Did the Blitz Really Unify Britain?





The defiance of Britain as it endured eight months of German bombing 70 years ago is etched on the collective memory and immortalised in the phrase "Blitz spirit". But does this image of national unity tell the whole story?...

Although there was some panic and chaos in those first few nights, says Juliet Gardiner, author of The Blitz: The British Under Attack, the term "Blitz spirit" typifies two qualities that emerged - endurance and defiance....

Despite this fortitude, it's important not to be over-sentimental about the Blitz, she says, and a lot of social tensions remained unresolved.

"The 30s had been a very difficult period, with high unemployment, class antagonism and industrial relations very bad. There were strikes during the war and anti-Semitism rather increased during the Blitz....

Mark Connelly, professor of modern British military history, says there is a modern tendency to focus on the glorious side to the Blitz and forget the bloodshed. But the tale of heroism against German might has forged our national identity.

"I think that the Blitz is absolutely crucial to modern British self-perceptions. 1940 is the triptych of the war for the British - Dunkirk, Battle of Britain and the Blitz, all in that one iconic year.

"For many reasons, what that does is confirm a trajectory of British national culture that started to emerge in the late 18th Century, of the British believing that they are best when they are alone, when their backs are against the wall, when they don't have foreign-speaking allies to pander to." ...



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