Britain 1930's


Effects of the Depression

Area's such as South Wales became ’unemployment Blackspots' with 40% of the population out of work.   Workers in the steel and iron industries suffered the most. 

Areas which relied on the old industries like coal, steel, ship building and cotton suffered badly as well. 

There was a worldwide fall in demand which made things worse, however areas which relied on newer industries did better.

From 1934 the dole (unemployment benefit) was managed by the Unemployment Assistance Board (UAB).  They carried out means tests to see how much money families should receive.  Families with savings or a small additional income had their dole reduced. 

* Protest marches were organised to persuade the government to do more and were organised by the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement.  They protested against mass unemployment and the means tests which many people found humiliating.  There were also hunger marches and the most famous of these marches was the Jarrow March. 

Henry Moody

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Causes of The Depression

After WW1 Britain's industries began to decline, and the Welsh coal industry employed too many men and needed to modernise, causing coal to become more expensive than coal produced in other countries.Coal prices fell futher because Germany was able to use coal to pay for the reparations payments set by the Treaty of Versailles.  Oil was also starting to be used instead of coal.

The iron and steel industries also had the same problems, as other countries had modernised during WW1 and were able to produce iron and steel cheaper than Britain, and Britain also faced industrial disputes which slowed production down even more. Workers went on strike over pay and conditions.  In 1926 the General Strike brought Britain to a standstill.

In 1929 the US Stock Market collapsed.  Share prices crashed, banks closed and companies lost billions.  This had an impact all over the world.  Trade between countries declined.  American fell into the Great Depression and millions became unemployed. The deppresion sonn spread across Europe.

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Jarrow March

Jarrow relied on the ship building industry, and as the shipyards closed and thousands of workers became unemployed. By 1936, unemployment hit 68% and many families did not have enough food to eat.  The town's MP, Ellen Wilkinson, called Jarrow 'the town that was murdered. 

A protest march was held from Jarrow to London to carry a petition demanding action from the government. 200 shipyard workers marched 300 miles in 14 days to highlight the problems faced by their local community. 

The marches were fed and sheltered by sympathetic people along the way. They reached London but the Prime Minister refused to accept the petition and government ministers refused to meet them, and the marchers returned to Jarrow on the train.

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Effect on Women

Women often suffered the most with mothers struggling to 'Make ends meet', sometimes going without foo in order to feed their children. Mothers would eat smaller meals or go without meals completely in order to feed their children.  They bought cheap cuts of meat to make affordable meals.  Clothes were handed down from child to child and family to family.

Women suffered more illness' and deaths in childbirth increased, especially in Wales as healthcare was expensive, and life became even harder after 1931 when the Means Test was introduced.  

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Government Actions

The Conservative Government was trying to reduce public spending, meaning that they were not willing to spend huge amounts to solve the problems facing Britain.However, In 1934 they passed the Special Areas Act.  This identified four areas of the UK which were the worst affected by the deppression. A government commissioner was put in charge of trying to improve these areas.  £1 million was provided to encourage businesses to move their factories to these areas. 

They tried to encourage factories to group together to make trading estates.  The largest trading estate was near Cardiff. Many employers were reluctant to move from prosperous areas like the midlands and southern England. A new modern steelworks was built at Ebbw Vales in South Wales, but many people felt that the government did not do enough to solve the problems facing Britain.  

Henry Moody

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Effect on Industry

In some areas industry expanded and people enjoyed an improved standard of living. One reason for this is that m*** production was used to produce goods quickly and cheaply.  These methods were first developed by Henry Ford in the US.  The manufacturing process was broken up into simple tasks and goods were made on a production line.

As well as that 'Light industries' , such as cars, aircraft,electrical goods like radios and branded foods grew. New fabrics and plastics were developed like rayon and Bakelite.  This meant that cheaper goods were more readily available.  Companies such as Austin, Morris, Cadbury's and Mars expanded.

The government set up the National Grid to link power stations across the country.  This meant that factories did not rely on coal and could be built nearer to the more populated areas, and more houses were connected to mains electricity.  Poorer families could only afford electric lights, but richer families could afford consumer goods such as vacuum cleaners, fridges and ovens.  By 1937, 50% of homes owned a radio.

Many people suffered during the depression, but for some, it was seen as a 'golden era'. Even the poorest areas kept their morale up through community spirit and participation In the new forms of entertainment.

Henry Moody

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Wales to England Migration

430,000 left wales in the 1920s and 1930s in search of a better life.  Many of them were unemployed. Traditional heavy industries were on the decline and Unemployed workers looked for jobs making the new light manufacturing industries which were making the new consumer goods. The Ministry of Labour encouraged them to move by setting up a scheme to help them find work and

New housing estates were built to house the migrant workers and their families. This gave them a better standard of living than they had back in Wales. Welsh workers could earn higher wages than they could back home.The Welsh were also willing to work for lower wages as they had been out of work for so long.  In some places they were not made to feel welcome as the English felt they were taking their jobs.

Henry Moody

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Popular Entertainment

People had less money to spend on professional sport so amateur sport did well.  Rugby, Boxing, football and racing became popular.  Sport helped develop a community spirit.  People went to the races to bet on the horses or the dogs. 

New radio sets were developed which had loudspeakers instead of headphones. Radios became mass produced and more affordable.  In 1937 BBC Wales was set up which broadcast programmes in Welsh and English.  TV started to be developed, but very few people owned a TV set.  The first broadcast was in 1936, but that was only to people living in London.  The radio was the main source of entertainment.  People listened to the news, music and entertainment shows.

This was the most popular form of entertainment.  At the start of the 1920s films were silent; but by the end of the 1920s 'talkies', films with a soundtrack, were shown.  New luxury cinemas were built to accommodate the growing audiences.  Ticket prices were cheap so even the unemployed could afford to go for an occasional night out.  The most famous film stars were Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Errol Flynn.  They became household names.   Cinema provided escapism.  It enabled people to escape the reality of everyday life to a different world.  

Henry Moody

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