In March, Dr Henry Irving (Leeds Beckett) and six other historians took part in a roundtable to explore the lessons of the Second World War for the Covid response. There is a lot to reflect on beyond the "Blitz spirit" comparisons, and the historians co-authored a paper on what we can learn about volunteering, logistics, the blackout and more.
Dr Irving has commented on some of these themes for an On London piece reflecting on the 80th anniversary of the start of the Blitz:
Irving points to today’s government underestimating the response to the call for NHS Volunteer Responders, just as the numbers volunteering for Home Guard duty during the war far exceeded expectations. The Blitz and Covid, he says, each highlight the importance of agility when information is changing rapidly. Yet even the best made plans bump against physical constraints, like the availability of testing kits or of concrete to build air raid shelters. Irving thinks both events highlight the tensions between the local and the national. The solutions, however, point in opposite directions, as the wartime authorities got to grips with problems by centralising things, while devolving responsibilities from the centre may boost accountability and improve effectiveness in the fight against coronavirus.
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