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Title: The role of material culture in constructing class-related identities among male Royal Naval personnel, 1930-1960
Author: Colville, Quintin
ISNI:       0000 0004 2413 5858
Awarding Body: Royal College of Art
Current Institution: Royal College of Art
Date of Award: 2004
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The overriding concern of most of the existing academic literature on the Royal Navy in the twentieth century has been to assess the organisation's performance of its stated duties: the protection of British interests and sovereignty in peace and war. The premise of this thesis is, however, that the navy can also be approached as an institution within which a range of predominantly masculine identities and lifestyles were assembled, promoted and protected. From this perspective, its aim has been to explore the role of material culture in shaping the class-related identities of male naval personnel during the period 1930-1960. In order to achieve this the thesis has examined a representative cross-section of the naval material culture related to personnel of all ranks and ages: from training establishments to uniform, and adult living environments ashore and afloat. It demonstrates that material culture was of crucial significance in defining the notions of class held by servicemen, and that, through the meanings associated with materiality, naval personnel linked themselves to (and were linked with) specific clusters of stereotyped qualities and characteristics. In this respect, material culture did not simply convey a particular vision of class stratification within the navy, but presented these different class groupings and class-related identities as substantially different incarnations of masculinity. The notion of gender as a component and determinant of class identity, and the role of material culture in constructing this nexus, are explored throughout the thesis. Nor does the work view naval material culture as representing solely intra-institutional concerns surrounding class and identity, but instead regards it as both responding and contributing to much wider debates within British society. Indeed, much of the power of naval uniform or interiors to communicate socio-cultural information derived from their close linkage to civilian models of fashion and display. A primary aim of the thesis has been to establish and analyse these connections (and equally to determine those areas in which they seem to have been weak or non-existent). Both within and outside the navy, these years were also ones of gradual change with regard to notions of class. The thesis charts the nature of these developments, and the role of material culture in precipitating, substantiating or resisting them within the institution. More generally, the essay hopes to bring the realm of material culture centre stage within an enquiry into the formation of historical identities. In so doing it will address a situation in which the rich visual and material dimensions of class have often been omitted from historical analysis, or have been only fleetingly assessed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available