Lunchtime Talk: Alice White, 13 April.
Thousands of people, many of whom had been living in camps for years, were attempting to settle back in to peaceful, productive, democratic society. What was the best way to facilitate this?
This situation might refer to the refugee crisis we are confronted with today, but it also describes the situation faced by Britain in 1944, as POWs began to be repatriated. The Tavistock group had raised concerns about returning POWs at the beginning of the war years before, but it was only by November 1944 that a pilot unit was created to officially investigate the potential problems of resettlement. After this slow start, work progressed at a rapid pace: by the end of March 1947, more than 19,000 European POWs and around 4,500 Far-East POWs had attended the Civil Resettlement Units (CRUs) that the Tavistock group and the British Army created to aid with repatriation and get men ‘back to Civvy Street.’ Despite the huge scale of this work, it is little-known today and many notable works on Second World War British POWs completely omit any mention of psychological involvement in resettlement.
This seminar’s focus is on what the Tavistock archive restores to our picture of resettlement by providing insight into the people, processes, challenges and opportunities behind the CRUs.
Alice White is an AHRC funded PhD student at the Centre for the History of the Sciences at the University of Kent. She studies the history of management science human relations during the Second World War and in post-war Britain, with an aim to understand how social and cultural factors influenced the creation of a ‘science of management.