Skip to main content

Men, Women and Care: The gendering of formal and informal care-giving in interwar Britain

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - MenWomenCare (Men, Women and Care: The gendering of formal and informal care-giving in interwar Britain)

Período documentado: 2020-03-01 hasta 2020-08-31

One of the most profound and long-lasting effects of the war efforts of all major combatant nations during the First World War was the high number of casualties caused by modern industrial warfare. Looking at the case of Britain, this project asks what formal and informal structures developed in the interwar years to provide medical and social care to the unprecedented number of war disabled. It explores how these different forms of care both were shaped by gendered understandings of care-giving and utilised gender to mobilise public and private support for disabled ex-servicemen. While there have been a number of histories of the charitable organisations established for the care of disabled ex-servicemen, and of the relationship between the State and the soldier, this is the first study to examine the role of formal institutions alongside and in relation to the informal social and medical care provided by the family in this period. Through the examination of issues of social, political and domestic responsibility for the care of disabled ex-servicemen, the project engaged with current policy makers, to make a significant intervention into contemporary social policy relating to the provision of medical and social care.

In providing the first in-depth examination of the relationship between the masculine medical authority of formal and institutional care-giving with the feminine associations made with informal and domestic care in the first half of the twentieth century, the project provided new insight into the relationship between state and family as social structures, a relationship that had implications for the gendering of medical and social care at the time and which continues to have resonance with regards to the medical treatment of and provision of social care for disabled service personnel today.

Project objectives:
- the creation of an accessible database of information contained in PIN 26, the section of The National Archives (London) containing the personal pension files of British First World War ex-servicemen
- further public understanding of the history of the First World War and its legacy in Britain, Europe and the wider world
- to provide a detailed and nuanced understanding of the long-term effects of total war on the gendered provision of social care prior to the introduction of the welfare state
- to inform the development of future social policy by contributin to contemporary debates about the provision of medical and social care in the modern welfare state
- to develop methodologies and analytic models for understanding the impact of war disability on the complex social and cultural relations binding the state, charitable institutions and the family together.
The following team members were recruited to the project:

Post-doctoral Research Assistant: Dr Alexia Moncrieff. Project: Distance and care in overseas pension provision.
PhD students: Ms. Eilis Boyle (The social and psychological impact of facial injuries during and after the first World War); Ms. Bethany Rowley (Charity, rehabilitation and religion: the experience of disabled veterans in Britain after the First World War)

Ten data entry interns worked on the project between September 2019 and the end of the project.

10% of the PIN 26 files was photographed for use by the team members, with just under 5% entered into the database. Preliminary stress-testing as proof-of-concept was conducted on the database. The photographed files formed the basis for analysis in the PhD dissertations, peer reviewed publications and public talks given by team members that were the principal output of the project.

Two PhD dissertations have been successfully submitted for examination. The project has also produced ten peer-reviewed publications (several forthcoming) and a submission of evidence to a British parliamentary committee of enquiry. There has been knowledge transfer in the form of regular talks delivered locally, nationally and internationally and the development of learning resources related to the database for primary and secondary school students.

A working partnership was developed with the National Archives, London, laying the foundations for the future dissemination of the database being created out of the PIN 26 files relating to individual pension cases.

Research was undertaken at other relevant archives both nationally and internationally which informed the analysis and consequent publications produced by team members.

Several of the individual PIN 26 files were used to develop, in collaboration with a local researchers, a workshop on post-war disability and the process of historical archival research aimed at school children, aged 9-11. A further resource for secondary school children was developed by undergraduates at the University of Leeds, supervised by Dr Moncrieff and Dr Meyer, as part of a module on research and public engagement.

Dr Meyer and Dr Moncrieff co-authored two significant interdisciplinary articles on the ethics of using and disseminating historical medical archival material. These make an important original contribution to discussions not only among but also between historians and archivists, discussions which were not happening prior to this research being undertaken.

Dr Meyer and Ms. Boyle submitted evident to the British Parliament's Women's and Equalities Committee Enquiry into the Mental Health of Men and Boys. They contributed important historical perspectives on the role of families in supporting men suffering from poor mental health and the need for state support for family carers in this this context.

A project website was developed (see below), including a project blog.
The restrictions on movement and institutional opening hours caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have affected the final conclusions of the project. The database data drawn from 918 files, slightly less than 5% of the total number of files and talks on making it available to researchers via the National Archives' Discovery catalogue remain on-going. However, the data inputted has demonstrated value as proof-of-concept through informing the disseminations of the project to date.

The development of the partnership with The National Archives led to a successful application for collaborative doctoral funding for a student to work the provision of prosthetic limbs during and after the two world wars. Plans for applying for additional follow-on funding for this research are currently in process, although hindered by the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. These include future international collaborations with colleagues in Canada and Australia.

Dr Meyer and Dr Moncrieff co-authored two significant interdisciplinary articles on the ethics of using and disseminating historical medical archival material. These make an important original contribution to discussions not only among but also between historians and archivists, discussions which were not happening prior to this research being undertaken.
Drawing of ‘An Anzac Convalescent’ Credit: The RAMC Muniment Collection in the care of the Wellcome