With Animals at War: Human-Animal Relations and the British War Effort, 1939-1945

Webb, TI ORCID: 0000-0001-9643-4572
(2018) With Animals at War: Human-Animal Relations and the British War Effort, 1939-1945. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Focusing on case studies concerning food production and fighting, this thesis offers the first in-depth account of how the British state enrolled and utilised a diverse range of animals for the war effort. Pigs converted kitchen waste into meat; dairy cattle produced milk for the health of the nation; pigeons carried messages for the British military that helped save the lives of military personnel and provided intelligence from occupied Europe; meanwhile mules carried food, ammunition and human bodies, and provided a source of comfort and intimacy for military personnel within various theatres of war. These animals were represented at the time, to greater or lesser extents, as symbols of the war effort. Moreover, civilians and military personnel used them to forge and reaffirm their wartime identities. The enrolment of these animals also had divergent legacies, shaping human-animal relationships into the post-war years. To reveal the cultural and material impact of war on these particular human-animal relationships, this thesis draws on a diverse source base, including governmental and archival sources, military records, newspapers and journals, photographs, and personal testimonies. It introduces the notion of ‘effort’ and uses this concept to explore how animals were enrolled for war. This includes the state-led effort to work out what animals were capable of and what they could contribute towards the war. It also shows how this was a physical and imaginative effort, as it required animals to be studied, experimented on, interacted with, and harnessed. Furthermore, it demonstrates how this was a collective effort, built on the simultaneous enrolment of humans to work with animals and the interactions between various historical actors. Through such an approach, it recognises the significant role animals played within the British war effort and offers new stories about humans at war. In particular, it extends wider historiographical debates concerning the war’s impact on gender, citizenship and emotion. It also contributes to debates regarding the ‘People’s War.’ It explores human-animal relationships to reveal social cohesion and dissension in wartime Britain along state-individual, military-civilian, urban-rural, class and gendered lines. More widely, it contributes to the social, cultural and environmental histories of Britain during the Second World War. Overall, it argues that the Second World War in Britain needs to be reconsidered as a human-animal effort.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Histories, Languages and Cultures
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 21 Aug 2018 07:00
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2024 17:21
DOI: 10.17638/03020800
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3020800