One might also have wished for a fuller discussion of religion, still a surprisingly important topic, as the great controversy generated by the attempts at Prayer Book revision in shows. Pugh's discussions of anti-semitism consistently exaggerate its importance; it is important to remember that Mosley's British Union of Fascists did not elect a single M.
Nevertheless, this is an important and valuable book, placing the interwar period in an historically accurate perspective.
- We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars by Martin Pugh.
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It is an excellent counterweight to the negative views of that era which - however correct in depicting its mass misery - fail to show that for many, perhaps most, there was another side to the coin. William D.
We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars - Whitcoulls
Rubinstein is professor of modern history at the University of Wales-Aberystwyth. To read Richard D. North argues, the s were a good time to be British. Use the buttons below to change the style and font size of our site. Comments Notice. This comments facility is the property of the Social Affairs Unit.
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Screen version Print version Important: to be effective, this feature requires browser cookies to be enabled and you to use a sensible browser. Browse our archives: Monthly Archives August The term "property-owning democracy" was coined in the s, and three million houses were built during the s.
We Danced All Night
The middle class also bought radiograms, telephones, three-piece suites, electric cookers, vacuum cleaners and golf clubs. The depression spawned a consumer boom. How to explain and resolve these conflicting interpretations? Martin Pugh, who has produced a wide-ranging synthesis of the revisionist case, argues that old impressions of "the long week-end" were influenced by tendentious works such as Walter Greenwood's Love on the Dole and George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier.
Such accounts exaggerated and falsified the social impact of the depression.
It was, says Pugh, essentially a regional affliction. Hardship was concentrated in central Scotland, the north of England and south Wales, where mature industries such as coal-mining and ship-building were in precipitous decline. Pugh does not ignore the gloomy aspects of the time - when a third of the population had an inadequate diet, and unemployment benefit kept families well below the breadline. But he points out that a million men moved from the north and west between the wars, getting on their bikes to find work in the approved Tebbit fashion.
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He extols the nutritional value of fish and chips, and notes the importing of millions of bananas, which became the fruit of the poor. As his title suggests, Pugh looks on the bright side, and he certainly illuminates some of the more bizarre features of the age. When debating the criminalisation of lesbianism, Colonel Moore-Brabazon MP said the solution was either to ignore it, or to lock up lesbians as lunatics, or to impose the death penalty on them.
John Reith had his own prejudices, forbidding the BBC to broadcast jokes about drink, clergymen, illness and Scotsmen - but not Irishmen.
In the spirit of Lindbergh, who said that aviation was one of the "priceless possessions which permit the white race to live at all in the pressing sea of yellow, black and brown", Britain advertised its national virility through feats of flying such as Lord Clydesdale's aerial conquest of Everest. For the most part, though, his book is disappointingly prosaic - and when he does try to say something arresting, he is apt to signal it with an exclamation mark.
He is stodgy about spiritualism, colourless about royalty and pedestrian about motoring.
Its coverage is patchy: there is much on India's political advance, but nothing on the faster progress made by Ceylon and Burma; we learn about the fad for removing tonsils and appendixes, but not teeth and foreskins. And Pugh occasionally errs: he attributes to Eliot, instead of Auden, the famous description of the s as a "low, dishonest decade". British voters expressed their gut hatred of that decade in , getting rid of the Tories who were held responsible for its most odious features.