This source is a photograph of people sleeping in Liverpool Street Underground Station Shelter. Taken in November 1940 by Bill Brandt1, the photograph shows men and women sleeping close together under blankets of the floor of the tube station. This was the year that the Blitz began in London during World War 2. At this time, Underground Stations were often used by people during air raids for shelter, as in the source image.
Based on the wider historical context it is reasonable to assume that people in the picture where staying in the underground station for shelter. This image could be portrayal of ‘Blitz spirit’. The photograph shows many people laying close together, these would have been people from different background and many of whom may not have known each other. This shows how people came to shelter together, finding comfort and protection in the underground station. People have hanged their personal possession on the walls in the tube station, which gives it a homelier feel. In some of the alcoves of the station people have stored suitcases. This may indicate that they have not rushed down into the station because of an air raid, but instead they are taking more permanent shelter in the station.
This photograph holds historical significance, as it gives a glimpse into the lives of people in London at the time of this Blitz. It documents how people survived the bombings by coming together with the rest of their community and staying overnight in local underground stations. However, it is only a snapshot of what life was like on that day. Perhaps if the circumstances on the day were different (if it were colder, or it was an underground station in a different part of London) there would have been less people in the station; instead of the cramped conditions we see in the photograph. So, although the photograph serves as evidence that people did sleep in the underground stations for shelter, this cannot just on the photographic evidence alone be generalised to the whole of London during the Blitz.
The source shows a newspaper clipping from 23rd December 1940. The short article details a rise in the amount of people looting during the Merseyside blitz. Mr H. R. Balmer stated that they ‘had more looting in Liverpool than they ever had before’. Mr Balmer went on to say that 13 men were arrested for looting during the Merseyside blitz.
The article is very short in length, published in the Daily Mirror. This may be because at the time the narrative given by the government was empathises on ‘Blitz spirit’, encouraging the local communities to come together to rebuild and offer each other shelter. This seemingly serious trend of looting in Liverpool was a very short article, which would suggest it was not big news. This would have been a deliberate move by the publishers to not draw attention to negative news. However, it is significant that they drew attention to the issue. It reminds people that amidst the chaos laws are still upheld and must still be respected. It arguably brings about a sense of normality under the abnormal circumstance of war.
The source is historically significant as it tells historians that Britain was not always working together during the war. Instead of ‘Blitz spirit’ after bombs in Merseyside, there is a raise in crime. It also gives an insight to how crimes where dealt with during the war. People still received trials and punishment despite the bigger problems the country face. This enforces the ideology that the people of Britain would “keep calm and carry on”. However, based on the source alone the trend of looting cannot be generalised to the rest of Britain, just to Liverpool.
This source is an object. There are some stocks which have been persevered in Derbyshire. Stocks were a form of punishment for crimes in early England. A person put into the stocks would have their arms and head, or as in the ones in the source, their arms and ankles, locked in a wooden block for a long period of time. This would often be in a public place like a town square where passers-by could look on at the criminals. A person would generally be put into the stocks for committing petty crimes such as theft.
The stocks symbolise similarities and changes in the way criminals are dealt with in the criminal justice system, although the methods today are much difference, the principles still stand. The stocks were used as a form of punishment, similarly to today’s methods a person would face a trial and be given a sentence fitting of their crime. This, just as a custodial sentence, limits the freedom of the criminal. However, this punishment is much more vengeful than a custodial sentence, criminals in stocks would be abused and humiliated by the public for their crimes. Often rotten fruit or vegetables would be thrown at them and this would be allowed, this is a form of “repayment theory”. This is a form of ‘retribution’, which ensures the criminal “pays for” the crime.
It would also act a deterrent for the criminal to stop them from committing further crime. The stocks being such a public punishment would also act as a deterrent to the public, as they would be able to put themselves in the shoes of the criminal, and want to avoid that type of a punishment. However, today, such a punishment would be highly immoral and damaging not just physically but mentally to the criminal.
The stocks are historically significant as they represent how our motives for the punishment of criminals have stayed the same for many years. They enforce that punishment is justifiable, for the purposes of being a deterrence, however, we can learn from the fact that stocks are no longer used that punishment should not be rooted revenge.