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Gender & History





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This article argues that the most severe crisis of masculinity among British and Dominion soldiers in the First World War did not take place on the Western Front. Instead, British and Dominion soldiers serving on the war's sideshows in Macedonia, Mesopotamia and Palestine believed most acutely that their manliness was in question. Unlike soldiers on the Western Front, they were not battling the main German Army, they were not fighting to liberate occupied France and Belgium, and their war was not to preserve the rights of small nations and the inviolability of international law. This article explores how military masculinity played out much differently on the war's peripheral fronts in two ways. First, it suggests that where a soldier fought mattered more to military masculinity than a soldier's method of enlistment or any other variable. British and Dominion soldiers were fully aware that the home front only considered France and Flanders as the real war, and they actively argued against this misconception to loved ones and in their memoirs. Second, this article demonstrates an additional crisis of masculinity on the war's peripheral fronts: the lack, or more often effacement, of non-white colonial (Eastern Mediterranean and Arab) women. Not only was British and Dominion military masculinity under assault on the war's peripheral fronts, heteronormative sexual relations were also being transformed in a world where few, if any, racially acceptable women were available.

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