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British interrogation culture from war to peace, 1939-1948

Photiadou, Artemis Joanna (2019) British interrogation culture from war to peace, 1939-1948. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis offers the first comparative history of British interrogations during the Second World War and its aftermath. It contains four case studies: the interrogation of Allied refugees in Britain; of German prisoners of war in the UK; of war criminals in post-war UK; of neo-Nazis and Soviet spies in the British Zone of Germany. Through these cases, the thesis fills three gaps in the literature. First, it situates interrogation within British historiography, from which it is almost completely absent. Second, it takes a holistic view towards the practice and hence goes beyond the few cases of torture on which previous work has focused; in so doing, it better-contextualises the latter. Third, it illustrates the diversity of topics with which interrogation was concerned and thus the ways through which Britain sought to understand its enemies. It achieves these aims by using thousands of previously unused reports, together with adopting a novel approach in analysing interrogation as part of internment and intelligence history. Four overarching arguments emerge. First, wartime interrogation quickly went from being a nascent to an indispensable intelligence-gathering method. This was accomplished through a model of interrogation that arose soon after the war’s outbreak, the elements of which comprised what I term an ‘interrogation culture’. Second, the remit of interrogation gradually expanded, something which offers unique insight into changing perceptions about what counted as intelligence. Third, how interrogation was conducted and how fruitful it was in each case reflected how the intelligence machine was functioning, rather than an outlier case. This renders interrogation an important test for the efficiency and propriety of the intelligence system. Finally, due to its covert but human nature, conduct during interrogation is key in determining the extent to which Britain upheld legal and cultural norms towards those it detained in war and peace.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Artemis Joanna Photiadou
Library of Congress subject classification: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Sets: Departments > International History
Supervisor: Jones, Heather

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