Essex and the Second World War 1939-1945
Author: Paul Rusiecki
“This is an excellent first publication from the Essex imprint of the University of Hertfordshire. Paul Rusiecki’s book will be the key reference point for sources and for interpretation by local historians working on Essex in the Second World War, and can serve as a model for other county histories. [It is] a landmark history of a county in World War Two.”
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“This is an excellent book, its quality testament to both Rusiecki’s authorship and the immensely rich collections housed in Essex Record Office. Rusiecki has marshalled his sources expertly, from diaries and minute books to recordings of oral history interviews and an extensive reading of the local and regional press. The book tells the story of Essex at war expertly, and is not only unmissable for those interested in the county, but will reward the attention of anyone interested in Britain’s home front more generally.” Matthew Grant, Family and Community History
“Rusiecki has explored what happened to Essex during the Second World War in a remarkable manner... this book… [is] very valuable.” Trevor James, The Historian
Under Fire is a meticulous study of the impact of total war on the civilian population of Essex between 1939 and 1945. Paul Rusiecki examines how people coped with the immense stress caused by heavy bombing, the fear of invasion and other anxieties whilst so much was demanded of them by the authorities.
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The book brings into focus the social, economic, political and religious strains caused by the war. Education was forced to adapt in the face of massive disruption and industry too; the contribution to victory made by firms that switched to war work is analysed.
A picture emerges through the records kept by individuals of how Essex people viewed wartime events both at home and much further afield – the successes and failures of their own government and the actions of both allies and enemies.
The experience of war also encompasses aspects that are at odds with traditional views of wartime Britain and the so-called 'Dunkirk spirit'.
Paul Rusiecki recounts the hostility faced by conscientious objectors, as well as the undercurrents of political disaffection circulating by 1942 which produced a sensational by-election result at Maldon.
The murkier aspects of the war in Essex – crime and a supposed crisis in morality – are also dealt with in depth. Faced with the most appalling circumstances, most nonetheless found ways of keeping their spirits up, whether that meant reading in air-raid shelters, continuing to flock to the theatre and cinema, or playing football for their factory team.
Above all, this is the story of how the people of Essex survived the most extraordinary challenges they had ever faced, ultimately emerging with a sense of having earned the right to eradicate the gross inequalities that had marred society for so long.
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ISBN: 978-1-909291-28-7 Format: Paperback, 320pp Published: May 2015
Contact us at UH Press if you have any queries or would like to find out more about this book.