Context - J B Priestly
J B Priestly, born in 1894, wrote An Inspector Calls in 1945. The play is set in 1912 and, like many of his works; it contains controversial, strong politically charged messages. At the age of 16, Priestly became a junior clerk with a local wool firm at the age of 16.
When WWI broke out, Priestley joined the infantry and only just escaped death on a number of occasions. After the war, he gained a degree from Cambridge University in Modern History and Political Science. He then moved to work as a freelance writer.
During the WWII, J B Priestly broadcast a popular weekly radio show which was attacked by the Conservatives as being too radical and was eventually cancelled due to being too critical of the Government.
J B Priestly wrote over 50 plays and continued to write into the 1970s, and died in 1984.
Context - Political Views
During the 1930's Priestley became very concerned about the consequences of social inequality in Britain. In 1942 Priestley and others set up a political party called the Common Wealth Party. This party argued for public ownership of land, greater democracy, and a new 'morality' in politics. The party merged with the Labour Party in 1945, but Priestley was influential in developing the idea of the Welfare State which began to be put into place at the end of WWII.
Context - 1912 vs. 1945
An Inspector Calls was set in 1912 and was written in 1945.
1912: WWI would start in two years and Mr Birling's optimistic view regarding the war is completely wrong. 1945: WII ended in Europe in 1945; people were recovering from nearly six years of warfare, danger and uncertainty.
1912: There were strong distinctions between the upper and lower classes.1945: Class distinctions had been greatly reduced as a result of two world wars.
1912: Women were subservient to men - a well off women could marry; a poor woman was seen as cheap labour.1945: As a result of WWI and WWII, women had earned a more valued place in society.
1912: The ruling classes saw no need to change the system.1945: There was a great desire for social change. Immediately after WWII, the Labour Party won a landslide victory over Winston Churchill’s Conservatives.