Blood, Sweat, and Toil: Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945

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9780199675364: Blood, Sweat, and Toil: Remaking the British Working Class, 1939-1945

Blood, Sweat, and Toil is the first scholarly history of the British working class in the Second World War. It integrates social, political, and labour history, and reflects the most recent scholarship and debates on social class, gender, and the forging of identities.

Geoffrey Field examines the war's impact on workers in the varied contexts of the family, military service, the workplace, local communities, and the nation. Extensively researched, using official documents, diaries and letters, the records of trade unions and numerous other institutions, Blood, Sweat, and Toil traces the rapid growth of trade unionism, joint consultation, and strike actions in the war years. It also analyses the mobilization of women into factories and the uniformed services and the lives of men conscripted into the army, showing how these experiences shaped their aspirations and their social and political attitudes.

Previous studies of the Home Front have analysed the lives of civilians, but they have neglected the importance of social class in defining popular experience and its centrality in public attitudes, official policy, and the politics of the war years. Contrary to accounts that view the war as eroding class divisions and creating a new sense of social unity in Britain, Field argues that the 1940s was a crucial decade in which the deeply fragmented working class of the interwar decades was 'remade', achieving new collective status, power, and solidarity. Employing a contingent, non-teleological conception of class identity and indicating the plural and shifting mix of factors that contributed to workers' social consciousness, he criticizes recent revisionist scholarship that has downplayed the significance of class in British society.

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About the Author:


Geoffrey Field received his undergraduate degree in history from Oxford University and a Ph.D from Columbia University. His research and publications have focused on twentieth-century German and British history and European racism. His book, Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, won the Anisfield-Wolf Award for the best book on race relations in any discipline and an Outstanding Book of the Year Award from Choice. He has been a visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and the University of Paris, 13. He is also a former Chair of the New York Council for the Humanities, was a Senior Editor of International Labor and Working-Class History, and continues to serve on the journal's editorial board.

Review:


"Field ...brings forth a fresh eye and a highly impressive volume of primary research; his analysis is always thoughtful and stimulating ... He has refocused our minds on class, has proposed some credible hypotheses, and has done much to illuminate them. His book will repay rereading, and is likely to become a key point of reference in the literature." --War in History


"This is a splendid, well-written, and deeply researched study of the British working class during the Second World War. This is an essential text about Britain during the war." --Journal of British Studies


"For anyone seriously engaged in the study of wartime Britain, Field's work will likely be read for years to come." --H-Net Reviews


"Field's readable, persuasive, and informed account should hold a prominent place in the literature for some years to come...[He] has provided a superbly documented account of the centrality of class to the history of wartime Britain." --International Review of Social History


"[Field] increases our understanding of an important, still imperfectly understood time, helping to clarify how a substantial, unprecedented shift towards a more equal society was achieved." --Times Literary Supplement


"A solid contribution to understanding the influence of WWII on British society...This carefully written, solidly researched and clearly argued book must be a part of all historical studies of the last century...Essential." --Choice


"A fascinating, kaleidoscopic history of the British working class during World War II, which upends many familiar stereotypes about the war and British society. It also demonstrates that there is still plenty of life in the field of labor history, whose death has been prematurely announced many times." --The Nation


"[Field's] book will repay rereading, and is likely to become a key point of reference in the literature. He and the publishers are to be congratulated upon it." --War in History


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Field, Geoffrey G.
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