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Morale, morality and the Liverpool Blitz

A talk ‘Morale, Morality and the Liverpool Blitz’ given at the National Archives public lecture series at Kew in May, has just been podcasted on the National Archives website and iTunes.


The talk given by Peter Adey, David J. Cox, and Barry Godfrey, drew on research funded by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust and used documents from The National Archives and elsewhere to reveal the steps that the wartime government took to measure and regulate the morale of the population.

Focusing particularly on Liverpool during the Second World War, the talk examines the problem of Morale. Certain localities were studied by government scientists seeking to understand and grapple with morale as an object. Morale had apparently difficult and debilitating effects on the war effort, as ‘low morale’ was established as an important factor in production, crime, childhood delinquency and the course of the war effort as cities sought to prepare and respond to their destruction from the air.

Liverpool’s Civil Defence Cadet Corps, the first of its kind in the country, was a particularly interesting example of Liverpool’s concern for its youth, and the Corps was intended to function as a way to discipline and improve the character of its young cadets. Other prominent cases and decisions in the courts are shown to illustrate the types of crime exhibited in the dark and hidden places of the blitz – spaces that gave new opportunities for crime, whilst wartime regulations and civil defence measures effectively criminalised some of the ordinary behaviours and habits of the population.

The wider project ‘Mobility, Regulation and Control in a Time of Terror: The Liverpool Blitz’, finished this July and the team are currently writing a book on the project as well as several articles and book chapters. They are also developing a public exhibition from the project, whilst educational materials on the Liverpool Blitz, ideal for Key Stages Three and Four, as well as A-level, are to be made available.

Dr Peter Adey is Reader in Cultural Geography at Keele University, and co-director of the Emerging Securities research unit there. He has published extensively on mobility, histories of security and the contours and cultures of air-travel. Dr David J. Cox is Research Fellow at the Law and Criminal Justice Centre, University of Plymouth, and an Honorary Research Fellow at Keele University. He has published widely on criminal justice history and early policing. Barry Godfrey is Professor of Criminology at Keele University. He has published a number of books on the history of crime, and is series editor for The Criminal History of Britain, Praeger Press.

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