Imagining the war / imagining the nation: British national identity and the postwar cinema, 1946-1957

Tracy McDiarmid

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] Many historical accounts acknowledge the ‘reverberations’ of the Second World War that are still with the British today, whether in terms of Britain’s relationships with Europe, the Commonwealth, or America; its myths of consensus politics and national unity; or its conceptions of national character. The term ‘reverberations’, however, implies a disruptive, unsettling influence whereas today’s popular accounts and public debates regarding national identity, more often than not concerned with ‘Englishness’ as a category distinctive from ‘Britishness’, instead view the Second World War as a time when the nation knew what it was and had a clear understanding of the national values it embodied a time of stability and consensus. This thesis demonstrates that, in the postwar period, ‘British’ was not a homogeneous political category, ‘Britishness’ was not a uniformly adopted identity, and representations of the nation in popular cinema were not uncontested. British national identity in the postwar 1940s and 1950s was founded upon re-presentations of the war, and yet it was an identity transacted by class, gender, race and region. Understandings of national identity ‘mirrored’ by British films were influenced by the social and political context of their creation and reception, and were also a reflection of the cinema industry and its relationship to the state. Both ‘national cinema’ and ‘national identity’ are demonstrated to be fluctuating concepts dominant myths of the war were undermined and reinforced in response to the demands of the postwar present.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2005

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