consensus and the Foundation of the British Welfare State’, Twentieth Century British History, 1 (1990),

Lucy Noakes, War and the British: Gender and National Identity (1998)

Sonya Rose, ‘Sex, Citizenship and the Nation in World War II Britain’, American Historical Review, 103 (1998), 1147-76

* Sonya Rose, Which People’s War? National Identity and Citizenship in Wartime Britain, 1939-1945 (2003)

* Harold Smith (ed.), War and Social Change: British Society in the Second World War (1986)

Malcolm Smith, Britain and 1940: History, Myth and Popular Memory (2000)

Penny Summerfield, Reconstructing Women’s Wartime Lives (1998)

Nick Tiratsoo (ed.), The Attlee Years (1991)

* Richard Weight, Patriots: National Identity in Britain, 1940-2000 (2002), chapters 1 & 2

* Richard Weight and Abigail Beach (eds.), The Right to Belong: Citizenship and National Identity in Britain, 1930-1960 (1998)