Children ardent for some desperate glory: public schools and First World War volunteering
AbstractThis thesis examines the range of formative influences, within their educational experience, that helped to propel public schoolboys towards volunteering for military service upon the outbreak of the First World War. Based largely upon research conducted at seven second-tier English public schools, the work examines the scholastic factors and teaching methods that moulded boys’ characters and attitudes to the extent that responses to a strident call to arms in 1914 were almost universally positive. The areas explored in depth include: the influence of the schools as austere total institutions in the furtherance of manliness and muscular Christianity values; the classroom curriculum – specifically, the indoctrination of national supremacist values and the socialization of positive feelings as to war and ‘glorious death in battle’; the ubiquitous focus upon character development through competitive sports; the effects of religious teaching upon boys’ attitudes to subsequent volunteering; the militaristic impact of the 1908 Officers’ Training Corps scheme. Throughout, the thesis forms connections between deliberately embedded public school character and attitude traits with the requirement, by military recruiters, for similar attributes within their intake of junior officers during the early months of the First World War. Several broad questions are dealt with: for example, how appropriate were sports-embedded qualities to practical subaltern officering? What made the recruitment campaign so successful in securing ex-public school volunteers? How did key elements within the public school environment (e.g. authoritative hierarchy, rules and discipline, monasticism, indoctrinated beliefs) result in volunteering enthusiasm? To help address these (and other) relevant questions, the thesis draws upon the works of specialists within related fields - notably sociologists, linguists and educational experts. In conclusion, the thesis confirms the fact that, and determines how, thousands of ex-public schoolboys were unwittingly manipulated, from an early age, into serving their country in wartime.
Methven, Paul 2013. Children ardent for some desperate glory: public schools and First World War volunteering. MPhil Thesis, Cardiff University. Item availability restricted. file </53838/1/2013methvenpgmphil.pdf>file </53838/7/methvenpg.pdf>