My most recent work looks at the patriotism of English soldiers during the First World War. This article has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press' The English Historical Review and is currently awaiting publication.
This article explores the patriotism and national identity of English soldiers during the First World War. Using this conflict as a case study, it draws together work on Great War subjectivities and scholarship on Englishness. It argues that individuals’ national identity focussed on and formed around the ‘implicit nation,’ which was primarily concerned with communities and parochial local (or regional) spaces. These could be both rural and urban, as well as natural and human. Using published material, soldiers’ newspapers, and private letters, diaries, and postcards this piece highlights the ways in which allegiance to an ‘implicit nation’ was nurtured by a military that embraced local and regional identities. As subjects, not citizens, soldiers naturally focussed on the communities and landscapes of their homeland. The war did not diminish men’s emotional connections to these; in fact, it made them all the stronger. In focussing on the subjective and emotional features of patriotism, this paper suggests that Englishness was inherently heterogeneous and drew its strength from this. Rather than a commitment to abstract ideals or principles of the state, or theoretical political principles, it argues that English national identity embraced a composite, or patchwork, of mutually supporting patriotisms attached to particular homelands. It was, as the article shows, a sense of these homelands that underlay men’s identification with Britishness, the Empire, and the monarchy. Importantly, soldiers’ experience of the First World War gave this a new (or at least more vocal) articulation.
This a synopsis of the article. Unfortunately, copyright restrictions mean that I will not be allowed to share this piece's accepted manuscript.