Noakes L (2012) Serve to save: Gender, citizenship and civil defence in Britain 1937–1941. Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 734–753
This article contributes to and extends research into the notion of gendered citizenship in wartime by considering the development of the civil defence and its importance and relation to gender, religion and citizenship. Analysing a range of archival material, including official records from the National Archives, contemporary newspaper coverage, autobiographies, and diaries held in the Imperial War Museum and Mass Observation archive, Noakes explores how the development of civil defence from 1937 onwards helped to create a particular, gendered form of citizenship, and how this was represented on the public stage and experienced by those who participated in civil defence.
Civil defence is a surprisingly under-researched aspect of the history of Second World War Britain. By demonstrating how changing patterns of warfare and the increased need for civil defence were both shaped by, and helped to shape, concepts of gender, Noakes engages with current historiography arguing that a consideration of civil defence is vital to our wider understanding of wartime Britain.
This article has been presented at a series of conferences and seminars in Britain (Social History Society and Women’s History Network) and the USA (Berkshire Conference of Women Historians) and developed out of a wider body of research that is currently being conducted for a monograph commissioned by Manchester University Press (forthcoming, 2014) on death in Second World War Britain. Having opened up this new field of research into the gendering of civil defence, Noakes has gone on to work with S. R. Grayzel of the University of Mississippi and to produce a collaborative journal article that chronologically extends this analysis from the First World War to the ‘war on terror’.