1 What were the key features of British society 1945-54?
1.1 The British emerged from the war with great
austerity and bound by strong moral values,
there was a strong sense of duty and
deference. Mass media reflected this austerity.
1.2 Around 80% of Britons lived in urban areas, with 40% lvivng in
densely populated areas of London, the West midlands,
Merseyside, south-east Lancashire etc. 750,000 homes in these
areas had been damaged by bombing. The poorest people were
crowded into older, inadequate houses. Seven million of these
homes didn ot have a hot water supply, 10% of homes did not
have electricity and 25% lacked a proper toilet.
1.3 60% of the workforce was involved in
manual labour. Many thought of
themselves as 'working class'.
1.4 The launching
of the National
Health Service in
make a rage of
more people for
1.5 The mini 'baby boom' that immediately
followed the end of the war meant
there were more teenagers. The
population was very homogenous.
1.6 Rationing did not end, even bread became
rationed and could only be purchased with
ration coupons. Rationing was not totally
abandoned until 1954.
2 British attitudes
2.1 Sources of information
2.1.1 Mass observation - Around
500 volunteers were asked to
keep a diary about their
2.1.2 Polls -Large
specialise in finding
out information on all
kinds of topics.
2.1.3 Government papers - civil servants carry out a lo of
research on behalf of politicians to help them prepare
2.1.4 BBC audience research - the BBC
had a listener research department.
2.2.1 It was not until the rise of large, powerful trade unions,
and the progressive response of the liberal party and
later the labour party, that many people began to think
of themselves as belonging to a class.
2.2.2 Most working class people voted for the labour
party while most middle to upper class people
voted for the conservatives.
2.3.1 The royal
2.3.2 While 70% of the population
believed in God, only 17%
went to church. Lack of
deference towards religious
2.3.3 The general attitudes
was tat they were
2.4 Women and family
2.4.1 While mamy women worked in the
years after 1945, there was a clear
expectation that they should stop
work when they got married to fulfil
their duties as housewives.
2.4.2 Divorce was very difficult to gain, divorce rates
rose from 6000 to 60,000 due to war time strains
2.5.1 Sex before marriage and
homosexuality were all taboo in the
years 1945-54 They still happened, but
it was not acceptable to discuss or
practise them openly
2.6 Racial minorities
2.6.1 The minor number of ethnic
minorities meant that few Britons had
much contact with other ethnic
groups. Attitudes ranged from fear
and contempt to curiosity and
2.7.1 Many items of food remained rationed until 1954, spending on
food was 1/3 of household expenditure. After clothing, fuel,
transport and necessary services this did not leave much money
for spending on luxuries.
2.7.2 People often mended and
reused clothing. People were
looking forward to more
affluent times ahead. They
were not obsessed with
3 Features of popular culture
3.1.1 Many independent, local region newspapers were
closely linked with a political party. However there was
a rise in 'press barons', who built up large chains of
3.1.2 Often newspaper were used in
support for political views, but as
businessmen, they put profits before
3.1.3 'Broadsheets' attracted elite,
wealthier readers and
charged heavy fees for
advertising companies who
wished to advertise in
3.1.4 For the 'tabloids', it was a
case of total sales alone that
dictated how much
companies would pay for
3.2.1 Unlike fierce competition in newspaper sales, the BBC
had a monopoly on radio broadcasting in the UK until
1973. Given that 90% of British homes had a wireless
radio, the BBC had massive potential to influence national
culture. The BBC would treat the audience as 'public' and
not 'market' so they tried to improve cultural and
3.2.2 Radio programmes were targeted at listeners at
home. In this way, it promoted the domestication of
leisure time. It also enhanced feelings of national
identity through the ability to give immediacy to an
event that reached most parts of the country.
3.2.3 On Sundays, when the light programme
broadcast draery shows dedicated to religious
services, many listeners abandoned the BBC
and tuned into 'pirate radio' stations such as
radio Luxembourg and radio Normandy who
bradcasted into Britain from the sea.
3.3.1 Cinema is a frm of escapism, and what was acceptable on screen might
not necessarily be acceptable in the real world. The British Board of Film
Censors (BBFC) acted to prevent bad language, se and subversive ideas
from reaching British audiences.
3.3.2 Cinema predominantly attracted the working
class, and increasingly youthful audience;
what appealed to these cinema-goers might
not appeal to everyone.
3.3.3 British cinema had always
suffered from extremely strong
American competition, around 80%
of films in Britain were American.
3.3.4 The toning dwin of elite manners and
accents made British films more
popular. Ealing Studio comedies
appealed heavily to British audiences.
The 'spiv' film was very popular, it
depicted a young, dangerous man,
usually dressed like a gangster,
profiting from criminal activity.