Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. History Dept.


Raffael Scheck

Second Advisor

Jesse Meredith


During the early years of the Second World War, a typically unofficial and loose coalition of British newspapers, publishers, propagandists, and booksellers mobilized Britain’s imagined literary past and present as a part of the war effort. They defined the nation through its imagined literary proclivities— its penchant for literary production and consumption, and its “unique” attitude toward literary freedom— and in opposition to the literary tyranny of Nazi Germany. Marshaling the nation’s mythological literary heritage, they enlisted Shakespeare and Milton in the war effort, portraying them as temperate and civilian English heroes. While the rhetoric of “British bookishness” hardly went uncontested— book recycling programs, questions surrounding “enemy” literature, issues of censorship, and the persistence of issues of class and gender in the wartime setting each offered rather blatant contradictions to the rhetoric of literary nationalism in Second World War Britain— the Ministry of Information, National Book Council, and the ranks of British publishers, booksellers, and newspapermen largely succeeded in nationalizing notions of bookishness within the wartime context.


Literature, Propaganda, National Identity, United Kingdom, Second World War