The People's Wars? The Second World War in Socio-Political Perspective
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For the major Allied powers, the Second World War has long been seen as a ‘good’ war. This has led to a mythologised version of the conflict developing in the public consciousness. The war is often remembered as a ‘Finest Hour’, when ‘both the “ordinary people” and the privileged put aside their everyday involvements and individual concerns, joined hands, and came to the nation’s defence’. The narrative of a ‘good’ war has much less relevance for the Axis powers, for those countries whose experience of the war was defined by occupation and repression and for the many small nations that found themselves caught in the middle. For these countries, the challenge of coming to terms with war crimes, collaboration and subjugation split the nation at the time, and continues to do so today.
Indeed, it is easy to forget how deeply divided (socially, economically and ethnically) belligerent nations were in the era of the Second World War and the manner in which the shadow of the First World War and the Depression shaped the terms of the interaction between the state and its citizens. Even in those countries where the trials of the period were better managed, there was often a distinct disconnect between rhetoric and reality; the war was a contested and deeply divisive experience, a far cry in many ways from a ‘People’s War’.
The conference aims to explore these dynamics and the changes in perspective that emerge from a socio-political rather than a military-organisational approach to studying the Second World War.
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