Social developments 1951-64


Rising living standards

  • Britain's infrastructure (roads, railways, aiports, telecommunications) run-down, needed modernising 
  • Need for housing development

-  replace war damage 

- deal with decay of the housing stock that had been neglected for previous decade 

  • Pre-war slums were cleared and new towns were built e.g. Harlow in Essex
  • New towns planned by Labour 1940s grew rapidly 
  • Shifts in population as slums cleared and private car ownership meant established traditional communities broken up
  • Men's weekly wages increased from £8.30 in 1951 to £15.35 in 1961 
  • Increase in private savings, farmers encouraged by continuation of generous state subsidies 
  • Food rationing ended in 1954 
  • Homeownership increased, helped by cheap mortgages 
  • Though, people living in council houses and rented accommodation outnumbered private homeowners in the 1950s 
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Impact of affluence and consumerism

  • Surge in ownership of consumer goods bought on hire purchase e.g. TV, washing machines, refrigerators, new furniture 
  • Advertising industry on the rise, ITV launched 1955, people became accustomed to glossy adverts 
  • New leisure opportunities, between 1957 and 1959 number of households owning a television rose by 32%, by 1960 10 million television sets in use, estimated 50% of the population watched television in the evening, TV becoming more important than radio 
  • People had more time and money to develop hobbies e.g. DIY and gardening became popular and in 50s television programmes these hobbies were reflected 
  • Boom in car ownership, rose by 25% between 1957 to 1959, created demand for new roads to be built and motorways 
  • Car travel changed ideas of holidays and leisure, commuting by car began to push housing developments further outside towns and cities 
  • 1958- construction of the motorway system began, the Preston bypass, work on the M1 commenced soon afterwards 
  • Between 1957-63, 1200 miles of new/upgraded main roads completed 
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Impact of affluence and consumerism

  • Holiday camps became popular, 60,000 holidayed each week to Butlins, people had paid time off work and enough disposable income to afford to go on holiday 
  • However, foreign holidays still a luxury, less than 2% of the population went on holidays abroad 
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Class and the 'Establishment'

  • 1951- Britain deferential and conformist society, ingrained respect for authority 
  • Class loyalties strong in elections, in 1951 estimated 65% of the working class voted for the Labour Party, 80% middle class voted for the Conservative Party 
  • Late 1950s- shift in attitudes, gradual breakdown of old social restrictions and loss of deference
  • Suez Crisis 1956- exposed lying and manipulation by the government 
  • Rise of CND 1958- encouraged tendency to challenge authority 
  • Britain becoming less conformist and less willing to follow the lead set by the Establishment 
  • Press coverage of the Profumo affair showed decline in deference, security aspects found not to be serious but provided an excuse for popular press to to investigate sexual behaviour of those involved, Keeler and Rice-Davies became celebrities 
  • Previous tactics used by governments to prevent publication of sensitive or embarrassing information no longer worked 
  • 1960- satire boom, stage show 'beyond the fringe' 
  • 1961- magazine 'Private eye' established loyal following for disrespect for great and famous 
  • 1962- TV show 'That was the week that was' on the BBC satirised and lampooned public figures
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Class and the 'Establishment'

  • Critics of the establishment believed Britain held back by ruling elite 
  • It emphasised arts education in preference to science, blocked talent from outside the establishment and tried to hide mistakes 
  • 1951-64 Conservative government dominated by the Establishment, Macmillan's government included a duke and three earls 
  • Social scientists provided evidence of Britain's class-ridden society, entrenched attitudes and lack of social mobility 
  • Argued Britain needed leaders who had earned their positions through personal merit and better understood the modern, technical age 
  • Late 1950s- group of writers known as 'angry young men' used the arts to attack behaviour of established upper and upper-middle classes 
  • 1956- play called 'Look back in anger' controversial 
  • Though critics and attacks led to some changes in social attitudes to the class system, certainly not broken 
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Position of women

  • Seen primarily as housewives
  • Ideal woman was a wife and mother
  • Average age of marriage was 21 and percentage married was 75% 
  • 1951- only 1 in 5 women went to work 
  • Family allowance paid to women, to ensure women did not need to work 
  • Mortgages and bank accounts in men's names, making women financially dependent on their husbands 
  • By 1964, number of women working had risen but was still uncommon for married women, especially those with children, to go out to work 
  • Trade unions did not support women as thought this would lower wages, people believed it would be damaging for children if their mother worked 
  • For those women who did work, some improvements e.g. 1952 equal pay for teachers, 1954 equal pay for civil servants introduced 
  • Women's life in the home improved by new labour-saving devices, 1957-59 number of households owning washing machine rose by 54% and fridge by 58%
  • Washing machines reduced time taken to wash clothes and refrigerators meant women did not have to shop for fresh food each day 
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Attitudes to immigration and racial violence

  • 1953 Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation, enthusiasm for the Commonwealth, ideas had to be balanced against fears of Britain taking on too many new citizens at once 
  • The New Commonwealth immigrants who followed in the wake of the West Indian migrants who arrived on the 'Empire Windrush' 1948, cause of social change and tension 
  • 1958- 210,000 Commonwealth immigrants had settled in Britain, 75% male working to support families back home, largest number from West Indies though those from India and Pakistan beggining to rise 
  • Public attitudes to immigration mixed- some general feeling of tolerance but many examples of racism from host communities and instances of resentment against immigrants 
  • Also outward migration from Britain, Australia keen to attract new citizens, offering assisted passages and help with jobs and housing, steady flow of British emigrants to North America 
  • 1950s- Britain recieved total of 676,000 immigrants while 1.32 millions Britons left for life abroad
  • 1960s- total inward migration 1.25 million and outward migration 1.92 million 
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Attitudes to immigration and racial violence

  • Authorities regarded immigration as economically desirable, filled important low wage jobs and hoped social tensions would ease over time 
  • Late 1950s- perceptions altered by racial tension, August 1958 Nottingham gangs on white youths went on '****** hunts' after pub brawls, 1958 Notting Hill in London riots broke out 
  • Leader of British fascism, Mosley, tried to use the issue by standing as the Union movement candidate in 1959 election for Kensington North (included Notting Hill area) on platform of repatriation (returning someone to place of origin) 
  • 1962- Commonwealth Immigrants Act passed 
  • However, had been reluctance to use legislation to control immigration from countries with close historic links to Britain and Labour Party strongly opposed the 1962 act, though did not repeal it after the 1964 election 
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The 'teenager' and youth culture

  • Young people had more time due to labour-saving devices, meant girls had to help mothers less with house work, boys no longer had to take part in National Service after 1960 (conscripted young men into military uniform for 2 years)
  • Youth dressed differently to their parents, listened to different music, went to new coffee bars rather than old tea houses
  • Post-war baby boom swelled number of teenagers, 1959 estimated 5 million teenagers in Britain, 10% of the population, so more visible and economically important
  • Young people had more money to buy records and fashion, creating their own culture
  • Late 1950s- magazines and TV programmes aimed at the teenager and changes in technology e.g. transistor radio helped spread culture 
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The 'teenager' and youth culture

  • Early 1950s- youth subculture 'Teddy boys' seen as worrying phenomenon, linked with rising crime
  • Late 1950s- Teddy boys replaced by Rockers and Mods
  • 1955- rock and roll reached Britain, rockers rode heavy motorcycles, wore leather, listened to rock and roll music, whereas mods rode scooters, wore smart suits and listened to sophisticated pop music
  • Early 1960s- Clashes between Mods and Rockers, large scale organised riots in south coast holiday resorts of Margate and Brighton May 1964 
  • In Brighton, fight went on for two days, police struggled to restore order 
  • Public reaction described as moral panic, described knife-wielding hooligans, though levels of violence exaggerated 
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Social attitudes and tensions

  • Popular film and TV programmes reflected attitudes and tensions e.g. the film Sapphire focused on racial tension, 1959 crime thriller with daring portrayal of sex and violence 
  • 1962 novel 'A clockwork orange' portrayed gang violence 
  • TV produced campaigning programmes to raise controversy about social issues e.g. Cathy Come Home drama about homelessness 1962 
  • Drive to break down censorship and social taboos, 1958 play 'Taste of Honey' story of young unmarried pregnant woman who became pregant after relationship with black sailor and 1961 film 'Victim' first film to mention the word homosexual 
  • 1962- Penguin books published sexually explicit novel Lady Chatterley's Lover, result was high profile court case under the Obscenity act but Penguin won the case and 2 million copies of the book sold 
  • Changes in attitudes caused backlash, Mary Whitehouse began a moral crusade in 1963 and was supported by the national press
  • Criticism from the left wing- concentrating on material affluence had negative affect on decency in society
  • The majority opinion in Britain remained socially conservative 
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