'Keep the Home-Fires Burning': Life in Britain, 1939-45


This course explores the experiences of the British people on the home front as they lived through the dramatic challenges of the Second World War. Never before had the civilian population been asked to make so many sacrifices and to endure so much dislocation to their daily lives. Faced with threat of invasion, nightly bombing raids on towns and cities, people had to adapt to conscription, evacuation, rationing, and widespread restrictions to normal routines. How does a population find the resources to cope with such unprecedented conditions? With reference to the many contemporary accounts of life on the home front, we will seek to discover how men, women and children succeeded in keeping ‘the home-fires burning’ from 1939-1945.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.

‘Britain at War’. On 3rd September 1939, Britain declared war against Germany. How did the country respond to this immediate challenge? Fully expecting imminent German air attacks, the country undertook the evacuation of children and vulnerable civilians from cities, as well as implementing conscription, food rationing and blackouts. With references to first-hand experiences, we will examine how the British reacted to what is known as the ‘Phoney War’. 

‘Bombs, Blitz and Civil Defence’. The ‘Phoney War’ was an anti-climax. But in April and May 1940 Hitler invaded the countries of western Europe. Would Britain be next? We will investigate how the British coped first during the Battle of Britain, and then the nightly bombing raids on the industrial infrastructure of the country during the Blitz, September 1940 – May 1941. How did civilians defend their country?

‘Dig for Victory’. Britain was now alone. Normal supply routes of food and other consumer goods were severely disrupted or non-existent. How did the country survive? We will examine the far-reaching measures introduced to mobilise families, workers, even children to ensure that factories supported the war-effort, and a nation did not go hungry. We will focus too on women who played such a crucial role during these challenging years. 

‘The Domestic War’. Who were Britain’s domestic enemies during the Second World War? Despite the ‘Blitz spirit’, there were sections of society whose loyalty to the country was decidedly questionable. We will seek to understand the motives and behaviour of both criminals and the more serious group known as the ‘Fifth Column’ whose objectives were to facilitate a German victory.  What if Germany had invaded? What measures did Britain adopt to prepare for such an eventuality? We will explore the stories of those who engaged in what Churchill referred to as the art of ‘ungentlemanly warfare’.

‘Keeping up Morale: Facing the Future’. What happens to civilian morale, to people’s attitudes and behaviour when families are separated, and everyday life is such a strain? We will first examine the social and cultural aspects of life on the home front before looking at how the government managed the domestic challenges of war, and then turned its attention to providing its people hope and a vision for the future.



Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals) £1635.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals) £1440.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals) £1537.50
Fee option 4 (double en suite accom and meals) £1537.50
Fee option 5 (twin set standard accom and meals) £1440.00
Fee option 6 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner) £1120.00


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.
  • If submitting an application form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk, or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid.

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2022 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2022 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2022 - no refunds will be made.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course where there is good reason, for example, if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable. In these cases we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2022. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2022, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

3. Travel insurance

You need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred.


Mrs Annette Mayer


Annette Mayer is a Senior Associate Tutor in History at OUDCE. She teaches 19th- and 20thc British history courses for certificate, diploma courses, weekly class programmes and Oxford summer schools. She has authored three online courses: Churchill: Soldier, Politician and Statesman, Investigating the Victorians and The Making of Modern Britain and published The Growth of Democracy in Britain (1999) and Women in Britain 1900-2000 (2002).

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. Elements of this teaching will normally include mini lectures and presentations by tutors and tutor-led class discussions.

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2022.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Level and demands

The Oxford Experience is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century.

Participants should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite

  • Single standard

  • Twin en suite

  • Double en suite

  • Standard ‘twin set’.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Standard rooms have their own washbasin and shaver point but bathroom facilities are shared. ‘Twin sets’ comprise two single rooms opening off a sitting room.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an application form. (See “Application”.)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form), together with a note of any mobility problems.

We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

We also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals (lunch and dinner) at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.