Voices of the Cold War in Britain, 1945 - 1962

  • Jessica Douthwaite

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis investigates the civilian experience of the Cold War between 1945 and1962 through 44 original oral history interviews with 48 individuals. As the first oral history of everyday life in Cold War Britain it examines the generation born before1945 and the experience of growing up in postwar Britain. The thesis situates these oral histories within the changing emotional landscape that contextualised Britain's Cold War, comparing and contrasting experiences through cultural and documentary sources, as well as oral testimony. This combination of sources and methodologies offers a fresh perspective on two civilian communities that were integral to Britain's early nuclear weapons developments: civil defence recruits and anti-nuclear campaigners. It is also the first study of its kind to compare these group experiences with those of a general cohort of civilian interviewees. An emotions history approach is central to the argument that personal experiences of Second World War memory, gender norms, and the media, coupled with unprecedented technological and cultural postwar developments, contributed to perceptions of nuclear security and Britain's role in Cold War foreign policy. While many individuals responded differently to the Cold War in this period, the thesis shows that such actions were often anchored in similar motivations. The thesis argues that the conditions of postwar emotional cultures underpinned individual and collective perspectives on Britain's role in the Cold War, revealing how the logic of Cold War military strategies and power structures affected and were absorbed by civilians indirectly implicated in a peacetime conflict. As such, this thesis contributes directly to current scholarship on the cultural, social and political history of Cold War Britain.
Date of Award30 Apr 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsAHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council)
SupervisorArthur McIvor (Supervisor) & Emma Newlands (Supervisor)

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