Liberty compromised? George Orwell, English Law and the Second World War

Robinson, Emma Louise (2017). Liberty compromised? George Orwell, English Law and the Second World War. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis considers George Orwell’s response to the emergency legislation of the Second World War. Considering legal and historical sources alongside his biography and corpus it reassesses the impact of Orwell’s works in the context of his patriotism, Englishness and views on the law. This thesis argues that Orwell’s experiences in Burma and Spain established his expectations – as an Englishman – for the law during a crisis. It juxtaposes Orwell’s pre-war anxiety regarding potentially ‘fascising measures’ to his relative silence when emergency powers were introduced in England, suggesting Orwell tacitly endorsed controversial measures, including internment, in the unique context of the early war. The thesis considers wartime compromises Orwell felt were necessary, noting his complicity in curtailing freedom of speech at the BBC, before his critical voice re-emerged regarding the normalisation of emergency powers. New readings of \(Animal\) \(Farm\) and \(Nineteen\) \(Eighty\)-\(Four\) highlight both their resonance with the English wartime regime and the dangers implicit in emergency legal systems, drawing out Orwell’s concern that eroding English values and legal traditions removed a bulwark against totalitarianism. Given his changing positions concerning individual freedoms this thesis consequently argues for a more nuanced appraisal of Orwell’s reputation as an unwavering defender of civil liberties.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of English Literature
Funders: Other
Other Funders: The University of Birmingham
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
K Law > K Law (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature


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