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Patriotic organizations in prewar Britain are often blamed for the public's enthusiastic response to the outbreak of World War One. The wartime experience of these same organizations is insufficiently understood. In Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War, Matthew Hendley examines how the stresses and strains of the Great War radically reshaped popular patriotism and imperialism in Britain after 1918. Using insights from gender history and recent accounts of associational life in early twentieth-century Britain, Hendley compares the wartime and postwar histories of three major patriotic organizations founded between 1901 and 1902 - the National Service League, the League of the Empire, and the Victoria League. He shows how the National Service League, strongly masculinist and supportive of militaristic aims, floundered in wartime. Conversely, the League of the Empire and the Victoria League, with strong female memberships, goals related to education and hospitality, and a language emphasizing metaphors of family, home, and kinship prospered in wartime and beyond into the 1920s. Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War is a richly detailed study of women's roles in Britain during the height of popular imperialism, as well as a major contribution to our understanding of the continuities in Britain before and after the First World War.
Matthew C. Hendley is associate professor of history at SUNY College at Oneonta.