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Title: Devon and the First World War
Author: Batten, Richard John
Awarding Body: University of Exeter
Current Institution: University of Exeter
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis examines the experiences and impact of wartime mobilization in the county of Devon. It argues that a crucial role was played by the county’s elites who became the self-appointed intermediaries of the war experience on a local level and who took an explicitly exhortative role, attempting to educate Devonians in the codes of ideal conduct in wartime. These armchair patriots, defined by the local commentator Stephen Reynolds as ‘provincial patriots’, superintended the patriotism of Devon’s population, evaluating that patriotism against the strength of their own. Through a critical exploration of Reynolds’ definition of Devon’s elite as the police-men and women of patriotism, this thesis reveals the ambiguities, constraints and complexities surrounding mobilization and remobilization in Devon. The evidence from Devon reveals the autonomy of Devon’s citizens as they attempted to navigate the different challenges of the war while they weighed-up individual and local interests against the competing requests that the ‘provincial patriots’ prescribed for them. In many cases, their responses to the appeals and prescriptions from Devon’s elite were informed by what they considered to be an appropriate contribution to the war effort. Therefore, the choice to participate in the measures introduced in the name of war effort in Devon was not a binary one. A tension between individual survival and national survival in the county was apparent in the encounters between Devon’s elite as agents of mobilization and the county’s populace during the war. Through various campaigns of superintendence in order to police the patriotism of Devon’s people, the ‘provincial patriots’ attempted to navigate through the terrain of these competing priorities and resolve this tension. In their endeavours to mobilize Devon’s populace, the authority of Devon’s elite was criticised and they faced constant negotiation between individual priorities and those of the nation. This analysis of the complexity of the Devonian experience of the First World War is sceptical about the ‘total’ nature of the First World War because the war to some Devonians was not the pre-eminent issue and did not absorb all of the county’s efforts. Rather, a significant part of Devon’s population was primarily concerned with individual priorities and that of the county throughout the war years.
Supervisor: Rees, Tim; Toye, Richard Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: First World War ; Great War ; Local History ; Devon ; Rural History ; Urban History