The range of the present volume is extensive. There is no single or simple pattern of social policy, but a variegated mosaic of services, detailed, dispersed and complex, all varying in character and importance. These services are for the most part operated by a large number of local authorities acting under the oversight of various central departments. They are also the concern of numerous voluntary agencies which interest themselves in many problems of social welfare. The activities of these public and private institutions are continuously intermingled. Their deposit of record is immense. It includes, for the period of the Second World War, several million files in Government Departments in England, Wales and Scotland, the records of thousands of local authorities and voluntary agencies, and countless reports, surveys, books, journals and newspapers.
Within this mass of material there lie the essential facts for a history of the social services during the Second World War. Some of these services existed before the war and were adapted to meet the expected war strains; others were specifically created for the emergency. The historian will find himself compelled to investigate the origin of these adaptations or creations and to explain the policy pursued for meeting each specific need. Finally he will have to assess the results achieved. This means that he will find himself writing social history. But the writing of social history is a difficult task, particularly when the author is standing so close to events. Among the main dangers to be avoided is the production of a series of cross-sections of social life in which the movement and feel of events are buried in a mass of descriptive and administrative detail. A second dangers is an excess of generalisation and a deficiency of concreteness. The writer had endeavoured to escape this danger by selecting a number of significant problems for exact investigation. The main themes of the book are pursued by the method of selective illustration.
In selecting his problems, the writer had had in mind both the emphasis of government preparations before the outbreak of war and the development and growth of the social services during the war. From a list of twenty or more important topics three were finally selected for inclusion in this books; evacuation, the hospital services and the care of homeless people. To a large extent these topics, studied in a series of chronological chapters, dominate the book. They have been treated, however, not in any narrow sense, but against the background of the established social services. From time
to time it was necessary to study the relationships between certain of these services and the new—or emergency—welfare measures. Moreover, towards the end of the book the residual problems of high mobilisation and war strain replace in importance the earlier emphasis on the consequences of air attack; greater attention is accordingly given to the development of social policies in general.
Part I of this book opens with two chapters which make plain the effect of the threat of air bombardment on the planning of evacuation schemes and other emergency services for the civilian population. The scope of these chapters is strictly limited; for it is impossible in this book to explain the functions of the Committee of Imperial Defence, why the Governments of the day were forced to consider the eventuality of war and its possible character, how the Air Staff estimated the possible scale of air attack on the civilian population, and many other related problems. All that is necessary in this book is to explained these problems as they were seen in the Health Departments before the war. The remaining chapters of Part I describe the preparations made before the war for civilian evacuation, the care of people made homeless by air attack and an emergency medical service.
Part II broadly covers the period from the outbreak of war to May 1940. It is concerned with the first big evacuation of mothers and children; with the social problems that arose in consequence, and with the initial disturbances of the war to the working of the social services and to the development of the emergency hospital scheme. A concluding chapter breaks the chronological treatment with a digression on the problems of local government boundaries.
In Part III the story of evacuation is continued amidst the crisis of threatening invasion and actual air bombardment. The social consequences of these bombardments and the Government’s efforts to control them are discussed. An attempt is made to sum up the effects of the battles, to measure the stresses within civilian society and to contrast, but in no doctrinaire spirit, the war that was expected with the war that happened.
The last Part of the book carries the histories of evacuation and the hospital services from 1941 to the end of the war. Within these themes we see, with increasing clarity, the string of the war on family life. The story of strain eventually becomes the dominant theme, for the needs that arose challenged the existing character of social service, shifted the emphasis in policy, and called into play new instruments of welfare. The final chapter of the book surveys these developments in perspective and ends by examining the effects of the war on the people’s health.
It is proposed in a later volume to publish some studies focused upon problems of the family in Britain during the war.
The author wishes to thank the many officials of local and central government and of voluntary organisations who have helped him in his work. He also wishes to acknowledge the aid in research given to him at different times by Mrs. B. E. Pollard and Miss R. Hurstfield and particularly by Mrs. H. Fitzgerald for her work on the preparation of draft narratives for chapters 22–24.
The rubric printed opposite the title page summarises the conditions under which this book has been written. The practises that have been followed in documentation and in the printing of references as well as in some other matters of craftsmanship have been described at great length in the preface to the first volume in this series of histories.1