Introduction
in Working men’s bodies
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This chapter discusses the importance of work in modern societies, and then suggests that before 1939 work camps were a normal feature of British life. It defines the concept of ‘work camp’, and argues that the majority of work camp movements were centrally concerned with reshaping the male body. In contemporary societies, body obsessions can change rapidly, and it is sometimes hard to place ourselves in the past, in a society where the comfortable middle and upper classes worried that the working class was physically too weak to contribute to the wider well-being of the community. Work camps, I argue, are therefore of a wider significance in showing us how ideas of work, community, the body and identity were intertwined.

Working men’s bodies

Work camps in Britain, 1880–1940

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