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The Second World War is frequently invoked as a global crisis similar to that faced today: a life-and-death battle on a worldwide scale. But is this analogy fitting and accurate? Is it right and helpful for us to think of coronavirus as an enemy to be defeated? Should we, in the UK, be demonstrating a new ‘Blitz spirit’? Are the risks the same? Who and what are creating and shaping the nature of the dangers faced?

Many Londoners’ experiences of life before lockdown extend to the Second World War. Some people served in the armed forces and saw action overseas. Others were children at the time and experienced the challenges of the Home Front, such as separation from families, shortages of food and other essentials, fears for loved ones on the front lines, and the threat of sudden death and destruction from the air. Lockdown has caused many to reflect on those events. The memories of older people encourage contemplation of the nature of that conflict, the reality of its challenges and narratives, and the appropriateness of comparing those days to these. They also prompt consideration of how different generations can perceive threats to life, health and wellbeing in times of danger and emergency.

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