On the Wire: The Strategic and Tactical Role of Cable and Wireless during the Second World War
Oldcorn, Benjamin David
Date: 26 September 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in Geography
This thesis engages with the intersection between the British state and corporations, governmentality, conflict and corporate power and historical geographies of networked communications during the Second World War From its formation in 1928 to nationalisation in 1946, Cable and Wireless were the overseas communications service for ...
This thesis engages with the intersection between the British state and corporations, governmentality, conflict and corporate power and historical geographies of networked communications during the Second World War From its formation in 1928 to nationalisation in 1946, Cable and Wireless were the overseas communications service for the British Government. Throughout the 1930s, intersecting sociopolitical networks were fostered between senior members of Head Office staff and representatives of various government departments – from the Cabinet, the Foreign Office and the intelligence services. Through these networks, an ostensibly private communications company was drawn into a close relationship with the British state that blurred the boundary between government and business. By utilizing the archival holdings of the Company, held at the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Cornwall, Cable and Wireless’ war work will be detailed by examining three discrete but interrelated aspects. Theses are: first, overseas mobilization; second, domestic mobilization; and, finally, the mobilization of the body – of individual members of staff. In this thesis Cable and Wireless is configured as an institution in the Foucauldian sense and an examination of the exercise of governmental power follows. The physical network of Cable and Wireless is then configured as the conduit through which this power was exercised and disseminated. The central methodological contribution that this thesis makes is to discourses surrounding the notion of secrecy: how this is created and maintained, and how it shatters space into regions of knowledge and ignorance. Secrecy in this context also serves to empower some and dominate others. The final aspect of the research is to define and explore an alternative narrative to the Second World War: the central role that a private communications company played in furnishing the British Government with intelligence – of both a strategic and tactical nature – that was gleaned from the overseas network.
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