War on fear: Solly Zuckerman and civilian nerve in the Second World War

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    This article examines the processes through which civilian fear was turned into a practicable investigative object in the inter-war period and the opening stages of the Second World War, and how it was invested with significance at the level of science and of public policy. Its focus is on a single historical actor, Solly Zuckerman, and on his early war work for the Ministry of Home Security-funded Extra Mural Unit based in Oxford's Department of Anatomy (OEMU). It examines the process by which Zuckerman forged a working relationship with fear in the 1930s, and how he translated this work to questions of home front anxiety in his role as an operational research officer. In doing so it demonstrates the persistent work applied to the problem: by highlighting it as an ongoing research project, and suggesting links between seemingly disparate research objects (e.g. the phenomenon of 'blast' exposure as physical and physiological trauma), the article aims to show how civilian 'nerve' emerged from within a highly specific analytical and operational matrix which itself had complex foundations. © The Author(s) 2012.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)49-72
    Number of pages23
    JournalHistory of the Human Sciences
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


    • blast
    • civilian neurosis
    • home front
    • inter-war psychology
    • Second World War
    • Solly Zuckerman


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