Current research

THE MEDICAL SERVICES ON THE HOME FRONT, 1914-1918 (Q 18924) A member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) lighting the cigarette of one of her convalescent patients at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

Michael has published widely on the social and cultural history of the First World War, including articles and a monograph on topics related to anti-German sentiment and patriotism, smoking in the trenches of the Western Front and the bombardment of civilians in coastal communities.

His current research (2022 onwards) focuses on smoking culture, tobacco consumption and provision in British military and civilian contexts during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, particularly the use of tobacco as a mild narcotic in situations of combat and war strain, as well as its symbolism in codes of martial masculinity and patriotism.

This ongoing work is pushing further than the First World War, to take into account other modern conflicts involving Britain where the consumption of tobacco was an important component of military and civilian experience, including the Crimean War (1853-6), Second Boer War (1899-1901), First World War (1914-18) and Second World War (1939-45).

This work contends that tobacco consumption, particularly cigarette smoking, was incorporated into pre-war and wartime understandings of military and civilian welfare and comportment, looming large in efforts to maintain ‘morale’ and encourage the endurance of wartime actors. The project includes insights into Victorian and Edwardian medical perspectives regarding tobacco and its use in war; the material and visual culture of tobacco/smoking; smoking as a cultural-social practice; and tobacco as a medicinal-narcotic product consumed for its assumed soothing properties in wartime settings.

Watch this space for forthcoming publications and other outputs from this project!