As a history undergraduate student, I fell in love with World War II. Unlike all of my classmates, however, what interested me was the home front, not the battles. I did take the occasional class about the war itself, yet I did so to give myself a better background of the timeline to make the events at home make more sense.
Even after more than twenty years, I still remember one article that I read in The Historian.
It compared the role of women in the war effort in the United States and Germany. I’d been studying the opportunities being made to American women (as well as the role of race), and I was interested to see how the German government harnessed the forces of their female population. As it turned out, German women did not volunteer in substantial numbers the way their American counterparts did. First, the war was on their soil, thus creating a feeling of need to stay at home to help protect their families. More importantly, however, the German population felt that the government was already in control of so much of their lives, there was resistance to giving up what little control they still had. Since there was no draft of people into the factories, the women stayed home en mass. Learning things like that, especially the comparative part, was what made me want to get my PhD and write articles like that.
Strangely enough, going through school, I wasn’t exposed to what life was like in England during that time period. Of course I read about the blitzkrieg, but there wasn’t a course going through the primary documents of the era. I didn’t realize the gap in my education until I watched Foyle’s War last year! How did I miss this when I was living in England?!?!?
I strongly recommend this series! It is about a detective in England during the war. It portrays the home front during that era. What was fascinating to me was how those hardships continued on after the war was over. Since battles weren’t fought on American soil, we saw the HUGE jump in our productivity in the post-war years. Much of England’s infrastructure was destroyed, and they lost a substantially higher percentage of their men compared to the US, thus taking quite a while for their recovery.
Much like with the home ec video I found, I was fascinated when I stumbled across a British government nutritional video of that era.
This made me want a house with a yard! If it were up to me, there would be no grass – only edibles! I’ve gotten a bit obsessed about all of this. There is just something about eating food that has unbelievable flavor, unlike supermarket produce, and having some level of control that makes me want to out and plant more things. I try to imagine what it must have been like for my grandparents when their victory gardens gave them much needed freshness and variety to their diet during the war. It’s another way that I feel closer to them.
Anyone else out there a WWII buff? or What activities that you do make you feel closer to previous generations?
10 thoughts on “Home Front”
My brain shuts down if you hand me a history book, but I can get completely immersed in historical fiction. Many of my favorite books are about Europeans surviving during WWII – The Book of Ebenezer le Page and Correlli’s Mandolin being two absolute must-reads.
I too have been inspired by the frugality and inventiveness of people of those times, and I am often encouraged in my sewing and gardening by thinking of how many people made do with little to nothing for the years during and after the war. It’s a good reminder that being responsible for sustaining yourself and your community is always possible, and should not just be undertaking during a crisis.
I have not heard of Foyle’s War. Is it a PBS thing? Where can I find it? Did you see Bomb Girls? That was a short-lived but pretty good TV series about women in wartime factories.
I’ve never read any historical fiction. I think that is a genre I need to explore. The closest I’ve ever gotten is alternative histories, which tend to be either really good or absolutely horrible.
Having always lived in times of plenty, it’s hard to imagine what it must have been like to have ration books and simply not being able to get things people needed, much less wanted. I like how you are applying the lessons they learned even in our modern life.
Foyle’s War did show on PBS. I watched on Netflix and from some DVDs I borrowed from my library.
I actually have Foyle’s War on my list of things to watch in Netflix. What a weird coincidence. My wife put it on there and said I might like it. I think I’ll have to give it a shot. I’m very interested in WWII, but I feel like I already know so much about it. But the area I don’t know well is the home front. Perhaps I should get a good understanding for that as well.
I’m a big history buff. I’ve even checked out history textbooks from the library just to understand history better. Yeah, I’m a nerd, but I love it.
What a coincidence! I think you’ll really enjoy Foyle’s War. It is excellent! The home front is the backdrop, but you can learn so much from it.
Here’s to hoping there’ll be no World War III any time soon.
I agree with you on that one, Mark. I don’t think the Crimean troubles will lead there.
I am so behind in reading – haven’t been over here in forever! How are you??
Perhaps the timing is fortuitous, though, because just last night my sister and I were chatting and she told me how much she loves WWII literature and…everything. She fell in love with it somewhere around middle school and how did I not know that? I’m sending her your post – I think she’ll love it.
I hope your sister enjoys “Foyle’s War”. Any WWII buff will. It’s so interesting to see things from the British perspective.
I love these old informational movies. I think we forget to care about what life is like in other places, because we can easily choose not to watch the news. We lose our empathy this way.
Those old government films are so informative and entertaining. I love seeing how much has changed, in both lifestyle and what is considered safe. They are a good view into the world as it was.