‘Just Nerves!’
Civilian nerves in the Second World War
in Feeling the strain
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Focusing on Home Front experiences in the Second World War, this chapter contrasts early unsubstantiated government concerns about the psychiatric impact of bombing on the population with the experience of civilian stress that arose largely from the daily strain of wartime living and the specific demands made of workers in a wartime economy. It argues that the high levels of absenteeism that so concerned employers and government, constituted one of the few ways that conscripted women workers had for achieving agency in their disrupted and challenging Home Front domestic lives. Discussion of attempts to mitigate wartime strain, through the development of institutions such as Roffey Park Rehabilitation Centre or the work of organisational Welfare Officers, reveals recognition of employee suffering, but also the very contingent nature of these efforts. Against a backdrop of expected collective wartime stoicism, both reveal assumptions about individual, inherent weakness as the cause of stress.

Feeling the strain

A cultural history of stress in twentieth-century Britain

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