Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
, 25 (5), 49-72

War on Fear: Solly Zuckerman and Civilian Nerve in the Second World War


War on Fear: Solly Zuckerman and Civilian Nerve in the Second World War

Ian Burney. Hist Human Sci.


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.

Keywords: Second World War; Solly Zuckerman; blast; civilian neurosis; home front; inter-war psychology.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Public blast: from Punch, 16 October 1940; (SZ/OEMU/4/7/2), Zuckerman Archive, University of East Anglia.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Experimental blast: (SZ/OEMU/3/1), Zuckerman Archive, University of East Anglia.
Figure 3.
Figure 3.
Pathology of blast: (SZ/OEMU/3/4/3), Zuckerman Archive, University of East Anglia.
Figure 4.
Figure 4.
Mapping vulnerability: (SZ/OEMU/2/11/22), Zuckerman Archive, University of East Anglia.
Figure 5.
Figure 5.
Coding fear: (SZ/OEMU/56/8/15), Zuckerman Archive, University of East Anglia.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 1 PubMed Central articles


I Zuckerman Papers, UEA Archives

a. Reports, Memoranda, etc
    1. ‘Criteria for the Diagnosis of Neurosis’ (undated), SZ/OEMU/57/5/3
    1. ‘The Effect of Explosion Blast on the Lungs’ (1940), SZ/OEMU/2/2/6 - PMC - PubMed
    1. ‘General Observations on visit to Luton’ (1940), SZ/OEMU/56/1/2
    1. Hull School Essay series (1942), SZ/OEMU/56
    1. ‘Analysis of Raid Essays’ (1942), SZ/OEMU/56/8/16–17
b. Correspondence
    1. Bradford Hill A., Zuckerman S. (1941) SZ/OEMU/56/1/39
    1. Fraser R., Zuckerman S. (1941) SZ/OEMU/56/5/31
    1. Osborne G. R., Zuckerman S. (1940) SZ/OEMU/4/3/1/3
    1. Russell A., Zuckerman S. (1940) SZ/OEMU/4/1/32
    1. Zuckerman S., McSwiney B. (1940) SZ/OEMU/2/5/1

II National Archives (TNA)

    1. ‘Diagnosis of Concussion and Emotional Shock’(1939), TNA, PIN15/2312
    1. Glover G. H. to Ministry of Pensions, London (1940), TNA, PIN15/2312

III Published Sources

    1. Anon (1940) ‘Countering the Effects of Blast’, Manchester Guardian (25 January).
    1. Anon (1940) ‘Mouth Open in an Air Raid?’, British Medical Journal 1: 992–3
    1. Anon (1941) ‘Blast Injuries’, British Medical Journal 1: 89–90 - PMC - PubMed
    1. Anon (1941) ‘ARP Research: Theories on Blast Transformed’, Manchester Guardian (23 August).
    1. Baldwin S. (1932) 4 Hansard, 5th ser, vol. 270, col. 632

LinkOut - more resources