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Motivating the citizen-soldier: The provision and use of books, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines by the British Army during the Second World War, 1939-1945

Citation: Thompson, Stephen (2023) Motivating the citizen-soldier: The provision and use of books, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines by the British Army during the Second World War, 1939-1945. Doctoral thesis, University of London.

THESIS Motivating the Citizen-soldier 1939-1945 Sept 2023.doc

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This thesis explores the provision of printed material in the form of books, pamphlets, newspapers and magazines to the British Army during the Second World War in the context of the need to sustain the morale of the troops. It addresses the following questions: why did the army require such a variety of printed material at a time when printing and publishing was disrupted by rationing, shortages, and enemy action? How were these publications chosen, sourced, and distributed? Finally, who was the material intended for and did it meet their needs? These questions are addressed from the perspective of book history supported by aspects of military and social history and that of army administration and education. The thesis starts by examining concerns over morale at the beginning of the war and the changes to army training, education and welfare made in response. It investigates how bulletins and pamphlets sought to inspire soldiers through education in current events, the progress of the war, and improving their knowledge of British history and society. It also explores how newspapers, news-bulletins, wall newspapers and unit magazines provided reliable information to counter rumour and instil cohesion. It further delineates how books and libraries encouraged reading for recreation and self-education, thus counteracting alienation and boredom. Alongside this, consideration is given to the difficulties of providing printed material during conditions of total war. As well as problems in production, supply and distribution, destruction by enemy action, and resistance from conservative elements in the military and political spheres were obstacles. Some of these difficulties were, however, overcome as the war turned in Britain’s favour. The different issues faced by forces located overseas are examined alongside domestic arrangements. The evolution of the wartime army as a social institution has been documented in recent scholarship. However, the role of books, newspapers and pamphlets, both official and unofficial, in this process has perhaps been underexplored. This thesis concludes that, while it is difficult to directly measure the contribution these publications made to sustaining army morale, the printed materials generated for and distributed to the troops represented an important strand in the development of the army as a more enlightened institution and, arguably, made a contribution to bringing about a force capable of defeating the enemy in North West Europe after D-Day.

Creators: Thompson, Stephen and
Subjects: History
Keywords: Book history, citizen-soldier, British Army, Second World War
Divisions: Institute of English Studies
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 30 September 2023 (accepted)


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