Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Sentimental Equipment: New Zealand, the Great War and Cultural Mobilisation

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posted on 2021-11-12, 23:19 authored by Loveridge, Steven

During the First World War, New Zealand society was dominated by messages stressing the paramount importance of the war effort to which the country was so heavily committed. Reflecting the total nature of the conflict, these exhortations regularly linked individual duties to the war effort and associated that effort with larger, or higher, purposes. It is often perceived, or presumed, that the dominance of this material arose from general wartime hysteria or was the result of imposed propaganda - with all the manipulative trickery that term connotes. Either way, such perceptions dovetail with notions that the war represents a historical rupture and that wartime discourse might be characterised as insincere, inauthentic and abnormal. Challenging this interpretation, this thesis considers wartime messages as emblematic of deeper cultural sentiments and wider social forces. Specifically, it argues that they represented the results of a cultural mobilisation; a phenomenon whereby cultural resources were mobilised alongside material resources. Consequently many pre-existing social dynamics, debates, orientations, mythologies, values, stereotypes and motifs were retained, but repurposed, in response to the war. A range of subjects illustrating this phenomenon are surveyed, including collective identity, anti-Germanism, gender archetypes, gender antitypes and social cohesion. This study highlights two major dimensions of the phenomenon: firstly, the relationship between the pre-war social/cultural landscape and the mobilised results; and, secondly, how the ideological war effort operated by layering meanings upon wartime developments. Analysing these aspects of cultural mobilisation sets New Zealand‘s military involvement in a broader context and enriches our historical understanding of the society which entered and fought the Great War.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Belich, James; Rabel, Rob