The first half of Britain’s twentieth century was shaped by death. Between 1914 and 1918, over 700,000 men died in the First World War, followed by another 250,000 between 1918 and 1919 from the influenza pandemic. Over three decades later, another 380,000 were killed fighting in the Second World War as well over 60,000 civilians from German air raids. The shockingly high death toll of the Great War has often overshadowed that of the Second. Tales of hardships and tragedies left in the wake of German bombs were discouraged from the outset, and the stiff upper lip of the Blitz spirit has come to dominate popular myth. Perhaps for these reasons, scholars have been more reticent about writing an emotional history of death in Britain during the Second World War. In this episode, Lucy Noakes, Professor of History at the University of Essex discusses the reasons for this imbalance, the truths and falsities behind the myths, and the methods that make such a study possible. Whether Britons confronted loss with a quiet stoicism, utilitarian memorials or personalised inscriptions on headstones, the Second World War was nevertheless a war of emotions.
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