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Voices from the Home Front by F. Goodall

F. Goodall wrote a book as a reflection on social and cultural changes occurred in Britain. For modern war meant total war, that is, a war that engaged the energies of the whole nation, and not just those of the armed forces; this was not the least of the lessons of the Second World War. Without the cooperation of the civilian population this enterprise was unrealizable. Goodall emphasizes that strenuous efforts were made to induce every citizen to contribute his energies to that unprecedented phenomenon, the ‘home front’.

The crucial question was the willingness of the mass of the people to share the leadership’s commitment to winning the war and to bear the burdens that this entailed over a period as long as the Second World War. The book consists of 14 chapters devoted to different problems and issues affected civilian population during the Second World War. This book is about experiences of common citizens, their life style and everyday routine, fears and courage.

Goodall vividly portrays that people of Britain responded to the sacrifice and effort demanded of them by the Government with unselfish, patriotic ardor. On the other, the real possibility that things might easily have turned out otherwise was demonstrated by the social upheavals and collapse of the home fronts elsewhere. Changes in the nature of warfare together with certain social and political developments, served to increase uncertainty about how the British people would behave.

Goodall (2004) writes: “they did not know that the demands of the Home Front would leave the British population exhausted, dressed in threadbare cloths and ill-fitted shoes” (10). The main advantages (pros) of this book are that it is based on primary data including personal interviews, official documents, media and narrative sources. Also, the advantage is that Goodall vividly portrays social changes and consciousness of ordinary British people often omitted by other historical books.

The war as experienced on the home front changed and with it the nature of the challenge to civilian morale. Goodall underlines that Britain was no longer alone in her fight: the fear that the war would soon come to a disastrous conclusion was replaced by a sense that it would eventually be won, albeit only after a protracted struggle So radical a change to both the physical and psychological environment inevitably altered the nature of the pressure on the mentality of the people and the way they responded to it.

The disadvantage (cons) of the book is that it does not include analysis of the main events and battles which influenced British people. The book describes events of the Second World War and its impact on British consciousness. British soldiers took an active part in military campaigns throughout the Europe, and their families lived under double pressure: they were afraid of military intervention to Britain and death of their beloved husbands, sons and fathers. But the fear of invasion inevitably lessened as events in the war caused the threat to retreat.

In one important sense, the strain of war was from this point more tolerable for most people: at least invasion. The mental burden of the war no longer included acute fear of invasion but it remained onerous, none the less. To the extent that the other strains of war were tolerable as long as the end was in view, this long drawn-out road to ultimate victory was a severe test. Mistreatment of civilians in occupied Europe merely confirmed the general view that there could be no compromise, that the policy of demanding ‘unconditional surrender’ by Germany was right.

This is an amazing book about courage and hardship faced by British people during the Second World War. In would recommend this book for everyone interested in the history war, social studies and literature. Goodall vividly portrays that instead of living with the pervasive threat of invasion and the daily experience of violent assault from the air, the country entered a period of improved outlook abroad and relative quiet at home.

Works Cited

1. Goodall, F. Voices from the Home Front. David & Charles Publishers, 2004.

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