Recommend to your Librarian

British Children's Fiction in the Second World War

Owen Dudley Edwards

Paperback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

This title is newly available in paperback.

What children read in the Second World War had an immense effect on how they came of age as they faced the new world. This time was unique for British children - parental controls were often relaxed if not absent, and the radio and reading assumed greater significance for most children than they had in the more structured past or were to do in the more crowded future.

Owen Dudley Edwards discusses reading, children's radio, comics, films and book-related play-activity in relation to value systems, the child's perspective versus the adult's perspective, the development of sophistication, retention and loss of pre-war attitudes and their post-war fate. British literature is placed in a wider context through a consideration of what British writing reached the USA, and vice versa, and also through an exploration of wartime Europe as it was shown to British children. Questions of leadership, authority, individualism, community, conformity, urban-rural division, ageism, class, race, and gender awareness are explored.

In this incredibly broad-ranging book, covering over 100 writers, Owen Dudley Edwards looks at the literary inheritance when the war broke out and asks whether children's literary diet was altered in the war temporarily or permanently. Concerned with the effects of the war as a whole on what children could read during the war and what they made of it, he reveals the implications of this for the world they would come to inhabit.


Part One
1. Orwell v. Richards: Children's Fiction to 1940
2. Rations and Quislings
3. Evacuees and Gurus
4. Women and Fathers
5. Officials and Genteel-men
Part Two
6. God's Things and Others'
7. Identity, Authority and Imagination
8. Gender
9. Class
10. Race
Sources, Guides and Regrets

About the Author

Owen Dudley Edwards is Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on the history, culture and literature of Ireland, Scotland, and America.


This is a remarkable book. It is cogent, intriguing and illuminating... This book is a serious and scholarly undertaking, triumphantly carried out.
- Patricia Craig, Irish Times
This is a splendid book for those who love children's literature. Dudley Edwards displays such erudition, such real enthusiasm for his subject, that one's heart warms... Buy it, and dip in; you will be beguiled.
- Ann Martin, The Scotsman
This is without doubt one of the most stimulating and enjoyable books I have read for some time.
- Newsletter, issue 90, April 2008, Children's Book History Society
Exhaustive in scope, bursting with ideas and promising to be the definitive work on the subject.
- Professor Jeffrey Richards, University of Lancaster
By the end, the reader has read not only a fascinating analysis of the subject, but also an invaluable anthology... one of those admirable exercises in one small area of knowledge which throws light on something much bigger, namely the effect of the Second World War on the Home front, an effect which is still being felt.
- A. N. Wilson, Times Literary Supplement
Omnivorously well read, intelligently speculative, occasionally cavalier with with detail while always succeeding with the bigger picture, [Edwards] is an unashamed enthusiast for most of the authors he has quarried so extensively.
- Nicholas Tucker, Books for Keeps

Also in this series