Jalland’s Study of Death and Grief in England

Pat Jalland,  in https://global.oup.com/academic/product/death-in-war-and-peace-9780199265510?cc=au&lang=en&where the title is: “Death in War and Peace. A  History of Loss and Grief in England, 1914-1970”


Death in War and Peace is the first detailed historical study of experience of death, grief, and mourning in England in the fifty years after 1914. In it Professor Jalland explores the complex shift from a culture where death was accepted and grief was openly expressed before 1914, to one of avoidance and silence by the 1940s and thereafter.  The two world wars had a profound and cumulative impact on the prolonged process of change in attitudes to death in England. The inter-war generation grew up in a bleak atmosphere of mass mourning for the dead soldiers of the Great War, and the Second World War created an even deeper break with the past, as a pervasive model of silence about death and suppressed grieving became entrenched in the nation’s psyche.
Stories drawn from letters and diaries show us how death and loss were experienced by individuals and families in England from 1914; and how the attitudes, responses, and rituals of death and grieving varied with gender, religion, class, and region. The growing medicalization and hospitalization of death from the 1950s further reinforced the growing culture of silence about death, as it moved from the care of the family to that of hospitals, doctors, and undertakers.

These silences about death still linger today, despite a further cultural shift since the 1970s towards greater emotional expressiveness. This fascinating study of death and bereavement helps us to understand the present as well as the past.

Table of Contents

Part I: War and Peace 1914-1939
1: Death, the Great War and the influenza pandemic
2: Violet Cecil and communities in mourning
3: The Bickersteths’ sacred pilgrimages to the Great War Cemeteries, 1919-1931
4: Death, disasters and rituals among the northern working classes, 1919-39
5: Sir Sydney Cockerell: cremation and the modern way of death in England
Part II: The Second World War
6: The people’s war: Death in the blitz
7: Missing airmen and families in anguish: ‘There could be no mourning’
8: Experiences of wartime grief
Part III: A changing culture of death and loss since 1945
9: Hidden death: Medicine and care of the dying, 1945 to 1970
10: Widowhood, grief and old age 1945-1963
11: Gorer’s map of death: Declining rituals and prolonged sorrow, 1963
12: Observing grief: C.S. Lewis and the psychiatrists
13: Epilogue: Change and continuity since the 1970s

Pat Jalland, Professor of History, Australian National University


“An important historical contribution to the study of death and an informative account of how a country has handled far-reaching social challenge and change… Death in War and Peace succeeds in negotiating the gulf between scholarly and non-scholarly terrains, and for this Jalland must be commended.” – Kate Woodthorpe, Times Higher Education

“Scholarly enterprise and historical flair have enabled Professor Jalland to rise above the limitations of the material… Death in War and Peace provides us with fresh, imaginative perspectives and compelling detail.” – Paul Addison, Times Literary Supplement

“Jalland writes with the authority of a scholar who has spent many years researching her subject. This is a fine survey of a neglected topic, and it will surely remain as the standard work in the field for many years.” – Adrian Bingham, English Historical Review

“This book is an important contribution to understanding how attitudes to death changed in the twentieth century.” – Julie-Marie Strange, American Historical Review

“This is a fascinating and much needed study.” – James Munson, Contemporary Review

“Jalland judiciously weaves detailed individual case studies with government reports, statistics, newspaper accounts and diaries. The book is a fine contribution to the analysis of death and grief in modern Britain.” – Joanna Bourke, Journal of Social History

“impressive and highly readable work” – Glennys Howarth, Social History of Medicine


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One response to “Jalland’s Study of Death and Grief in England

  1. Thank you Mike for the absorbing synopsis of Jalland’s study of Death and Grief in England.
    It is fascinating to see how the cultural ,religious and ethical attitudes towards death and grieving, shifted from the overtly expressed traditional forms observed during Victorian times, to the internalized, stoical silences that came to be the norm, following the widespread and catastrophic deaths of young Englishmen during the 1st and the 2nd World Wars . I am sending this to a select few who are likely to be interested in this kind of study.–Comment from my pal Chandra Wickremasinghe via email

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