British Society, 1939–1951 | eReview

This is an excellent collection on the impact and aftermath of World War II on British society, businesses, and domestic life. 


British Society, 1939–1951, Coherent Digital History Commons

CONTENT British Society, 1939–1951 is one of four collections available through Coherent Digital’s History Commons platform. This module differs from the others in that it focuses not on covert actions, intelligence gathering, or political maneuvering but on stories told through the eyes and words of women, children, refugees, and other groups often underrepresented in historical accounts of the era. It includes 6,824 documents and 117,000 pages of primary material from the UK National Archives and the History of Advertising Trust on social, economic, political, and cultural topics. Included within are statistics, reports, surveys, maps, charts, diagrams, and letters from the public; analysis of that data in government briefings, meeting minutes, official correspondence, and memoranda; and policy implementation and propaganda, including advertisements, pamphlets, posters, transcripts, press summaries, and publications. There are also surveys of conditions outside the UK from British allies. Subjects as diverse as food rationing, evacuation schemes, and the black market are also covered.

USABILITY Coherent Digital’s clear and straightforward interface lets patrons discover content quickly. The intuitive layout of the home page enables users to immediately initiate searches, with a basic search box and advanced search at the top and facets for finding documents by content, type, source, language, year, and topic on the left.

This simple but highly functional design is impressively responsive and quick, while navigation within the module is smooth. For instance, a subject search on “air raids” instantly returns 1,127 documents, 22 tables, 15 lists, and six collections. Users can select an Air Raid Damage and Shelter Policy Committee report from the lists menu, which provides detailed information on bombing, infrastructure, and communications across the UK from 1940 to 1942. In addition, an advanced search of the term “publicity campaigns” narrows search results to documents classified as ephemera. In this case, a charming piece on making a featherlight omelet quickly popped up on the screen.

The highlighted-keyword feature helps with relevancy and is an excellent tool for identifying terms without completing lengthy reads to find them. Entries feature summary notes, tables of contents, and subject indexes. Features prominent in the other modules are here too, including text and data-mining, document sharing, and module cross-searching.

PRICING The module is available as a one-time purchase of perpetual rights. The list price is $40,000, but pricing is scaled to library size and type, ranging from $36,000 for the largest ARL to $18,400 for the smallest institution. Payments can be spread out over multiple years. Consortium prices will be lower. After one free year, annual service fees range from $350 to $500. One service fee will cover up to six modules on the History Commons platform.

VERDICT This is an excellent collection on the impact and aftermath of World War II on British society, businesses, and domestic life. It provides a glimpse into the challenges and responses faced by the UK, with an emphasis on gender, health, race, education, labor, and domestic conditions. Ease of use, excellent response time, and common-sense features make it a standout.

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