Conclusion – Understanding work camps
Memory and context
in Working men’s bodies
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This chapter starts by placing the interwar work camps in an international context. It distinguishes between work camps that were organised in order to channel relief to unemployed men in countries like the USA, Canada and Australia, and work camps that were organised alongside a welfare system as in Britain and Weimar Germany. It also distinguishes between compulsory systems as in Nazi Germany and voluntary systems as in Britain and the USA. In some cases (Germany and the USA) the camps provided a type of ‘national education’, and enjoyed widespread popular support, while in others (especially Britain) they had a far more instrumental purpose. Virtually all modern work camp systems before 1939 either excluded or marginalised women. Work had a symbolic significance, as well as providing important material goods; and co-residence provided a basis for developing bonds within, and sometimes beyond, the camp community. The chapter concludes with reflections on the longer term inheritance of Britain’s work camps.

Working men’s bodies

Work camps in Britain, 1880–1940


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