You Can Help Your Country

English Children's Work During the Second World War

Paperback
April 2011
9780854738892
More details
  • Publisher
    UCL IOE Press
  • Published
    22nd April 2011
  • ISBN 9780854738892
  • Language English
  • Pages 330 pp.
  • Size 6.25" x 9.25"
  • Images 36 illus
$42.95

Using a rich collection of archives, school histories, photographs and memoirs, this book charts and discusses the contributions English children made to the war effort during World War II. As men and women were increasingly called up for war work, as the country needed to grow as much food as possible, and as the war effort required ever increasing funds, children were the last resource. Many of them worked on the land, planting and harvesting crops, they raised large sums for the war, and they carried out a range of other tasks.

This book not only examines the lives of children during WWII in unprecedented detail, but also it sheds light on the role of children in society generally. The inter-war years were a time when the character and proper activities of childhood were being debated. While protecting the next generation of citizens through evacuation was one strand in thinking, commentators in education and workers' organizations debated whether children should be mainly regarded as learners at school, or could combine that kind of activity with war-related work. This asked a question that still has relevance today: should children be conceptualized as citizens for the future or as participating citizens now?

This debate leads to even larger questions about the social construction of childhood. As children have increasingly been withdrawn from paid and unpaid work, their contribution can be understood through their work at school; though this is often disguised or devalued since adults may conceptualize it as socialization by adults. The inter-war years and the war years in England were a key time for re-thinking childhood, and the issues that were raised then still have relevance to the role of children in society today.

"...a fascinating account, putting it into a sociological, historical and political context."

Michael Bassey, Nottingham Trent University, UK, (retired) - , British Educational Research Journal

"Mayall and Morrow provide an accessible, ambitious, and compelling history of English children's work during WWII. The authors foreground young people's agency, participation, and voice to solidly locate their history within current sociological studies of childhood... This is a grounded exploration foregrounding children's ability and exposing ambuguity in the meanings of childhood that people continue to grapple with today. Summing Up: Highly Recommended."

- Choice

""Children," said The Lady in 1940, "should not be thought of 'as charming pets to be kept away from real life'... They too are British people and they may be better British people if their patriotism is tested in their early years."

You Can Help Your Country usefully (if in textbook style) extends our understanding about children in wartime by showing what was expected of them - and, for most, childhood was over by 14 - when Britain was at war. Children’s contributions were manifold, collecting salvage, helping on the land, saving and digging for victory, knitting for the troops, running errands for ARP wardens, raising funds for battleships and contributing pocket money for Spitfires.

Working-class children had always been part of the domestic economy but the "social contract" that the war effort forged helped consolidate their right to be recognised primarily as learners rather than earners."

Juliet Gardiner, author of Blitz: The British Under Attack (HarperPress, 2010) - , BBC History Magazine

"In emphasising children's agency in the war effort rather than their victimhood, Mayall and Morrow offer a new way of understanding children's experiences of the war. In examining contemporary debates about children's war work, they furthermore reveal a great deal about shifting conceptions of childhood, both then and now."

- The Times Higher Education

“Another major contribution to the sociology of childhood by two pioneers in the field.”

Sarane Spencer Boocock, Emeritus Professor of Sociology - , Rutgers University

“Think of children and the Second World War, and evacuation comes immediately to mind. Berry Mayall and Virginia Morrow have a different story to tell, one in which all the children of the nation were encouraged to contribute to the war effort.”

Hugh Cunningham, Emeritus Professor - , University of Kent

“In raising questions about the nature of children/childhood, this is a timely, relevant and accessibly written book, and is an ideal text for students in education, history and sociology.”

Harry Hendrick, Associate Fellow - , University of Warwick

""Children," said The Lady in 1940, "should not be thought of 'as charming pets to be kept away from real life'... They too are British people and they may be better British people if their patriotism is tested in their early years."

You Can Help Your Country usefully (if in textbook style) extends our understanding about children in wartime by showing what was expected of them - and, for most, childhood was over by 14 - when Britain was at war. Children’s contributions were manifold, collecting salvage, helping on the land, saving and digging for victory, knitting for the troops, running errands for ARP wardens, raising funds for battleships and contributing pocket money for Spitfires.

Working-class children had always been part of the domestic economy but the "social contract" that the war effort forged helped consolidate their right to be recognised primarily as learners rather than earners."

Juliet Gardiner, author of Blitz: The British Under Attack (HarperPress, 2010) - , BBC History Magazine

List of illustrations
List of abbreviations
Acknowledgements
About the authors
1 Starting Points
2 Children in Social Thought Between the Wars
3 Earners or Learners? Work and School 1900-1939
4 Children in Wartime
5 Younger Children’s Work: Doing their Bit
6 Bringing in the Harvest
7 Older Children’s Work: Serving their Country
8 Children in Organisations: Working for Freedom
9 Closing Points
Appendix
List of school histories
Bibliography
Index

Berry Mayall

Berry Mayall is Professor of Childhood Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London.

Virginia Morrow

Virginia Morrow is Senior Research Officer in the Department of International Development, University of Oxford.