This essay argues that bombsites in Britain were a vivid component of a social imaginary that informed the postwar social settlement. Postwar reconstruction, which often involved additional demolition, also produced ruined landscapes that were complexly associated with war damage. The bombsite–demolition site as an accidental or purposeful playground for children added to the vacillating meanings of these ruined landscapes, as they signaled both the destructive power of modern industrial violence and the resilient and resourceful power of children and play to reconstitute and repair such landscapes. The image of children playing among ruins joined these two meanings together, making the bombsite into a habitat for “feral” youth—the imagined threat that haunts the welfare state. By attending to the material and symbolic landscapes of postwar ruins, we can see a cultural politics struggling with internal anxieties and ruinous identifications.

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