A popular interpretation that Some Historians believe is that the home front was the main reason for British victory in World War II, however there are multiple other interpretations that draw from different schools of thought, the intervention of the allies by supply routes or military aid, problems in Germany itself like dissent among the ranks of the army and that Germany was too weak to fight on all fronts.
An example of differing opinions in schools of thought would be that a social historian may view the dig for victory campaign as the British Government encouraging small scale cultivation of private and arable land be it garden or public park to give self-sufficiency to the people and the country, however a revisionist Historian may argue that in reality the people were only supplementing what the British Economy could not provide due to heavy reliance on imported foods, that were being destroyed by German u-boats and disrupted supply lines, showing a massive weakness of reliance on foreign produce. My first source is a newspaper article written on the 8th february 1940 on the day rationing took effect, by the newspaper the scotsman which was a broadsheet newspaper at the time with a neutral political alignment, making it a neutral source of unbiased information, however as a newspaper it would want to sell as many papers as possible so it may embellish the facts for dramatic effect, yet at the same time it could try and remain as factual as possible because its reputation as a broadsheet could be tarnished if it sensationalised information. In the article it outlines that the government ordered a cull of livestock, due to lack of cereal and that recent imports allowed for an increase in “66% of normal compared with only 33% in december” in allocation of cereal stock to the trade displaying a clear reliance on imports to sustain the livestock industry, it also makes mention of a “feedingstuffs maximum price order” made “prior to the war” this shows that the Government had prepared for the inflation of imports due to shortages in supply, a good attempt to make feeding stuffs available for farmers in a wartime economy to make sure they do not experience bankruptcy.
The source could be used by a political Historian to show how the British Government was trying alleviate the issue of a disrupted supply chain by implementing a cull, a ministry of agriculture and a price cap on feedingstuffs showing the Home Fronts cunning and resourcefulness, they would most likely have this view due to Political History hitting it’s peak in the 1960s; meaning that a Historian at the time most likely would have agreed the Homefront won the war due to the close proximity of which the Historian may have come to their judgement, this in tandem with a political focus leads to this being deemed a success. An economic Historian could counteract this argument by using this source to show that the Home front had a dangerous reliance on unreliable imports, as Britain’s economy and politics is shown to be influenced by imports exposing a weakness in the Home front. they would argue this because, economic history is relatively new and is more quantitative with its sources favouring numbers and statistics from an economic point of view making them perceive this as a reliance and not a success.
My second source is another newspaper article written on the 26th of august 1940, this one is also by the scotsman. The article discusses “new contracts for the purchase of butter and cheese from Australia and New Zealand for the 1940-1941 season” by the ministry of food “to replace the loss of butter and cheese previously supplied by the continent” this shows that Britain was previously reliant on imports and is struggling to to make up for the supply and demand with its own dairy market, this in combination with source one indicates that instead of trying to become more self sufficient the reliance on imports is being deepened this is problematic for the home front being responsible for victory interpretation as the home front was being highly reliant on other countries for food and other basics, at the time from the 11th of july-18th august 30,000 tonnes of shipping was lost to sea(2) showing the home front placing its trust in unreliable imports portraying desperation. A political Historian could use this source in conjunction with source 1 to further the narrative of Britain’s resourcefulness by showing in created multiple ministries that were using all their power to normalise the supply situation A political Historian would have this point of view because it shows the Government in an active state trying to fix the issue. Counter to this an economic Historian could reaffirm their point by demonstrating Britain’s need for imports was only increasing making further issues for the country an economic Historian would be influenced by the close proximity of the dates and economic implications in the both articles and would say that shows a shift to importing in Britain’s economic policy. My third source is a propaganda poster by dudley s cowes who was a children’s illustrator for the ministry of health, making the source partisan as it was commissioned by a government body and drawn by a children’s illustrator to appeal to children.
it portrays a child trying to stay in london and fight the Germans and being told to leave by a soldier, the poster has no definite publication date however it had began appearing 1940. The poster is most likely made for the second wave of evacuation in 1940(1) after The evacuation of 1.5 million children in 1939(1) this reveals the home fronts self defence issue with key cities and high priority military assets being bombed, it could be argued that evacuation was a pre-retreat as london and other major cities were in technicality a war zone making the home front weak, however it is a piece of propaganda designed to help keep morale up and give useful information to the public, this displays that the government was trying to maintain social order and reduce collateral damage. A political Historian would use this source to show multiple inferred actions by the Government, the setting up of further ministries, the evacuation of children and propaganda portraying an active and involved Homefront that actively made programs to help the people, A political Historian would most likely be partial to this interpretation because of the popularity political History being close to the war and because of a display of political legislation and action. A revisionist Historian could juxtapose by saying that this source shows the Homefront technically carried out A pre-retreat as many major towns and cities became war zones due to heavy bombing, A revisionist Historian would have this interpretation because they would review later interpretations and documents as revisionist history came a while after political history to conclude that evacuations were a sign that national security was compromised. My fourth source is the Anglo-American mutual aid agreement signed on the 28th of february 1942, as an official allied document making it neutral in respect to the agreements within the clause, as an agreement between America and Britain however makes the source partial toward allied interests and viewpoints, the agreement was most made to forge the basis of a mutually beneficial alliance.
The agreement outlines that America will give military help to britain in the form of “defense articles, defense services and defense information as the president shall authorize ” again the Home front is receiving aid from another country, the rest of the document shows that Britain was not the dominant country in this agreement meaning Britain is in no position to refuse or demand a better deal, America is gaining clear economic advantages as it refers to “the attainment of all the economic objectives set forth in the joint declaration made on aug 12 1941” more commonly known as the atlantic charter the fifth clause states “fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field”(3), America is gaining clear economic advantages with Britain getting the tougher bargain. A political Historian could use this source to show how Britain tackled international relationships and gained aid and supplies whilst doing so, as well as coming out with a trade deal the political Historian would look at the source from a political point of view leading the historian to view this as a mutual contract. A military Historian could counter this argument because America appears to be the one making the terms and conditions and is the more dominant country that Britain was in desperate need of weapons and intelligence showing weak offensive capability. A military Historians interpretation would be influenced by the military side of things for example how some of Britain’s military might now belonged to another country and they needed a deal for strength.
My fifth source is the united nations declaration of january 1st 1942, as a United Nations document there is bias towards the allies point of view due to it being ally in origin and some countries may have more say in the terms and conditions than others due to the time they joined the agreement like America and Britain who first forged the document. The document states “each government pledges itself to employ its full resources” against members of the tripartite pact (Germany, Italy and Japan) and “each Government pledges to cooperate with the Governments signatory hereto” this shines light on the individual military weakness of the Home Front as it requires other countries to lend it military might, but also shows the home fronts diplomatic strength to persuade different countries of different religions and creeds to join together and fight a common enemy. A military Historian could use this source to show how Britain used past contracts like the atlantic trade charter to set up alliances with other countries and improve its military prowess via the addition of other countries to its arsenal showing a politically strong country. A military Historian would most likely be partisan to this view because a they view the situation through a lense of military capability and this shows an increase in Britain’s military capabilities. A revisionist Historian could contrast this with the fact that alliances show personal weakness as Britain is using other countries to amass power, this in conjunction with source three is a clear display that Britain lacked personal defence let alone a capacity to go on the offense alone. A revisionist historian would most likely have this point of view because of it being popular in the 70s which would have been a fair distance from the war and because a they would use newer information without a military slant or bias. My sixth source is an Announcement written by field marshal von witzleben a member operation valkyrie on 20th july 1944, its purpose was to announce Hitler’s death and that the army is to take orders from the conspirators, as a military document written by a member of a plan against Hitler the document will be biased towards the views of the conspirators. The announcement declares martial law and that “the whole of the waffen ss” is to merged with the army, the power is also handed over to “territorial commanders” over the NSDAP, public services, public authorities and the wehrmacht offices, showing a complete handover of the army and Government to the members of operation valkyrie, the reason for this coup was due to several high ranking members of the German military believing Hitler was biting of more than he could chew by taking on the allies and russia at once(4) making these veteran generals lose faith in him fracturing the loyalty of the military and causing infighting, this exposes A major flaw in germany’s military that flaw being Hitler’s consistent impulsive decision making, going after two fronts thus stretching his military too far and allowing it to be overwhelmed, in conjunction with source five there is a vivid display that Germany lacked the military leadership and power to cope with so many countries in league against it.
It also shows dissatisfaction in Hitler’s own army and the resistance that followed showing that not all in the army had unconditional loyalty. These major weaknesses show that Hitler was germany’s undoing. A military Historian would use this source to argue that Hitler’s leadership caused internal fractures within the German chain of command and impulsive decisions led military loses weakening the army, a military would have this view due to it showing the tactics Germany used which ultimately led to weakness. A political Historian could counter this argument by using the source to display a downfall in the cult of Hitler and that Hitler was now battling three fronts, the eastern and western as well as his own people, a political historian would favor this view because they have a political bearing and this shows political opposition which is deadly in a dictatorship.My seventh source is a generic work hours and terms of service sheet for the women’s land army, it was made by the land army a Government run institution making it biased towards the British Government’s view , there is no set date for this document.
The document outlines charges for a “full days work” and what jobs and treatment the women’s land army expect. This timesheet shows a unionised workforce implemented and run by the agricultural committee, the land army was taken seriously as any farmer who made last minute cancellations was still charged a full days work meaning that the land army was deemed a necessary and integral part of combating Britain’s food problem. The implementation of an established, trained and paid Government service shows that the Home Front was attempting to alleviate internal issues without external help and therefore acting independently to try and close the gap left by fighting men in the workforce and lack of imports, however sources one and two contrast this by showing a heavier reliance at the start of the war on imports and not internal crops. A social historian could use this source to show how the war had caused British society to change its social structure and allow women to take on what is traditionally a male role showing the homefront progressing socially to win the war, the social historian would have this interpretation because they look at group behaviour and the structure of society and would attribute a change in this to the victory of the homefront. A woman’s Historian could argue this point by using the source to show how women were only treated differently because the homefront needed the labour and due to bad working conditions and various mistreatments it only showed the desperation of the homefront to grow in independence, they would have this view due to what the role the women had and how they were treated and perceived. My eighth source is a speech for winston churchill written in 1943, its purpose is to give peace of mind and morale to the British people meaning it is most likely embellished, as a speech it is a piece of propaganda and is biased towards the Home Front. In the speech Churchill states the precautions that the home front has taken for defence and he announces that the battle of Britain is still ongoing and that “1400” posts have been made for coastal air defence and that within two years “600” German planes had been shot down, a more efficient system was devised by “command and divisional staff” to combat German night raids this shows an attempt to improve civil defence through allocation of administration to problem solving roles they succeeded as churchill claims they have driven some raids off before they got to Britain, this reveals a massive improvement in the home fronts defence when combined with source 3 as it shows that Britain went from evacuating children to forcing “50%” German planes to turn back this was most likely aided by the intelligence and weapons provided in source 4, this shows a more militarily capable Britain but still shows one that is reliant on foreign intervention yet it also shows that the home front was using its defences and accomplishments to fuel its propaganda. A political historian could use this source to show how integral winston churchill was to the propaganda of the home front and that current achievements were used to increase morale to show the home front as strong and steadfast, a political historian would have have this view because they look at leaders and organisations and this source shows a leader and an organisation working towards a common goal.
A revisionist historian could counter this by using the source to show that Britain was technically under siege as they had nowhere to go and were on the defensive, a revisionist historian would think this because britain only had enough capability to defend itself and it was embellishing small victories to make them seem better than they actually were. My ninth source is a BBC report written, january 1940 in the report it talks about German broadcasts and how many people listened, as the report was made by the BBC it is going to be biased against German media, the source was made to show listening demographics among different classes and incomes. The document claims that “30% of adult listeners roughly 9,000,000” people listened to the German propaganda although this fell by “5%” this was a big area of concern for the BBC deeming it necessary for “more elaborate research” this shows the BBC acknowledging a threat and trying to understand it to combat it better, the base goal of the broadcast was however to steal away any potential BBC propaganda listeners and dilute the British message to damage the power of mass radio broadcasting something that it to some degree succeeded at, although the general consensus was that the broadcast was lying the public believed there to be “grain of truth” this is troubling as it shows the public was seeing through the BBC’s propaganda and there was a level of awareness the BBC was not prepared for and they needed to be more meticulous with their censorship. The BBC did however have a plan to turn the exposure into a “pyrrhic victory” by countering the broadcast by painting the broadcaster as a villain and buffoon reversing any propaganda he espoused and successfully maintaining morale. A social historian could use this source to argue that people in Britain were aware of propaganda on both sides which decreased its overall effectiveness on the British population and because the population was going to an enemy radio station for alternative media it shows that the home front was struggling to make believable propaganda. A social historian could have this view because they study how groups of people behave and react in a situation.
A military historian could contrast this by arguing that it was only natural for people to listen to an enemy broadcast out of intrigue and not for a news source, they would have this view because a military historian looks at them impact war has on a society.My tenth and final source is a letter written by a BBC official on the 5th of june 1942, as a letter from a BBC representative it will be biased towards the BBC’s agenda and political viewpoints, as an official letter it was most likely written to inform the recipient of the writer’s viewpoint making it partial. The letter talks about the growing concern of communism in britain and a possible “collapse of morale” implying that much of Britain’s morale hinged on a thin line ready to snap, the letter further elaborates on the public ignoring the production of american armies and goods revealing that the BBC’s attempts to use propaganda to direct the public’s faith into America as America shares its principles of capitalism and freedom with Britain so it should have been a good source of morale for the British people this however was not the case and they instead placed faith in soviet russia, it even states that they have a “distorted and legendary view” of russia, this shows a big weakness in the home fronts propaganda it focused on dig for victory and don’t waste campaigns and neglected to put the allies it wanted into the limelight therefore cultivating a misguided and misinformed communist movement, this also shows that the people of Britain where trying to find anything they could place their faith in. when used with source nine there is a clear show that Britain was struggling with building morale. A social historian could use this source to show that people were unhappy with the current condition of Britain and capitalism as a whole as the public gave adoration to russia instead of America a show that the home front was failing some people’s expectations and it was dangerous to have your morale in the hands of another country, they could also use source nine to show that the BBC had problems controlling what media people consumed. A social historian would have this view because this source is a show of group behaviour and because social historians are generally socialist in nature.
A revisionist historian could disagree with this by using the source to show that the BBC were taking caution with this situation as they are aware that if something bad happens in russia it could cause a morale collapse and they were attempting to change the situation around. A revisionist historian would have this view because they would use different sources to challenge a traditional view without a social or political bias. In conclusion the home front was a factor in Britain’s victory, it showed a capacity to defend itself it managed to avoid German invasion, use diplomacy to gain help and propaganda to maintain some level of morale. The homefront however held little weight relative to allied intervention, such as the supplies Britain gained from other countries while it tried to solve its food crisis was invaluable in keeping the population fed, the weapons, intelligence and American alliance which brought many military perks. The military might gained from other countries joining in on the united nations declaration dwarfed any army Britain alone could muster, Britain was simply too reliant on foreign powers and to weak to mount an attack on its own. Germany itself was fracturing in the later stages of the war with internal resistance against the nazi regime such as operation valkyrie occurring due to tactical disagreements on the western front, this has led me to the interpretation that Germany was simply overwhelmed as it was fighting on all fronts and itself, making allied intervention mainly responsible for British victory.