An Inspector Calls: Historical and Social Context

Brief analysis of the social and historical undertones in JB Priestley's Novel, An Inspector Calls.

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An Inspector Calls: Historical and Social Content
The play is set in 1912, Edwardian England, just two years before the war. This was a very difficult
time for England. It was a period when there were many strikes, food shortages and great political
tension. In contrast to that, the play was written and published in 1945, just after WWII, when the
country was also in great disorder.
Europe was in ruins and two cities of Japan were destroyed by atomic bombs. During the war, the
Blitz and the evacuation of city children to the country meant that a lot of people were thrown or
forced together. As a result, they learned about each other and felt responsible for each other as
individuals and as a country.
This play has a moral message; that we should think of others and work together to ensure that we
are all offered a chance to be treated equally ­ this idea is known as socialism. When the play was
first published, Labour had just taken over the country for the first time. Before Labour, the country
was run by capitalists, who believed that each person had to look after themselves ­ this idea,
however, resulted in unequal treatment of people.
During the period in which the play is set, there was also a divide between the rich and the poor;
87% of the country's wealth belonged to only 5% of the population.
When the capitalists ran the country, England had no welfare state, which meant no benefits for the
sick, old, poor or unemployed. Employers were all-powerful and could treat their employees how
they wanted. The play is set in the fictional town of Brumley, said to be a northern town like
Bradford. Bradford had many factories which were owned by rich people who paid their workers
extremely low wages.
Women had even fewer rights than men at the time and had not yet won the right to vote. They
were not expected to work unless they were in the lower classes, in which case they would have to
work in order to survive. The eldest male of any home would be the breadwinner, and were also in
charge domestically ­ their word was law. A wife would never argue back to her husband or eldest



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