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Valuing the Dead: Death, Burial, and the Body in Second World War Britain

Noakes, Lucy (2019) 'Valuing the Dead: Death, Burial, and the Body in Second World War Britain.' Critical Military Studies. ISSN 2333-7486

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In her work The Body in Pain Elaine Scarry discusses what she has termed ‘the referential instability’ of the human body in death. The dead of war, she argues, have a particular, historically specific, instability, in that their bodies can be of immense emotional value to their nation, but can also be fought over and disputed; the subject of competing claims from nation, family and enemy. In Second World War Britain the bodies of dead combatants, for long the subject of state regulation and familial and comradely grief, were joined by the bodies of dead civilians. This article examines the ways in which the British state attempted to regulate the disposal of the bodies of both civilians and combatants in a manner which conferred the sense of honour and sacrifice, largely successfully attached to the dead of the battlefield since the First World War, to the bodies of civilians killed in the new form of warfare, aerial bombardment. It sets this against a discussion of the treatment of the combatant dead and examines expressions of grief, and the regulation of these in both civilian and combatant contexts, arguing that in ‘total war’ the state struggled to ensure the stability of both the civilian and combatant corpse.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Second World War, Burial, Death, Funerals
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2018 14:40
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2021 02:00

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