The educational experiences of children in England during the Second World War

Lautman, Emma (2016) The educational experiences of children in England during the Second World War. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This study explores the education of children living on the home front in England, and to a lesser extent Wales, during the Second World War. It uses oral histories, written memories and contemporary material, such as classroom work and children’s diaries, alongside archival documents. This multi-faceted approach allows us to ask what young people thought about school and in what ways their lives in the classroom adhered to or differed from the plans of political and educational authorities. In doing so, this thesis contributes to a growing literature which sets out to incorporate the child’s perspective into histories of education.

Each chapter considers education from an increasingly broad perspective. It begins in the formal classroom familiar to children during the inter-war years but gradually expands to look at other sites of education – the outdoor environment of the countryside, the purpose-built camp schools, the wireless, and finally the streets and bomb-sites where children found themselves during long periods of school closures. Modes of learning beyond the traditional schoolroom reveal a more complete picture of children’s educational lives.

Primarily, this research challenges the historiographical assumption that education was a ‘casualty’ of the Second World War. While acknowledging the disruptions facing the school system, it reveals the many ways in which individual institutions adapted to the circumstances of the conflict and took the opportunity to introduce a more child-centred curriculum suited to children dealing with difficulties elsewhere in their lives. This research also brings to light two models of citizenship underpinning state attitudes towards the education of children: the informed citizen and the participatory citizen. The authorities wanted to create a generation of active and educated young people and this took on a particular urgency during wartime. It is also possible to determine children’s reactions to this rhetoric. Some took great interest in the events of the conflict and joined local war efforts, but others rejected adult demands by becoming truants or recording discontent in their diaries. Although in many ways confined by adult structures, we see that children were able to negotiate agency over their learning lives within the context of these constraints.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Thomas, Nick
Heywood, Colin
Keywords: World war two, children in Britain, education
Subjects: D History - General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of History
Item ID: 32934
Depositing User: Lautman, Emma
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2018 07:28
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2019 10:02
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/32934

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