History-War and the Transformation of British Society(1931-51)


The social classes

During this time (1930s) there was a clear difference in the social classes :

  • Upper class( the wealthy , a small majority) were identified by a top hat.
  • Middle Class ( had savings ) were identified by a bowler hat.
  • Working class ( poor , little money ) were identified by a flat cap.

What could you use this information for ?

Identifying the people in source based questions which will allow you to come up with an answer that is supported with your own knowledge. 

****TIP*** Be careful when evaluating source based questions , some photos can be staged so this means they may be unreliable !

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How did unemployment in the 1930's change ?

"First there is old England , the country of cathedrals and manor houses and inns , of village parson and squire and pretty lanes ... Then , I decided there is Industrial England of coal , steel iron, wool, railways;of thousands of rows of little houses all  alike...devastated countryside , sooty, dismal little towns, and still sootier grim fortress-like cities...The third England , i decided , was the  new post war England of arterial and by-pass roads , of filling stations and factories that look like exhibition buildings , of giant cinemas , dancehalls and cafes , bungalows with tiny garages, motor coaches..."From an English Journey" by J.B. Priestley in 1934.

What did he mean ?

There was three types of England - Old , Industrial and Post War.

Old England - North west , the country side , calm and pleasant.

Industrial- Middle/  north , New Castle , Leeds , factories , busy and polluted.

Post war- Further south , modern , cars, aeroplanes , new and rare inventions.

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The nature of unemployment 1930s

Unemployment increased significantly - 1932

A famous photograph  included the words "I know 3 trades, I speak three languages , fought for three years , have three children and no work for three months but I only want one job". This suggests it was harder to get a job even if you were skilled. It also shows that coalmines , ship yards or other trades must have closed down because the worker can't get a job despite knowing three trades.

The north had very high unemployment rates because this is were the "old" industries were ( coal , iron , ship building etc)

In the south there was low unemployment comapared to the north as this is where the new industies such as car making were.

The Results of the Great  Depression

  • Britsh industry changed because people stopped spending lots of money and looked for cheaper goods in other countries.The demand for British export decreased- Manufactures can no longer employ workers.
  • Industry was developed around coal fields because of dependance on steam power
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Life of the unemployed

How does unemployment effect people ?

  • Depression - Hard to keep job , hard to get a new job , hard to provide money , hard to afford food , hard to keep home , hard to live , hard to survive :(
  • Physically - Look ill (cheeks might be sunken in ) embarassment ( look down when you walk) , look older than what you are. You will be tired of looking for a job and never getting one.
  • Pawn sentimental items because you cant afford to put dinner on the table.

1,800,000 people unemployed in Britain 

A typical day of an unemployed( example ) - Been unemployed for 2 years 

                                                                     - Try everyday to get a job

                                                                     -Go down to an employment exchange ( E.G Peckham employment exchange)

                                                                     - Recieve dole money which pays for rent , clothing club,insurance, coal club, light and food.This isnt enough sometimes andso they knock on peoples doors begging for money or some sort of job to do.

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Wal Hannington

Was the leader of the Unemployed Workers Movement in the 1930s.It organised marches of unemployed men to protest about the lack of jobs. He wanted people to work together to solve the problem.                                                                                                                                     He was a supporter of communism and dedicated himself to fight for the rights of the unemployed.This was importand because it meant that he believed everyone should be equal , and the workers should be in charge - a workers state.

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The means test

The means test was a way the goverment tried to cut unemployment benefit.Public Assistant Commitees carried out the tests. After 6 months on unemployment benefit people went on uncovenated benefit.Before people could recieve dole money they had to have their houses checked - savings , possessions , income. It was very unpopular!

Why was it so unpopular ?

  • If officials thought there was enough money they would stop the dole.
  • People did not like having to make relatives go live somewhere else if they wanted to get the full amount each week.
  • It was a great strain on family life , if an older child had a job they were forced to pay more towards family funds.
  • People hated having an inspector go through their things and then being forced to sell some of it.
  • It was humiliating for families to reveal their earning, savings and values of things they owned.
  • Some authorities applied the means test harshly.
  • Goverment trying to save money- not helping unemployed ?
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Government reaction to unemployed

National Goverment - 1931-1940 , a coalition of conservatives and some labour and liberal MPs - Ramsey Macdonald ( 1931-35 is Prime Minister)

Problems British Government are facing...

  • Problem with trade
  • Unemployment
  • People not paying taxes
  • Depressed areas
  • The Nazis ( want to get rid of treaty and rebuild army)

What did they do? Short term.

  • Public spending cuts-cutting pay of people who worked for government by 10%.(Teachers , police...)
  • Come of Gold Standard- This is where the pound had been valued against British Gold Reserves which kept value of pound high=Expensive exports. Encouraged to buy British.
  • Means Test-based upon household income , amount of aid government can give.
  • Income Tax Raised to pay for unemployment benefit and loans from USA.
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Government reaction continued

Long Term

  • Signed Ottawa Agreements. Coomowealth countries could trade with eachother , Britain could buy food more cheaply and provided a market for British Exports.
  • Exchange Equalisation Account. Reserves of gold and foreign currency kept in Britain. Britain could buy from abroad.
  •  Import Duties Act 1932- 10-20%duty on all imports. Encorage British Industry to produce and sell more goods.

How Well Did Goverment Reduce Unemployment ?

  • It did decrease but very slowly
  • Special areas act only created a small amount of jobs-14,900. The estates could not replace old industries.
  • Not much money was spent on creating jobs for the unemployed.

Conclusion: More could have been done.

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The Jarrow Crusade /March 1936

Hunger Marches were one reaction to long term unemployment. Its purpose was to publicise the conditions of the unemployed and try to bring about government intervention.

The Jarrow March Key Information

  • Supported by Ellen Wilkinson , MP labour.
  • Organised by the Jarrow people.
  • 200 men were chosen to show they were fit for work.
  • Crusade suggests holy war.
  • Carried banner in black and white cloth - Not a politcal march
  • March was blessed by Bishop of Durham
  • Petition had 1000 signatures.
  • Closure of Palmers Shipyard=unemployment
  • From Jarrow to London
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Marching to London

The march was very peaceful with only 2 policemen present. It was a total of 291 miles done in 22 stages.It happened in october 1936 and only two policemen were present.

Was it worth it ?

  • No- 1 marcher got a job in london
  • No-PM Stanley Baldwin refused to meet marchers
  • No- Benefit Payments were stopped whilst the people were on the march
  • No-Parliament did not debate petition
  • No-Political Unity of marchers didn't last long they soon  became opponents.
  • Yes-The crusade became a legend , a byword for public protest
  • Yes-Spirit of marchers inspired futher protests
  • Yes- Steelworks set up in Jarrow provided 200 jobs 
  • Yes-Publicity
  • Yes- Marchers were given support during the march
  • Yes- improved public image of hunger marches
  • Yes- Men are Heroes in Jarrow.

IMPORTANT POINT-The Jarrow March is Remembered and this is significant.

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Britain alone 1940

Extra information :) In case you didn't know.

  • Prime Minister during war=Winston Churchill
  • 6th june=D Day
  • May 8th 1945=VE day
  • September 1939-april 1940=Phony War


  • September 1st 1939 - German army invaded Poland.Britain and France tried to avoid war with Germany by accepting the breaking of the Treaty of Versaille - Appeasement. They accepted invasion of Czechoslovakia
  • September 3rd 1939-Britain and France declare war on Germany.They expected a immediate attack but Germany wanted complete control of Poland first.
  • May 10th 1940-BEF had 394,165 troops defending border.The German attack came and Britain was surprised by its speed and direction , they tried to counter attack but were forced to retreat , Germany attacks western Europe.
  • June 22nd 1940-France surrendered to Germany
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Blitzkrieg - or why was Britain fighting alone Jun

1939-1940 , Germany had occupied by invasion France, Poland, Norway and Netherlands

Blitzkrieg simply means - Lightening war

  • German planes bombed the area to be occupied
  • German tanks moved in and took over the area
  • German troops moved in and occupied the area under artillery fire
  • May 1940 , invasion of Bergen Of Zoom , was surprising and scary.The German army was organised.
  • Blitzkreig caused a lot of damage to france village for example. It was very successful because Germany was able to occupy a lot of countries in a short space of time. 
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Evacuation of Dunkirk May-June 1940

May 21st 1940 the first troops reached Dunkirk. It was the only French Port not held by the Germans

  • Operation Dynamo (26th May)
  • 29th to the 4th June
  • British Navy made plans to rescue troops
  • Goverment asked owners of small boats to go to Dunkirk and rescue soldiers
  • Saved many soldiers,which meant they were able to fight again and this helped British morale
  • 338,000 troops and BEF brought home,which was a lot more than the estimated 20,000.
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Battle of Britain

Operation Sealion - Code name for German Invasion of Britain

Luftwaffe-German Airforce

2000 RAF pilots fighting for Britain.

The 4 Stages

  • 10th July to 7th August - Luftwaffe attacks on the British Coast especially RAF radar station
  • 8th August-6th September Luftwaffe attacks on RAF Airfields
  • 7th to 15th september Luftwaffe thinking RAF beaten attacks London
  • 15th September - Luftwaffe defeated.Battle of Britain Day , RAF was STILL a fighting force . Operation Sealion - called off by Hitler.
  • There was a battle because Germans wanted to win air superiority over Britain and English Channel
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British Success and German Failure- Battle of Brit

British sucess 

  • British planes were above the German Planes
  • Britain had a very accomplished and experienced commander - Air chief Marshall ,used radar
  • They had a radar system invented in 1935 , it detected the luftwaffe and warned about how many planes there were , and where they were heading.
  • Hurricane and Spitfire were of a efficient design and a good match for German planes.
  • The British were fighting over their own territory.Any British Plane shot downc could be sent back to combat easily
  • RAF had more fighter planes, factories replaced planes lost quickly

German failure

  • Goering had little understanding of tactics.
  • Hitler switched attacks on 7th september , just when the RAF were running out of fighter planes
  • Germans had to fight over Britain and lost far more pilots who were difficult to replace -killed or captured
  • Planes carried limited fuel 
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Preparing for war

How did Britain prepare for bombing and invasion?

  • Goverment told local councils to build air raid shelters (1935)
  • ARP(Air raid precautions service) set up in 1937 with voluntary wardens.1.5 million wardens in 1939
  • Sandbags were put around buildings to limit bomb damage.
  • Barrage balloons put up to stop German Planes flying low.
  • Blackout- Stopping lights showing after dark, street lights turnt off. People covered windows with cloth or paper.
  • ARP sounded the air raid siren to warn of an air raid then an " all clear" when it was over
  • 1939 onwards government gave out anderson shelters they were covered in earth
  • When bombing began , emergency services were called ( fire brigade , heavy rescue squads)
  • Morrison shelters 1941 - steel cages fitted under a dining table.
  • Underground used as shelter and gas masks given out

Preparing for invasion.

  • LDF/homeguard , painted over signs and road signs, obstacles in large fields,detonated bombs, trained to fight german invasion.
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Government Control

August -1939-Emergency powers(defence act)

  • Goverment could take up emergency powers to secure public safety
  • Defend the realm
  • Maintain supplies and services essential to the life of the country
  • Carry out the war effectively

Propaganda-to persuade people to do something=Make people think or behave in a particular way,posters/leaflets,keep morale high,"How to films" , newspapers, talks on radio.

Censorship-controlling what people know=Make sure morale is not damaged,stopping certain information from being passed on, important information secured, the press , letters , troops mail.

Ministry for-Labour/Food/Home Security/Shipping/Information/Aircraft production/Supply.

Controlled-War effort, employment/Rationing/What to do in a blackout/Ships/Propaganda etc/Planes/Raw materials.

Why important- Where to work/Less food wasted/Safety/Supplies/Morale high/Defend the skys/To make ships,weapons ,planes.

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First evacuation - 31st september 1939 , moved 1.4 million people in 4 days.Removing people from somewhere(the war) to a safer place.

Well organised 

  • Saved many lives 
  • Many evacuees were given a better lifestyle and diet
  • Showed bad conditions of London which increased demand for change
  • Children from poor areas saw countryside for the first time

Not well organised

  • Children would arruve in country side and be chosen like cattle
  • Clash between rural and city children
  • Evacuees got homesick and drifted back home to london
  • Sometimes children were abused by host families
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The Blitz

  • 23,949 tons of high explosives dropped in 85 raids.
  • 5,000 people slept in Epping forest to escape bombing on black saturday-7th September 1940
  • Blitz began on 7th september 1940
  • "London can take it"
  • 25 august 1940 to 16th may 1941
  • Allied Victory
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D-day ( June 1944)

Why, what, when, how?

  • 1944 allies were ready to dislodge Hitler from the "Fortress Europe" , this involved a dangerous invasion of the mainland.
  • Invasion is codenamed "Operation Overload"
  • Invaded Normandy , research was done so forces would know details of the landing sites , for example:French holiday guidebooks, sailing books, spies , forces sent all over south of england, Americans were sent over to Britain ,training , built mulberries .
  • 6th June 1944 , 6000 ships sailed to Normandy
  • Men were dropped by parachute , planes shot at the nazis , and battleships attacked too.
  • They landed on beaches:Omaha,Utah,Sword,Gold and Juno
  • At Omaha beach nazi defence was strong.
  • Allies were Britain, Usa,Canada and France
  • Why was it successful ?
  • Attacked Radar systems along channel , coded messages(radio) and other information was leaked by resistance groups.
  • Complicated plans-troops landed in other areas of france,fake dummies on beach with gun effects , pluto under water , SOE- special operations executre
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How successful was rationing ?

The purpose of rationing was to make sure everyone had an equal share of food as german submarines sunk over 100 food suppply ships which meant there was a limited supply of food.Ration books were issued by ministry of food.

Products rationed include:butter,cooking fat, cheeses,tea/coffee,jam,bacon,sugar,egg and milk.

Encouraging people to grow more food

  • Grow own food and keep chickens and rabbits.
  • Local allotments were made from local parks to grow crops.
  • Recipes and tips for making food go further.
  • People swapped food with neighbours
  • "Dig for victory"

A success?:Ministry of food made sure food was shared equally and everyone had right nutrition despite social class.

A failure?:People tried to cheat the sytem -the black market.

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The second blitz- special weapons.

Name of Hitlers weapon-V1 , the doodlebug (because of noise) - Pilot less rocket planes that were launched from trucks , carried 1 tonne of explosive Damage-Just over 10,000 launched but only 3500 hit target=killed 6200 people.Threat-Affects morale , could fall anywhere without warning , British installed anti air craft guns.

Name of Hitlers weapon-V2- Real rockets fired from Holland.Could not be shot down , no defence against them. Carried slightly bigger explosives.Damage-5 fell a day from march 1945 killing 3000 civillians.Threat- Could not be stopped , reached a speed of 4000 kilometers per hour.Exploded without a warning.Hitler developed this weapon too late !!

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Baedeker Raids

In april 1942 , germans planned raids on smaller targets of no military importance. They choose them based on the amount of stars they had in the tourist guide - those with historical importance! These were Exeter,Bath,York and Norwich.

Damage- Caused a lot and suffering but the Germans suffered heavy losses. In January 1943 they lost a bomber and four trained crew for every five civillians killed.

Threat- Caused damage that had devestating consequences but it was only affecting small towns so not a threat to rest of Britain

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Changing Role of Women

  • In 1941 conscription for women was introduced.
  • Womens royal naval services , womens auxillery air force, and territorial force.
  • Routine Duties
  • Industry and farming
  • Land army/land girls= farming for food
  • But pay and conditions were poor :(
  • Jobs did bring confidence
  • But many people were unenthusiatic regarding independant women.
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Rise of Labour

  • In 1945 , people were alot more aware of politcs
  • Past - people feared the Labour parties socialist policies but become less fearful
  • Labour party embraced the Beveridge report but conservatives didnt.
  • Why did people  vote labour ? Evacuation was a eye opener , Housing had been destroyed and there would be more houses because of report.

National Health Act

  • 1946
  • Free to public
  • provided advice treatment and care
  • prescription/dental/optical services
  • Ministry of health
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Eastern front and Germany's Defeat

  • Two major defeats-Soviet Union and Eastern front in 1943.
  • Soviet Union had more resources to Germany
  • There was no German Tanks occupying Soviet Union
  • SA liberated , Poland , Hungary and Austria.

Germany surrendered on the 8th may 1945 and Hitler commited suicide on April 30th 1945

  • Allies had strong force of resources
  • Errors were made regarding the military
  • Germany were fighting a two front war
  • They recieved alot of resistance.
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I hope these Revision cards help some of you out , but please don't rely on them ! I am only a student my self , and as a human , i might have missed some key things out , please secure your knowledge by looking things up on the internet , using textbooks, asking your teachers and watching clips.

Good Luck for you Exams....

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Thank you very much for this. The high level of detail is very useful. 

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