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Copyright Office, What We're Reading

The Schools in Wartime; London, H.M. Stationery off., 1941; 26 p. illus. 22 1/2cm (

Envision a school day disrupted by bombing alerts, children sent away to the country, and tension at home from the war.  All these conditions made it difficult for British children to have a solid education during World War II.  This book entitled The Schools in Wartime presents a series of short vignettes illustrating how the Board of Education adapted British education during the war to ensure that children continued learning even under stressful conditions.

“It is a commonplace that a child’s school work is affected by his home life, and the war has produced many changes in the home. When night raids began, the children were often kept awake by the barrage or because their household kept on the alert. But sleeping conditions were quickly adjusted in most homes…in other schools the children were often allowed to have their sleep out at their desks…”

The Schools in Wartime describes the lives of British children staying in town and evacuees to rural Wales.  In town, teachers made an effort to maintain a semi-normal curriculum amid the bombings.  Here is a snippet:

“This is what happened at a nursery school when the siren sounded during the period of the customary afternoon sleep. The three-and-a-half and four-year-olds—who are “prefects” in this school—were roused and went in perfect order, carrying gas mask and blanket, down the steps and took up their places at the end of the shelter, where the caretaker received them. The remaining adult population—eight in number, including cook—formed a chain from the playroom to the shelter steps and the bundles of two-year-olds, still asleep and rolled in their blankets, were passed from end to end and deposited on shelter seats…”

Town children sent to the country for safety were amazed to see farm animals and vegetable gardens. Classrooms were held outdoors, children learned to garden, and they had the opportunity to learn about farming practices.
The Schools in Wartime was published by the Ministry of Information on behalf of the Board of Education by the Whitefriars Press Ltd. in London and Tonbridge.  This book was first published in 1941 with Crown Copyright status, meaning that its copyright term would last 50 years from the end of the year in which the work was published.

Library collections at many academic universities contain books like this one, books that have been in the public domain for a while or are soon about to enter the public domain due to the expiration of copyright term.  By digitizing these books and verifying the copyright status, we can freely share the knowledge.

Interestingly enough, the war had a positive effect on student reading. “…the long evenings spent indoors have stimulated a taste for reading and have caused a run on the school and public libraries.” For your own delight and edification, you can read The Schools in Wartime online at the HathiTrust Digital Library (

The copyright status of this book was reviewed for the Copyright Review Management System (CRMS) project, a collaborative effort of 14 universities made possible with the support of a National Leadership grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).

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