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

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MenWomenCare (Men, Women and Care: The gendering of formal and informal care-giving in interwar Britain)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-02-29

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 in the first instance, 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 further 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, as well as studies of the relationship between the State, the soldier and his family in this era, this is the first study to examine the role of these formal institutions alongside and in relation to the informal social and medical care provided by the family in this period, a subject only touched upon by the current literature. Through the examination of issues of social, political and domestic responsibility for the care of disabled ex-servicemen, issues which continue to have relevance in light of the survival of service personnel from conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan who have suffered massive injuries and multiple amputations, the project seeks not only to to engage with historical discussions of the development of medical practice in the first half of the twentieth century but also, through engagement with current policy makers working with and for disabled service personnel, to make a significant intervention into contemporary social policy relating to the provision of medical and social care.
The project asks:

• what types of medical and social care did the State assume responsibility for in relation to disabled ex-servicemen and what types were deemed the responsibility of the family?
• how did formal and institutional medical authorities, dominated by men, interact with less formal and domestic care networks which often relied on female care-givers?
• what, if any, were the roles, either formal or informal, of men and women who had gained experience of care-giving in wartime through service with the military and auxiliary medical services?
• what roles did charitable organisations play in supporting both domestic and institutional care-giving and how did these functions affect the relationship of both charities and families with the State?
• how did families negotiate the institutional structures of both the State and charitable organisations to provide medical and social care for their disabled loved ones and what impact did these negotiations have on family life?

Through these questions the project explores not only the development of medical practice and social care in the interwar period, but also the ways in which such practice and care were gendered. By comparing the masculine medical authority of formal and institutional care-giving with the feminine associations made with informal and domestic care, it interrogates British social and cultural understandings of medical care-giving in the first half of the twentieth century. At the same time, in providing the first in-depth examination of the relationship between formal and informal structures of care, it allows for an examination of the relationship between state and family with regards to responsibility for disabled ex-servicemen, 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:
Through the comparison of formal and informal structures of care in the years after the war, the project seeks to analyse the impact of the war not only on individuals who served and whose health was affected by such service, but on wider society, including the family, the medical profession and auxiliary medical services, with a particular focus on the relation of these groups to ideas of gender. In doing so it will provide a more detailed and nuanced understanding of the long-term effects of total war on both the gendered provision of social care prior to the introduction of the welfare state and developments in medical practice in the first half of the twentieth century.. By exploring questions of the development of medical and social care in relation to disabled ex-servicemen specifically through the prism of gender and family relations, the analysis will be located within wider historiographic and cultural debates about the social and cultural impact of the First World War on society. The project will also contribute directly to contemporary debates about the provision of medical and social care through modern welfare state with the objective of informing the development of future social policy.
While the immediate focus of this project will be on material related to Britain, this project has important implications for the understanding of the development of medical and social care in the first half of the 20th century across Europe, both the combatant nations of the First World War and those contributing troops to contemporary conflicts and peace-keeping efforts where major life-changing injury may result. A key objective of the project will be 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 which can be applied comparatively across national boundaries. Members of the project team will work with international colleagues, such as those involved with the International Society for First World War Studies and the Comparative Traumatic Cultures network, to develop plans for future large-scale comparative projects which will seek to inform both national and European policy regarding treatment of war-disabled service personnel.
Since the project has started, the members of the project team have been recruited as follows:

Post-doctoral Research Assistant: Mrs Alexia Moncrieff (PhD under examination - University of Adelaide). 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)

A project website has been developed (see below). This includes a project blog, which is added to regularly by all project team members.

A working partnership has been 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. Discussions are on-going around a variety of collaborations, including conference organisation and joint conference presentations, in addition to the digital collaboration around the creationg of the database. Additional collaborations are being developed with the Legacies of War project (University of Leeds) and the Gateways to the First World War Centenary Commemoration Centre (University of Kent).

Following discussions with members of the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics (LIDA), Access has been identified as the suitable programme for the relational database as it is constructed. A prototype is currently being constructed for testing by the team members in the coming months.

Over 1% of the PIN 26 files have been photographed for use by the team members. Initial data entry has begun. In the process, a significant number of individual files have been identified as relevant to the team members' research projects. These have formed the basis of conference presentations given by team members in Britain, the U.S. and Australia.

Initial scoping work has been done on other relevant archives, including the West Yorkshire Archive Service, the Toc H archives (University of Birmingham) and the Liddle Collection (University of Leeds).

Discussions with a number of early careers scholars about developing projects that complement and contribute to the final output of Men, Women and Care are on going.
Several of the individual PIN 26 files have been 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. Further work is being developed in collaboration with Leeds City Museum and the artist Paddy Hartley specifically around the post-war lives of men with facial injuries. This will result in a similar schools workshop and a related art exhibition. These files also form the basis of a forthcoming publication on the status of war-disabled men in post-war British society, currently under consideration by Manchester University Press.

Questions of research ethics in relation to the nature of the archives being explored and the creation of a publically accessible data base have led the project leader, Dr Jessica Meyer, and postdoctoral research assistant, Mrs Alexia Moncrieff, to explore this avenue of methodological enquiry. Future publications on this subject are planned, following the Patient Voices conference to be held in Oxford in September 2017.

The plans for the database have been identified by historians working in the field of the social history of interwar Britain as highly significant. The project is working closely with the National Archives around the release of the database to coincide with the digitization of the 1921 census records to maximize the impact of this resource for the field.