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Englishness and Empire 1939-1965$
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Wendy Webster

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199226641

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199226641.001.0001

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The People’s Empire and the People’s War

The People’s Empire and the People’s War

(p.19) 2 The People’s Empire and the People’s War
Englishness and Empire 1939-1965


Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the role of propaganda in showing the war effort as a ‘people's war’. Much imagery of a ‘people's war’ focused on the home front. In contrast, the imperial war effort was usually shown on the fighting front, showing martial masculinity ‘away’. Its most characteristic image — as in the ‘Together’ poster — was of marching troops. Representations of nation and empire nevertheless converged on common themes. A racial community of Britons was one prominent theme of empire propaganda, highlighting the role of white Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans as ‘sons of empire’. This showed the efforts of the common people in empire, united with the common people of Britain in a fight for justice and freedom. But Indian soldiers were also acclaimed as courageous ‘sons of empire’ and much empire propaganda projected empire as a multiracial community. While a ‘people's war’ showed a homogeneous people pulling together across differences of class and gender, this version of a ‘people's empire’ showed a heterogeneous people pulling together across differences of race and ethnicity, united in a common cause.

Keywords:   British culture, empire, imperial power, war, people's empire, propaganda

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