Date of this Version
Niedergeses, Lauren. Keep Calm and Carry On: Uncovering the True Blitz Spirit. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2022.
First shown by Britain’s civilian population during the Blitz, this Blitz Spirit is widely understood today as a heroic display of courage, cheerfulness, unity, and the ability to “keep calm and carry on” in the face of danger and discomfort. Drawing from radio broadcasts, photographs, propaganda posters and films, and the wartime morale reports of Mass-Observation, I seek to uncover the true Blitz Spirit and how it became an integral – if somewhat mythicized – element of Britain’s modern identity. First, I explore the emergence of the Blitz Spirit during World War II, identifying gaps between reality and propagandistic myth. I conclude that while the people of Britain did not live up to propagandistic representations of the Blitz Spirit, they lived out their own form of this spirit through their everyday existence. Characterized by grim determination rather than sustained zeal, the Blitz Spirit was merely a British manifestation of the natural human tendency to endure hardship. Then, I unravel the idea that the Blitz Spirit belongs solely to Britain by comparing the British, German, Chinese, and Japanese civilian responses to air raid tactics. Finally, I examine postwar newspaper articles related to modern catastrophes like the “July 7th bombings” and the COVID-19 Pandemic to analyze how the Blitz Spirit has become fixed in the British cultural psyche. I conclude that the Blitz Spirit of today, still used in a propagandistic manner to spark unity and resilience in the face of disaster, is nonetheless a mythicized version of a past reality.