Unit 3c: The transformation of British society c. 1951 - 79

  • Created by: janej
  • Created on: 15-03-17 12:47

Key Topic 1 - The British family in the 1950s

Despite the changes in the society, gender roles remained highly traditional:

  • men were the 'breadwinners' for the family and went to work in manufacturing or heavy industry
  • women could do a limited range of jobs but were expected to stop work when they got married. This was called the marriage bar.
  • children were expected to be respectful to elders and were punished if they failed to do so
  • younger couples began to see marriage as more of an equal partnership, most married women were expected to household chores.
  • housework was tiring and time-consuming because many labour-saving domestic devices had not been invented or were not affordable for many.
  • divorce was difficult; some were trapped in a loveless marriage. A family was expected to be a man, his wife and their children; expect for widowed single-parent families
  • a typical evening would be spent by the family eating an evening meal together then listening to the radio while children played with toys.
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Key Topic 1 - The Education System

Government introduced the 1944 Education Act

  • they hoped to replace the hotchpotch of different schools existed before the war with a national system that ensured a proper education for all
  • affected lives of 95% of all school pupils in the 1950s 
  •  included Eleven Plus exam which decided which time of secondary school was 'most suitable' for each pupil - hoped that a 'parity of esteem' would exist between pupils leaving for different types of schools

In reality, the extra funding enjoyed by grammar schools, the lack of technical schools, meant the 11+ came to be seen as a pass/fail test. Those who failed the test became regarded as an inferior education at secondary moderns

Girls and Boys focused on core subjects in secondary school. There were some differences. Girls took subjects like needlework, home economics and sometimes 'mothercraft'. Boys did woodwork and metalwork. This shows the different expectations of both genders: boys find careers, girls settle to marriage and motherhood.

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Key Topic 1 - Popular lesiure activities

Men and women had fewer opportunities for leisure activities in the 1950s than later genartions enjoyed because:

  • Time - men worked longer per day and had less holiday per year in the 1950s than by 1979. By 1979, women spent at least 30 mins less on housework per day due to labour-saving devices and having men doing chores
  • Disposable income - man's average wage covered a weekly food bill in a short working hour in 1981. The rise of women in work increased a family's disposable income 

Men enjoyed sports (football) and hobbies (gardening and fishing).Women enjoyed domestic craft hobbiesswimming and tennis.

Radio was the main source of entertainment. Almost every home had a radio but few had TV licences increased from just 15000 issued in 1947 to 10.5 million by 1960 due to Queen Elizabeth's coronation in 1953.

Less than 2% took overseas holidays, the majority went to seaside by coach or train. Many factories would close for 'Wakes Week' in many towns where all the workers went to the seaside.The latest craze among working class families was to take a holiday at one of the new holiday camps. 

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Key Topic 1 - Living and working conditions

Work and Pay

  • Very few people suffered absolute poverty in Britain since WW1; there had been different degrees of relative poverty.
  • Many people in the 1950s enjoyed the benefits of the new welfare state and the post-war economic boom
  • Britain enjoyed full employment. This meant that jobs were plentiful and secure.
  • Men's wages rose faster than prices until the government tried to stop inflation by limiting wage increases. This meant households had more disposable income. 
  • Working hours were long but were decreasing, from an average of 56 hours per week to 48 by 1959.

Living conditions

Many lived in inadequate houses before the war. There was a huge programme of slum-clearance and house-building before and after war, meaning that more people had homes with adequate heating, an indoor toilet and hot and cold running water. The biggest change for people was the post-war construction of blocks and flats to house peple who had lived in urban slums.

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Key Topic 1 - Women's work

Popular attitudes

  • While a lot of married women were content in their role as housewives, many others were bored with being stuck at home. The experience of work during WW2 fuelled a desire to work; many women had enjoyed making new friends and finding fulfilment outside the home. 
  • Most men had traditional views on a woman's place, some younger men were supportive of their wives working until childrebirth. 
  • Working-class women would often return to work when their children were old enough to look after themselves but too young to earn a wage

Obstacles to overcome for fair pay, fair opportunity to work and promotion

  • most working-class girls left school at 15 with no qualifications
  • few women went to university, only made up of 1/4 of undergraduates in 1960s.
  • 1/3 of women were still teenagers when married. The average age was 22.
  • most gave birth to first child in the first 3 years of marriage. It wasn't acceptable for women with child to work, expected to stay home
  • women's magazines reinforced traditional social attitudes
  • most jobs were in male areas of industry and manufacturing
  • no laws enforcing equal pay or opportunities for women
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Key Topic 1 - Immigration: Windrush and beyond

Windrush generation

By 1959, 900,000 Irish people ahd settled in Britain and 200,000 people from the New Commonwealth.492 West Indians arrived on the ** Empire Windrush in June 1948. The ** Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury docks in London on 22 June 1948.Few had jobs lined up with London Transport but many's future was uncertain. Many spent their first days in canvas tents at a camp set up for them in Clapham, South London, they received food and shelter while they found work and more permanent lodgings.

Reasons for immigration

  • shortage of labour - not enough British workers to fill all the available positions (low paid and unskilled jobs)
    law - the 1948 British Nationality Act made all people living in the Commonwealth British citizens. Not changed until 1962 due to too much immgration
  • recruitment campaigns by British firms - National Health Service (set up in 1948),  London Transport advertised available jobs in the New Commonwealth.
  • immigrant ambitions and views of Britain - many saw working in Britain ('mother country') as an opportunity to earn good wages
  • encouragement and support for immigrants - some were given an interest-free lan from own governement for travel costs
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Key Topic 1 - Racism

Immigrants arrived with little money sought accomodation in the cheapest areas. Some of those areas like St Ann's in Nottingham, attracted so many immirgatns that the original white population began to move out to other parts of the city. By 1957 the government was concerned at what was described as 'white-flight' and 'segregation' in some towns.

Tension started to develop within these white working-class communities

  • some trade unions complained about the immigrants taking jobs from whites by accepting work at lower wages
  • young men, 'Teddy Boy' gangs, sought to intimidate black men who were 'taking their women'
  • some politicians argued that many were coming to Brtain to receive generous welfare benefits
  • 'no coloureds' and 'no blacks' could often by seen on signs for accomdation or in advertisements for job  vacancies. many were forced to take overcrowded and substandard accommodation 

Sensationlised reports in newspapers about the supposed lack of cleanliness, criminal activities and sexual practices of recent immigrants blamed their behaviour on their race.

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Key Topic 1 - Riots

The Notting Hill Race Riots

Almost 1,000 white and black youths fought each other on the night of 23 August 1958 in St Ann's.these were followed by riots in Notting Hill, London. it was sparked by the attach on a white woman with a black partner by a gang of Teddy Boys. Over 2 weeks, riot escalated with hundreds of young white men armed with knives, iron bars and petrol bombs attaching black immigrants and their home. More than a hundred white men arrested and some black who were armed for self-defence

Turning point:

  • some resentment and anger from the black community for the police purposely downplayed the racial element
  • more than 4,000 immigrants (3% of total) returned to the Caribbean
  • an offical complaint was made by Caribbean governments to the British government; concerned about prejudiced policing and the effects of poor housing
  • political and public opinion became divided.
  • Immigrant groups in Britain became more ogranised. e.g. ’The Organisation fir the Protection of Coloured People‘

Policies on immigration had to start to address two main issues:

  • the numbers of immigrants entering Britain 
  • methods to tackle racial discrimination 
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