British home front propaganda in World War II ...
Lutz Budrass

British home front propaganda in World War II and the bombing of Coventry

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December 8, 2009 | History

British home front propaganda in World War II and the bombing of Coventry

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The emergence of "Coventry" as a symbol for civilian valour during the blitz reflects the problems of propaganda in 1940/41. In the process of the conflicts between the newly formed MoI and the the Air Ministry and the Ministry of Home Security rigid censorship instructions for the treatment of air raid news were formulated. The restrictive censorship policy reflected a patronising attitude in the MoI itself. It was thought that the public would not be capable of digesting information on the grim impact of air war. The effect on public opinion of the application of rigid censorship was enhanced by the influence of the MoI on the tone of the commercial press. Since the outbreak of the war the propagandists had deemed the publication of stories of courage and heroism a prime means to balance the effects of alarming news on morale. Supported by the effects of reductions in the paper supply and the changes brought about by wartime for advertising, the MoI fostered the development of a style of reporting that focused on a positive and optimistic presentation of air-raid news. After the bombing of London had commenced in September 1940, the optimistic style was expressed in the permanent emphasis that was placed on the cheerful adjustment of the people to the impact of the bombardement. Simultaneously, the impact of the bombings on the provinces was neglected in the national media. After the bombing of Coventry this picture changed. The appearance of "Coventry" instantly provided a solution to the problems stemming from the dearth of news on the provinces. Its emergence ended the skewed weighting of London vis í vis the provinces regarding the importance of their contribution to the war effort. "Coventry" also was a sign of the change in the character of the war. The devastating impact of total war was no longer confined to London. The bombing exemplified the fact that the distinction between London and the provinces as front line and support trenches respectively had become obsolete. The publicity on "Coventry" contributed to the depiction of the German as the eternal war monger. On the other hand, it facilitated an identification of the courage and determination of the civilians as an expression of traditional English virtues. The historical association which was connected with the destroyed cathedral of St. Michael, and the ritual of the King's visit to the city ultimately established "Coventry" as the symbol for the historical mission of the English nation in the fight for the values of Christianity and humanity. Almost at the same time as "Coventry" it developed into a symbol for the reconstruction of Britain.

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Thesis (M.A.) - University of Warwick, 1986.

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