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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: '. . . what in the hell’s this?' Rehearsing nuclear war in Britain's Civil Defence Corps
Author(s): Douthwaite, Jessica
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Keywords: Cold war
Nuclear cultures
post-war Britain
oral history
Issue Date: 2019
Date Deposited: 15-Oct-2021
Citation: Douthwaite J (2019) '. . . what in the hell’s this?' Rehearsing nuclear war in Britain's Civil Defence Corps. Contemporary British History, 33 (2), pp. 187-207.
Abstract: Between 1948 and 1968, Civil Defence Corps recruits trained to protect local communities in the event of nuclear war in Britain. Across that period, the policies that governed civil defence were also reformed to support the development of Britain’s nuclear deterrent. In that context, an imagined nuclear war gradually came to inform defence strategies that sought to deter, rather than prepare for, armed conflict. The nuclear deterrent determined a new era of security in which the original purpose of civil defence was increasingly viewed as redundant in official and everyday opinion. By the mid-1960s, nuclear deterrence was an accepted tool of Cold War peace and CDC was discontinued. This article uses the original oral history testimonies of civil defence volunteers to investigate experiences of nuclear war according to people engaged directly in official projections of war. The article engages with scholarship on the imagined and discursive Cold War to argue that recruits experienced nuclear training through personal conceptualisation processes extending far beyond official versions of nuclear attack. The article argues that oral history narratives provide an unrivalled source through which to profile the fragile and ambiguous interior processes that underpinned official and unofficial interpretations of nuclear security at the time.
DOI Link: 10.1080/13619462.2018.1519421
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