Perceptions of 'Scottishness' in Relation to the Experiences of Physically Disabled Ex-Servicemen in Scotland During the Interwar Period

  • Emily Rootham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The Great War devastated the male population in Scotland. The country’s war dead officially totalled around 74,000. The number of servicemen who returned with wounds, diseases and permanent disabilities was more than double this figure. Scottish disabled ex-servicemen have not been the sole focus of any previous studies on war disability. Health provision, training and employment schemes have been among the topics explored within British disability history; however, the Scottish context and its impact on physically disabled ex-servicemen has largely been left unaddressed - or only briefly mentioned - by most historians. This thesis has contributed further to the burgeoning body of disability history by narrowing the focus of enquiry to Scotland's war disabled and their providers.

This research has questioned whether Scottish disabled ex-servicemen and their providers had a distinct experience during the interwar period by analysing three facets of how ‘Scottishness’ in relation to disabled ex-servicemen was understood. Firstly, it explores the perceptions of Scottish disabled ex-servicemen in the press and visual media. Secondly, it investigates their access to war disability pensions and hospitals in Scotland to comprehend how far Scottish concerns of being different were acted upon in Westminster. Thirdly, the experiences of training and employing Scottish disabled ex-servicemen who were severely and lightly disabled are researched; the role of Scottish voluntarism is investigated to enquire how far their national identity was utilised. This thesis analyses a wide variety of evidence such as newspapers, magazines, pension files, charity application forms, diaries, and letters to bring attention to the position of Scottish disabled ex-servicemen and their providers.

The political, economic and geographic landscape of Scotland during this period created a context for disabled ex-servicemen different to that of the rest of the UK. This thesis has found that perceptions of ‘Scottishness' did impact Scottish disabled ex-servicemen and their providers, particularly in voluntarism. However, the perception that this group was different within Scotland was rarely acknowledged within new centralised systems created in Westminster. Hence, the attempt to install further changes to accommodate these differences was limited, which reflected the ongoing struggle to re-negotiate the place of Scottish politics in Westminster post-war.
Date of Award2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Glasgow Caledonian University
SupervisorElaine McFarland (Supervisor) & Ben Shepherd (Supervisor)

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