Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918–1931 by Susan Kingsley Kent

By Susan Kingsley Kent

Aftershocks stories how meanings of shellshock and imagery proposing the traumatized psyche as shattered contributed to Britons' understandings in their political selves within the Twenties. It connects the strength of feelings to the political tradition of a decade which observed impressive violence opposed to these considered as 'un-English'.

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21 The emotional fallout of the war was compounded by the flu epidemic that swept into Britain in the last months of it, dealing the war-weary populace a cruel blow. It wreaked its havoc on military and civilian populations in three waves, the first in June and July of 1918, the second in October and November of 1918, and the third in February 1919. The incidence, symptomology, and mortality rates of the flu exacerbated the traumas of wartime, extending to the home front an immediate and direct experience of widespread misery and death.

19 44 Aftershocks The desire to establish firm, clear boundaries against foreign “others” became associated with fear of a different kind of otherness that threatened to breach the boundaries not only of the nation but also of the self—sexuality. Most intangible, but most powerful, were the fears of aliens threatening to overwhelm the boundaries that safeguarded Britain’s and Britons’ very existence; references to breaches in the defenses of the country permeated the language employed by MPs to argue their positions.

Jews, “Blacks,” and the Promises of Radical Conservatism, 1919–1925 39 Mrs. ”5 These visions of sexuality in which women had become fully as unrestrained as men threatened traditional gender and sexual arrangements. For many, the opportunity to contribute to national life, to work and to be well paid, was a rewarding and exhilarating experience, one that they would not easily have turned their backs on upon the conclusion of hostilities. The independence and autonomy they had found during the war could be construed as having been achieved at the expense of men, to whom they had no intention of relinquishing their freedoms.

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