‘With her apron tied around his waist’. Being a man in wartime Britain, 1939 – 1945

  • David Clampin Liverpool John Moores University, UK


Purpose – The purpose is this paper is to examine the nature of masculine identity on the British home front during the Second World War.

Methodology/approach – At the heart of this research is a comprehensive analysis of every
commercial advertisement that appeared in the weekly magazine Picture Post between 9 September 1939 and 29 September 1945 which featured men. Data was collected that accounted for the situation of those men illustrated and their environment. From here basic trends and commonalities could be identified with respect to recurring images and normative representations.

Findings – This research challenges popular representations of men at the time which suggested the widely pervasive idea of the ‘man at war’ had him in a military uniform and engaged in battle, as well as questioning the validity of Dawson’s (1994) work on the ‘soldier hero’. What is revealed is a much more varied representation and one which, generally, has the British man at war as a more tempered individual, frequently most at ease within a domestic setting. Thus, an overarching hegemony is denied in the face of a variety of different roles ascribed to men and which were deemed to be widely appropriate within that society

Research limitations – For the purposes of this paper, research was generally confined to the analysis of just the advertisements appearing in Picture Post. Further, the opportunities to make meaningful comparisons with representations of men in other nations at war were very limited.


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