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'Soldiers and Shirkers': An Analysis of the Dominant Ideas of Service and Conscientious Objection in New Zealand During the Great War.

During the First World War, ideas of duty and sacrifice were a dominant characteristic of public discourse in New Zealand. Specifically, concern centred on a perceived inequality of sacrifice, which saw brave soldiers die on the front lines, whilst other men remained on the home front, apparently avoiding duty. This thesis charts the prevailing and powerful ideas that circulated during wartime New Zealand around these two stereotypes; on the one hand there was the soldier, the ideal of service and duty; on the other, the conscientious objector, a target for the derogatory label of 'shirker'. While there are a few select critical works which examine the experiences of New Zealand World War One conscientious objectors, such We Will Not Cease (1939) and Armageddon or Calvary (1919), there is a near complete absence of studies which examine the home front and ask how conscientious objectors were perceived and consequently judged as they were. It is the contention of this thesis that ideas around the soldier and the 'shirker' were interrelated stereotypes and that both images emerged from the process of mass mobilisation; a highly organised war effort which was largely dependent for its success upon the cooperation of wider civilian society. In sum, the thesis examines and analyses the ideas within mainstream New Zealand society as they appeared in public sources (notably newspapers, cartoons and government publications), and in doing so, tracks how social mores and views towards duty, sacrifice and service were played out at a time of national and international crisis.
Type of thesis
Loveridge, S. (2009). ‘Soldiers and Shirkers’: An Analysis of the Dominant Ideas of Service and Conscientious Objection in New Zealand During the Great War. (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2762
The University of Waikato
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