Exercise 4.2: The British Landscape during World War II

For this exercise we have to read a short extract from “Landscape for Everyone”, published in John Taylor (1994), the title of which is “A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography and the Tourist’s Imagination”. After reading it, we have to summarise the key points and add any reflections or observations. (Comments on italics)

  • England was unconquered for a thousand of years. Until the 1940s war the people of England were worrying mainly for possible damage of their villages and countryside by the industrial developments (different effects of it during the history). I do not know if this long period of freedom was also prolonged given the geographical location and that England is like a big island surrounded by water. I was just thinking of that, as the mainland of the Europe has many conflicts for the boarders of different countries during the history.
  • Things have changed during the war. Changes have been made to make the locations not easily recognisable for foreigners. Names of buildings and directional signs have been removed or covered. Open spaces altered not to allow planes to land. Bells of churches become silent, and rung only to warn people. Travelling was mainly for military activity and actions and not for fun. I am guessing now things are not the same. Google maps can show us many details and that is for the general public. Somebody can imagine that the military satellites can collect much more information. It was so simple at the time to give wrong directions to somebody.
  • As travelling was limited, books have been published to show how different was the beauty of England in different locations. But although people have recognised this difference, they were also aware that there is something in common and that was the love they had for their country seen as single place. For me that point is interesting. What I felt when I was travelling in UK was how different are different places. They have their own character. Although we can see the same shops in all the locations. I am guessing, 60 years ago, things would have been much more different, with the small local shops. I remember having a disagreement with some “friends” as they were saying that all the places are the same in England. I am guessing that they just travelled around Surrey and London or visited one or two more towns. I travelled in UK (visited more than 40 town/ cities) more that in Greece as I had more money to spend. I miss the beauty of it. Some people do not understand me when I say that I liked more England than Spain (I stayed 6.5 years in UK and I am now a little more than a year in Spain). Also, the train network which is also mentioned in the essay, it makes so much easier the travelling in England. Although there are always problems in the trains, I still miss them. Here (in Spain) one of the reasons I do not travel is that it is not so easy with public transport (I do not drive).
  • There was an understanding though, that showing pretty images of the landscapes and the places used to be visited for pleasure it was not enough. For this reasons, the publishers start using photos connected to the war, to show the reader how the war affected their lives and to motivate them to fight to gain again what they used to have: the British beauty.
  • Before the war people could disagree for more minor things like the worker rights (which are important during the peace) and have fights for local areas, but the war showed them that to see the country as a whole and that this “big part” belongs to all of them, no matter the temporary and local disagreements. Everybody would have lost something. The poorer people the small things they had, the wealthier the “bigger”.
  • At the time, also imaging has been used to show the difference between the British and the German way of life (more freedom in the way of life in UK compared to a stricter and military life of the fascist Germany). It is interesting though that still we can see difference in the way people live and work now through imaging. Also we have similar believes or stereotypes for Germany and other countries. Still we consider the Germans strict and hard working (even though news occasionally remind us that this not 100 per cent correct). The way most of the countries see Germany and the countries of the North is opposed to the way most of the countries think for the Mediterranean counties. However, statistics shown that Greek people are among those working the longer hours in Europe. But maybe Greek people know how also to “play”. And the sad truth is that a part of Greek population used wrongly the EU financial support and also used the “easy money” for moments of fun without thinking that you have to give the money back to the bank. Finally, today we still see the way of life of the British people as more relaxed and sometimes images of “drunk” British people populate the social networks. Time is passing, but seems like some characteristics are in the DNA not only of the families but also of nations.
  • Images of everyday life used to motivate people, to fight for what it was considered obvious before the war. This sounds something very far for some of us, but if we look for images of Syria of few years ago, makes us think twice. They had a good way of life, some of them very good. Beautiful cities, nice shopping centres and holiday resorts have been replaced by demolished buildings and debris.

One final comment, during reading this short extract it makes me think that as some point I should read a short history on England and UK. I spent there 6.5 years and I consider it like my second country and I hope that I will return at some point and I also know that I will visit it from time to time. I think that by reading a little of the history of this place might help me to understand a little more the British people through their history.



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