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Title: 'Britain an island again' : nature, the military and popular views of the British countryside, c.1930-1965
Author: Davis, Sophia Danielle
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2011
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This thesis is a mythical and empirical history of British interactions with the countryside in the mid-twentieth century, through a case study of the Suffolk coast. From early in the twentieth century aeroplane flight focussed attention on Britain’s status as an island, an effect compounded by the post-WWII shrinking of the empire. Late-modernist literature translated the end of empire into a resurgent concept of national culture, and this thesis examines a similar process of mediation in scientific, natural historical and military discourses. I show how from the 1930s onwards, island myths were mobilised in a variety of very localised sites, which acted as both metaphor and metonym. The thesis weaves together two usually unconnected styles of enquiry: institutional and networked histories; and histories of lived experiences and historical consciousness. In a geographical reappraisal of the early history of radar, I show how island myths were used to establish authority for the sites, Orfordness and Bawdsey Manor. I examine how the sites were simultaneously made to extend into the surrounding space and coordinate a national defence system. I then investigate the development of practices of representation and display in radar, and relate them to broader trends, especially concerning ideas of surveillance. Adding to the militarised landscapes of radar, I investigate changing conceptions of wartime Suffolk, as isolated places and spaces of simulation appeared all over the country. Militarisation also played an important role in the post-war recolonisation of Britain, via Suffolk, by the avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta). I use this episode to trace ties between the landscape and local and national identity in cultures of nature conservation and natural history. Finally, I bring literary representations of Suffolk into the picture. Using popular guidebooks, topographical studies and histories, I investigate the changing relation between the space of ‘secluded’ Suffolk and the historical consciousness associated with it. I use three case studies of literary treatments to examine the gradual incorporation of military Suffolk into countryside writing.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral