The 'recruiting muddle': married men, conscription and masculinity in First World War England*

TitleThe 'recruiting muddle': married men, conscription and masculinity in First World War England*
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsUgolini, Laura
JournalFirst World War Studies
Pagination73 - 92
Date Published2018/03//

Interviewed many decades after the end of the First World War, Mary Morton recalled vividly how her mother's family had made no secret of their contempt for her father's conduct during the conflict: he was - they thought - a 'bounder'. Tellingly, they condemned not his continued civilian status, but the fact that he had volunteered, despite his responsibilities as husband and father. Historians have long recognized the powerful pull of military masculinities during the First World War, as well as the denigration of civilian men and masculinities: this article suggests that the wartime experiences of married men like Mary Morton's father complicate this picture of hegemonic and subordinate masculinities. They, it was widely agreed in the early years of the conflict, had responsibilities that tied them to the home front; it was unmarried men's duty to 'go first'. In May 1916, however, the pressing need for military manpower led to the introduction of conscription for all men, without reference to marital status. This article explores the underlying shift in understandings of manly conduct in wartime, from a belief that married men had responsibilities that kept them from enlisting, to a new emphasis on the equality of duty among all physically fit men of military age, irrespective of domestic responsibilities.

Short TitleFirst World War Studies