Listening to Britain: Home Intelligence Reports on Britain's Finest Hour, May - September 1940
Date of publication: May 2011
Publisher: Random House
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From May to September 1940, during a period that saw some of the most dramatic events of the war - the evacuation from Dunkirk, the Battle of Britain and the opening stages of the Blitz - the Ministry of Information compiled daily reports on the morale of the nation for circulation within Whitehall.
These reports make fascinating reading: they tell the story of people's hopes and fears - from rumours about German spies disguised as nuns to concerns about anti-Semitism in the heavily-bombed East End of London - in all regions of the country during Britain's Finest Hour - at a time when the fate of the nation hung in the balance. Drawing on a wide range of informants, from the Mass-Observation social survey organisation to a network of contacts including chief constables, postal censors, doctors, parsons, publicans and trade unionists, the reports pieced together from these sources at great speed were by their very nature impressionistic, but provide us nevertheless with a unique record of contemporary feelings and perceptions at this historic juncture.
They include a wealth of curious and idiosyncratic information about the lighter and the darker aspects of life in Britain at the time, illuminating the prevalence of rumours and gossip about the threat of invasion - as well as the importance of the introduction of tea rationing for daily life. Edited and introduced by two leading historians of the period and published here for the first time to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the dramatic events that came to be known as Britain's Finest Hour, the complete and unabridged sequence of the daily Home Intelligence reports provides unique insight into the continuously unfolding drama of Britain at war.