‘[Her] Hostess … Is Anxious To Have Her Back When She Is Cured’: The Impact of the Evacuation of Children on Wartime Local Services, England, 1939-1945

Article Summary by Jonathan Taylor

Jonathan Taylor’s article, which is based on the study of a rural part of North West England, explores the impact of the Second World War on children’s welfare services. The article begins by arguing that, contrary to existing histories of the conflict, many of the problems associated with evacuees were familiar to medical and social work professionals before the war broke out. The article next examines the ways in which local officials responded to the arrival of evacuees to a region which had previously resisted investing in children’s services. This discussion shows that while evacuation initially resulted in an expansion of children’s services, many of these gains were short lived. Once the fighting was over, local authorities were able to redirect resources away from specialist children’s services and towards what were considered to be more important issues. Finally, the article argues that amidst the totality of the Second World War, the British state remained remarkably unwilling to intrude on the rights of parents to determine how their children should be cared for. The government’s deference to parental authority meant that certain children were not able to take advantage of services, introduced as a result of the war, which were designed to keep them safe.

In the clip below Jonathan Taylor discusses his article:

Read the full article on the Medical Humanities Journal website.

 

Transcript

Hi, my name is Jonathan Taylor and I have recently written an article entitled ‘[Her] hostess … is anxious to have her back when she is cured’: The impact of the evacuation of children on wartime local services, England, 1939-1945.

I wanted to provide short reflection which I hope will encourage people to read my article. Growing up my love of history really stemmed from the opportunity to ask my grandparents lots of question about their own childhoods. Their experiences of being evacuated as children, during the Second World War, often featured in these stories. This article has used the records of wartime social workers to investigate the lives of children, like my grandparents, who were evacuated as well as the people responsible for keeping them safe. These documents help to provide a better understanding of war’s impact on the lives of people living beyond the battlefield.

Histories of the Second World War have often focused on the decisions of wartime leaders and have explored the ways in which the state expanded its authority over people’s lives. This article offers an alternative account of the war and investigates the ways in which young people, mothers and fathers, teachers and social workers, responded to the changes that took place during the conflict. As the article shows, people often defied the advice of government experts and senior politicians were reluctant to push back.

The history of the Second World War is often closely connected to the welfare reforms that were introduced once the fighting ended. This article shows that while the arrival of evacuees caused local authorities to expand the range of social services available, many of the changes introduced during the war proved to be short lived. By taking the lives of individuals affected by war seriously we can better understand the conflict’s impact on subsequent welfare changes. Doing so, requires us to reassess the extent to which the Second World War resulted in meaningful and long-term changes in local public services.

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