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Title: Shetland and the Great War
Author: Riddell, Linda Katherine
ISNI:       0000 0004 2746 1616
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2012
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The Great War was an enormous global cataclysm affecting the lives of all inhabitants of the combatant countries and many others. The effects were not uniform, however, and, by assessing the experience of the people of Shetland, this thesis shows how a local history can enhance understanding of the nuances of an international event. The Shetlanders’ experience was similar in many ways to that of other communities, but had aspects that were unusual or even unique. Both local and national sources are used to investigate how the Shetland experience fitted into historiographical discourses on the war. These include: contrasting depictions of the pre-war era as a ‘Golden Age’ or a period of upheaval and conflict; the extent of militarism in pre-war British society; the putative reasons for volunteering for armed service and the controversy about conscription; reactions to the outbreak of war and attitudes towards the enemy and the Government’s handling of the war; the situation of women; and the extent of change and continuity at the re-adaptation to peace. In addition, the thesis explores two related and recurring themes. One of the profound influences on Shetland was its geographical location, which is related here to theories about local and regional history and concepts of ‘islandness’, ‘peripherality’ and ‘place’. Assertions of a Shetland communal consciousness and identity related to a distinctive local experience are also scrutinised. The disparate effects of the war are studied through the experience of different sections of the population. Despite their perceived remoteness, Shetlanders were aware of prewar international antagonisms, especially as their islands became important for Britain’s defence and war strategy and their patriotism came under suspicion. This resulted in recruitment, deployment and casualties for the local armed forces being atypical in the UK. Servicemen’s contemporary writing showed both conformity to prevalent themes and affirmations of local identity. Shetland provided a base for naval operations important to Britain’s victory; relationships between the Navy and Shetlanders were sometimes difficult and visiting servicemen perceived Shetland as remote and different. Examination of the economic consequences of the war and the reactions of Shetland society illustrates how the community’s identity was expressed in the war effort and strengthened, even when national interests were paramount. Finally, commemoration is recognised as both a national movement and an expression of local identity and pride in Shetland’s contribution to victory.
Supervisor: Cameron, Ewen; Crang, J.; Newby, Andrew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Shetland ; Great War ; World War ; 1914-1918 ; local history ; Royal Navy