3a: Class and Social Values (Britain 1918-1979)


Impact of WW1

  • Decline in Deference
  • 750,000 men died w/ upper class disproportionate
  • Forced to pay death duty and sell stately homes to National Trust or as schools/ hotels (Note: this usually meant they only had 3 estates instead of 8 etc)
  • Representation of the People Act 1918 - 21.4million voters so classes felt equal
  • Fought together in WW1 so felt more equal
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Inter-war period

  • 1919 - government feared revolt in areas like Clyneside (economic factors so introduction of 1920 Unemployed Insurance Act)
  • Not much change
  • Great Depression didn't bring people together but unified working class
  • Union membership decreased due to unemployment
  • Revolution unlikely as no one was unified in other classes
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  • Mass Observation reported that some people were closer together due to mass bombing, evacuation and rationing and everyone faced hardships
  • Little social change actually occoured
  • Poor working class kids --> affluent homes = conflict
  • Isaacs and Freud reported increase in bed wetting due to stress of evacuation
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Media effect on Liberal Society

  • Increased affluence after end of rationing and relaxation in consumer credit in 1954
  • Television, newspapers & books began to question class system with satire boom and sex scandals
  • 'That was the week that was' - David Frost made fun of politicans and weekly affairs
  • 'The Aftermyth of War' - popular stage show criticising war
  • 'Beyond The Fringe' - popular stage show mocking politicans featuring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
  • New books and television caled British New Wave
  • 1963 - Minister of War John Profumo accused of sharing sexual partner Christine Keeler with Soviet offical. No evidence of divulged state secrets but on the front page of the Daily Mail, Mirror and Daily Express. This contributed to defeat of Conservatives in 1964
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1950s Attitudes towards sex


  • No sex education and foreigners critical of 'stand-off' ish view of sex
  • Prostitution flourished
  • Pre-marital sex increased
  • Advice books with Eustace Chesser's 1941 Love Without Fear
  • Big difference in what British people said about sex and what they actually did
  • Sexual behaviour changed through century rather than decade
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1960s Attitudes towards sex


  • Michael Schofield's The Sexual Behaviour of Young People (1965) 1 in 3 boys and 1 in 6 girls having teenage sex but these were in established relationships
  • Attitudes on marriage, homosexuality etc hardly changed
  • People more open to discussion
  • Newspapers more open to discussion of sex with Profumo Scandal and Lady Chatterly's Lover trial by D.H. Lawrence --> prosecute publisher for obscenity
  • Advertisements featured sexualisation of women
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How did the state respond to sexuality?

  • Wolfenden Report (1957) - decriminalise homosexuality but make sentences for prostitution harsher
  • Claimed that morality had declined away from traditional family values
  • Homosexuality legalised for over 21's in 1967 Sexual Offences Act (males in private)
  • 1967 Abortion Act - right to terminate a pregnancy with permission of 2 doctors
  • 1961 Contraceptive Pill introduction
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Who opposed the Liberal Society?

  • Mary Whitehouse --> devout Christian teacher. 1964 created Clean Up TV campaign believing it corrupted youth. 70 coaches of campaigners in Birmingham. Wanted to bring country back to Christian roots and condemened drinking, homosexuality and violence
  • NVALA - 1965 - National Viewers and Listeners Association cofounded by Whitehouse. 100,000 members including police officers and church leaders. People looked at London with disgust. Influence of TV was minimal but influenced legislation like Protection of Children Act 1978 and Indencent Displays Act 1981 (advertisements). Banned movie *********** and started trial against Gays over poem about Christ
  • Festival of Light - lighting of beacons with 100,000 people. Leaders like Lord Longford, Cliff Richard and Mary Whitehouse
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