Date:
13 October 2010
Time: 9:00am to 5:00pm
Speaker:

Mark Clapson, Sean Dettman, Caroline Perret

Regent Street campus

Mark Clapson: "The Blitz and the ‘Break-up’ of Working Class London, 1939-1960"

This paper examines how enforced evacuation affected working-class London and assess some immediate but also some key longer-term consequences of evacuation: through both experience and expediency, the planned dispersal of wartime working-class Londoners was related to the deliberate post-war ‘decanting’ of Londoners to the new towns and the council estates beyond the London County Council’s administrative area.

It also looked at the impact of destruction on working-class London, particularly the East End, and at postwar readings of the alleged fragmentation of the dispersed working classes following what was supposed to have been a time of heightened solidarity among the wartime population. The ‘new’ postwar working class in and around London was compared with the images of a suffering but stoic proletariat during wartime, while the longer-term legacy of the role of the Blitz in expediting the ‘break-up’ of working-class London was assessed. Some wider implications of this state-led dispersal was also evaluated for their relevance to other processes of officially sanctioned relocation projects.

Dr. Mark Clapson, Reader in History at the University of Westminster, was educated at the University of Lancaster from 1979-1983, where he gained a BA (Hons) and an MA in Modern Social History. He was awarded his doctorate at the University of Warwick in 1989. His research interests lie in urbanisation and social change, London at war, working-class history, and leisure.

Sean Dettman: "The Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster: A Wartime Cover-up?"

On March 3, 1943, Britain suffered its greatest wartime civilian loss of life, when 173 people perished and 60 were seriously injured at the Bethnal Green tube shelter during an air raid, when the loud swooshing of a salvo of anti-aircraft rockets discharged from nearby Victoria Park was mistaken for German bombs. Panic-stricken, the large crowd surged forward, desperate to gain shelter. A woman fell on the stairway, creating a domino effect and resulting in some 300 people being entangled in a mass pile-up. All of the casualties were removed very promptly from the stairway and taken to various hospitals and churches in the East End.

But why did it take over two days for the news of the disaster to reach the public? My paper will examine how the details of the incident were immediately censored by the British Government and why the findings of the subsequent inquest were withheld from the public for almost two years. It also explains how the Home Secretary and other members of the War Cabinet came to this conclusion and why they chose the course of action they did.

Sean Dettman is currently at the School of Advanced Study's Institute of Historical Research, studying the Blitz and its impact on American public opinion. He received his Master's degree from the University of Westminster under Alan Morrison, writing his dissertation on Mass-Observation and the Blitz which has led to his monograph published by the East London History Society entitled 'The Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster: A Stairway to Heaven' (Doppler Press, 2010).

Caroline Perret: “Remembering the Blitz”

A booklet about the archival material on the Blitz to be found at the Museum of London will be available during the seminar. It was compiled with the help of Sarah Gudgin, Curator of Oral History & Contemporary Collecting, from the Department of History Collections at the Museum of London.

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