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Middle-class men on the English Home Front, 1914–18
Author: Laura Ugolini

Historians of the First World War often seem to have a very clear idea of who middle-class men were and how they reacted to the outbreak of the conflict. This book explores the experiences of middle-class men on the English home front during the First World War. It first focuses on the first twelve months or so of war, a period when many middle-class men assumed that the war could hardly fail to affect them. The book then delves deeper into middle-class men's understandings of civilians' appropriate behaviour in wartime. It explores middle-class men's reasons for not conforming to dominant norms of manly conduct by enlisting, and considers individuals' experiences of 'non-enlistment'. It also focuses on middle-class men's involvement in volunteer activities on the home front. The book also focuses on middle-class men's working lives, paying particular attention to those aspects of work that were most affected by the war. It considers civilian men's responses to the new ambivalence towards profit-making, as well as to the doubts cast on the 'value' of much middle-class, whitecollar work in wartime. The book further assesses the ways in which middle-class men negotiated their roles as wartime consumers and explores the impact of war on middle-class relationships. It considers the nature of wartime links between civilians and servicemen, as well as the role of the paterfamilias within the middle-class family, before turning to focus on the relationship between civilian fathers and combatant sons.

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Middle-class men and the First World War
Laura Ugolini

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores civilian middle-class men's wartime experiences and examines how the war affected lives and identities. It argues that the war began to affect middle-class lives in very clear, sometimes unexpected and often unpleasant ways. The book also explores the interplay between experience and memory which is especially important in relation to the issue of war service. It focuses onto middle-class men's involvement in volunteer activities on the home front, including service in organised, 'public' bodies such as Volunteer Training Corps and special constables, and 'private' activities like allotment keeping and vegetable growing. The book assesses the ways in which middle-class men negotiated their roles as wartime consumers. It explores the impact of widely held notions of work appropriate to a society at war.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

This chapter explores some of the changes experienced by middle-class men as they went about their 'everyday' lives in wartime. Focusing particularly on the first twelve months or so of the war, the chapter suggests that the middle-class men were physically distanced from the actual fighting, the war intruded in their lives in a variety of ways. According to Macleod Yearsley, it was only in the early months of 1915 that people on the home front really began to realise the seriousness of the war. News, as well as gossip and rumours, were increasingly acquired through such word-of-mouth sources. In December 1915 H.C. Cossins noted that several series of cinematograph records have been taken of life at the front. Reginald Gibb's attitude towards the conflict was more critical than that of most middleclass civilian men.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

In mid-1915 many civilian men began to notice that the conflict was intruding in their lives in new and often unexpected ways. By the second year of war, most civilians could claim a newly personal interest in the fortunes of the armed forces. Most people had at least a friend, colleague, acquaintance or relative on active service; diaries and letters were peppered with references to such individuals. By 1915, men in uniform had become a ubiquitous presence in most public spaces on the home front. For many civilians, the noise of bomb and gun practice, of aeroplanes flying overhead, even of explosions on the Western Front, had by 1916 become part of everyday life. Middle-class men did not remain unaffected by wartime restrictions for long: a variety of regulations soon began to impinge on their lives too.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

Editing his wartime diaries in 1938, Macleod Yearsley was clear in his belief that during the war civilians had belonged to a 'home front' separate from the fighting forces. Many middle-class civilian men cherished the patriotic belief that they were part of a nation united against a common and ruthless foreign enemy. Middle-class civilian men harboured grave doubts about the patriotic credentials of foreign 'aliens', the working classes and women. Older men's patriotic efforts may often have been dismissed as ridiculous and ineffective, but doubts were also expressed about younger men's willingness and fitness to take on the responsibilities they were expected to shoulder. As far as middle-class civilian men were concerned, their belief in a united home front was constantly undermined by what they saw as the unpatriotic and selfish behavior of other sections of the population.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

This chapter considers the impact of 'business' and family responsibilities, before turning to the debates over the fairness of including married men in the conscription laws. In April 1915 Andrew Clark noted that 'on the front of the Mansion-House' in London 'are two enormous posters, yellow with white letterpress. Most middle-class men seem to have shared the general belief that all physically fit men of military age should offer their services to the armed forces. In May 1916 Harold Cossins noted that the Compulsion Act had just passed its third parliamentary reading and would soon become law. Derby scheme, named after the new Director of Recruiting for the Army, was put in place: all men between the ages of nineteen and forty, including those in 'starred' occupations, were called upon to 'attest' their willingness to volunteer.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

This chapter focuses on middle-class men's involvement in the home front 'war work'. It considers two of the most common volunteering choices made by middle-class men: enlistment in the Volunteer Training Corps and the special constables. The chapter argues that it was such experiences of home front volunteering, from drilling in the public gaze to digging a vegetable patch in the privacy of one's garden. It explains middle-class men's reactions to the 'farce' and 'browbeating' of the National Service scheme of 1917. By 1917 the authorities were becoming increasingly vocal in encouraging civilians to counter the shortage of various foodstuffs by tending allotments and growing their own vegetables. F. A. Robinson greeted the initial announcement of the national service scheme with scepticism, uncertain how 'this is going to affect the individual'.

in Civvies
Abstract only
Laura Ugolini

This chapter argues that the pressures of war led many to reassess the 'value' of their work in a wartime society, with the slippery concept of work of 'national importance'. The concept of 'national work' provides a new benchmark against which men sought to measure themselves. The chapter considers the impact on working lives of wartime regulations, as well as of the vicissitudes. It deals with the ideal of work that contributed to the war effort and closes with its polar opposite: work that it was thought allowed certain individuals to 'profiteer' from the calamity of war. The chapter examines the problems and opportunities that were particularly associated with the world of business. There is little doubt that middle-class working lives were deeply affected by wartime shortages of labour. Shortages occurred not only among working-class 'hands', but also white-collar and middle-class occupations.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

This chapter examines middle-class men's wartime consumer and leisure practices. It explores middle-class men's consumer practices and identities as a pre-war abundance of supply turned into a market characterised by prohibitively priced goods and limited availability. The chapter considers the extent to which middle-class consumers were affected by rising prices and shortages, particularly of food. It also examines the changes to consumer practices: both those adopted voluntarily, as a patriotic gesture, particularly in the early months of war, and those imposed by circumstances outside individuals' control. The chapter focuses on the impact of the conflict on leisure activities and shopping practices, questioning the extent to which either could justifiably be pursued in wartime. It assesses the responses to 'economy' appeals, shedding light on what these reveal about 'appropriate' consumer behaviour at a time of crisis.

in Civvies
Laura Ugolini

Networks of family and friends were extremely important to middle-class men, and became even more so during the war. This chapter considers the disruption caused to such networks by the war, focusing particularly on the impact of relatives' and friends' absence while on active service. It examines the impact of war on family relationships. The chapter assesses whether the conflict brought about changes, or indeed, challenges to the established role and authority of the paterfamilias. It focuses on one particular relationship: that between fathers and sons, and particularly civilian fathers and combatant sons. It was the patriotic duty of every fit young man to volunteer his services to the armed forces, the reality of sons leaving for military service hit many middle-class fathers hard. The chapter discusses whether wartime experiences and events led to a renegotiation of roles and responsibilities across generations.

in Civvies