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Making Sense of Nuclear War: Narratives of Voluntary Civil Defence and the Memory of Britain’s Cold War

Grant, M (2019) 'Making Sense of Nuclear War: Narratives of Voluntary Civil Defence and the Memory of Britain’s Cold War.' Social History, 44 (2). pp. 229-254. ISSN 0307-1022

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In interviews with members of Britain’s Civil Defence Services, experiences of Cold War voluntarism are recalled in a variety of ways. Some remembered their desire to help defend their nation and local community. Others remembered making a leisure choice that had little connection to the potential nuclear war the organisation was ostensibly preparing for. No one provided a well-developed account of civil defence’s ability to provide a defence against the effects of a nuclear war. Popular memory theorists have argued that the impact of cultural discourse limits the ability of individuals to narrate stories that do not align with cultural and socially valued frameworks. In this case, dominant cultural understandings of civil defence as at best ridiculous or at worst dangerous were established in the 1980s. This article argues that memories of civil defence voluntarism in the 1950s and 1960s have been shaped by these discourses, but that individuals were able to express the different meanings their civil defence service had in their lives in ways that provide a more nuanced and holistic picture of the intersections of leisure, service and sociability that made up civil defence service. As such, this article argues that oral history allows us to understand the various ‘horizons of possibility’ that made up individual experiences of the Cold War.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Cultural memory; deterrence; oral history; nuclear weapons; leisure
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D839 Post-war History, 1945 on
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2018 10:23
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:54

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