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Preview: Twentieth Century British History - current issue

Twentieth Century British History Current Issue

Published: Thu, 27 Jul 2017 00:00:00 GMT

Last Build Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2017 12:51:46 GMT


Alice in Westminster: The Political Life of Alice Bacon . By Rachel Reeves


Alice in Westminster: The Political Life of Alice Bacon. By ReevesRachel. I.B. Tauris, London, 2017. 226 pp. ISBN 978-1784537685, £20.

Justifying British Advertising in War and Austerity, 1939–51


Drawing together institutional papers, the trade- and national-press, and Mass-Observation documents, this article examines the changing ways that the Advertising Association justified commercial advertising from 1939 to 1951. It argues that the ability to repeatedly re-conceptualize the social and economic purposes of advertising was central to the industry’s survival and revival during the years of war and austerity. This matters because the survival and revival of commercial advertising helps to explain the composition of the post-war mixed economy and the emergence of a consumer culture that became the ‘golden age’ of capitalism. While commercial advertising’s role in supporting periods of affluence is well documented, much less is known about its relationship with war and austerity. This omission is problematic. Advertising was only able to shape the 1950s and 1960s economy because its corporate structures remained intact during the 1940s, as the industry withstood the challenges of wartime and the difficulties presented under Attlee’s government. Recognizing the deliberate attempts of advertising people to promote a role for commercial advertising invites us to reconsider the inevitability of post-war affluence, while offering fresh insight into the debate around consumer education, freedom of choice, and the centrality of advertising and communication in democratic society: issues central to the society Britain was, and hoped to become.

‘If I Ever Have to Go to Prison, I Hope it’s a Russian Prison’: British Labour, Social Democracy and Soviet Communism, 1919–25


Through the inter-war period, the USSR became an example of ‘socialism in action’ that the British labour movement could both look towards and define itself against. British visitors both criticized and acclaimed aspects of the new Soviet state between 1919 and 1925, but a consistently exceptional finding was the Soviet prison. Analysing the visits and reports of British guests to Soviet prisons, the aims of this article are threefold. Using new material from the Russian archives, it demonstrates the development of an intense admiration for, and often a desire to replicate, the Soviet penal system on the part of Labour members, future Communists, and even Liberals who visited Soviet Russia. It also critically examines why, despite such admiration, the effect of Soviet penal ideas failed to significantly influence Labour Party policy in this area. Finally, placing these views within a broader framework of the British labour movement’s internal tussles over the competing notions of social democracy and communism, it is argued that a failure to affect policy should not proscribe reappraisals of these notions or the Soviet-Labour Party relationship, both of which were more complex than is currently permitted in the established historiography.

Archive Review: The Black Cultural Archives, Brixton


The Black Cultural Archives (BCA) is London’s highest-profile black history archive and heritage centre. Established in the early 1980s by a group of community activists, including educationalist Len Garrison, the BCA is committed to ‘collecting, preserving and celebrating the histories of diverse people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain’, and to promoting ‘the teaching, learning and understanding of the African people’s contribution, which will enable the public to learn and connect with hidden histories, creating an experience to uplift and inspire’.11 They are based in a renovated Georgian building on Windrush Square, a site with sufficient symbolic capital to underwrite their ambition to become the leading national institution for black British history.

Children, Class, and the Search for Security: Writing the Future in 1930s Britain


This article is based on 269 essays written in 1937 by Middlesbrough schoolboys aged 12–16 years on the topic ‘When I leave school’, which were collected by the social research organization Mass Observation. The essays provide a counterpoint to social scientific surveys of ordinary people and allow us to work with the boys’ own understandings of the world they inhabited. They offer an alternative lens on a period which, at least in relation to the industrial areas of Britain, is often characterized by poverty and unemployment. This representation is largely absent from the children’s essays: instead, an overwhelming sense of possibility characterizes their writing, from their wildest fantasies to their most concrete plans. Most dreamt of lives that would be long, fulfilling, domesticated, and happy. This is not to say that they were oblivious to the world around them; indeed an emphasis on security and planning suggested an implicit awareness of material context. Nonetheless these boys expressed a marked determination that their lives would be better than those of their parents. As such, they embodied the educational and occupational aspirations that are more often seen as characteristic of post-war Britain. Their essays illustrate emergent and widely held expectations of social mobility and dreams of cradle-to-grave security in the years before the Second World War, articulated—as they were being lived—by a generation which would go on to elect the 1945 Labour government.

‘People Love Player’s’: Cigarette Advertising and the Teenage Consumer in Post-war Britain


This article explores the background, creation and reception of a prominent cigarette advertising campaign from the early 1960s. The advertisements featured young couples falling in love as they shared Player’s Medium cigarettes together. As such, the advertisements reflected the central place of the teenager within post-war British consumer culture. The campaign was built upon the insights of market research, particularly that carried out by Mark Abrams and his research organization Research Services Limited. Historians have played down the significance of Abrams’s work, but it is argued here that the studies and reports Abrams produced rendered the teenage consumer knowable in a powerful way. Advertisers and manufacturers now had detailed knowledge about young people’s consumption habits and their motivations. Such research helped the British tobacco industry formulate a controversial marketing strategy—the need to ‘recruit’ young people to the smoking habit—and the People Love Player’s campaign was created with this in mind. The representations of love and gender included in the advertisements gave the campaign an emotional pull which was designed to resonate with young people. The advertisements were widely criticized and this drove the British tobacco industry to remove from its advertising appeals which might influence the young, such as love.

The Cabinet Office 1916-2016: The Birth of Modern Government. By Anthony Seldon with Jonathan Meakin


The Cabinet Office 1916-2016: The Birth of Modern Government. By SeldonAnthony with MeakinJonathan. Biteback Publishing, London, 2016. xxiii + 360 pp. ISBN 978-1-78590-173-7, £25.

Duncan Tanner Essay Prize 2016 Historical Pageants, Citizenship, and the Performance of Women’s History before Second-Wave Feminism


This article argues that the early twentieth-century craze for historical pageants provided an opportunity for women’s groups to bring a nascent, accessible form of women’s history into the lives of local communities across Britain. Mainstream historical pageants were organized across the country, depicting selected episodes from the past usually relating to the local area. However, more than 200 inter-war pageants staged by women’s organizations, church groups, and a number of university colleges have not yet been studied. In these pageants, women imaginatively portrayed professional, religious, political, noble, and ‘ordinary’ women from across history. Prior to second-wave feminism, when scholars advanced the study of women within the academy, thousands of people had been invested in re-enacting women’s history since the inter-war years. Emphasizing the bravery and public duties of women in the past, historical pageants provided a non-controversial format through which women’s groups could effectively project their beliefs about the role they felt women should play as newly enfranchised citizens. These popular performances capture the dispersed, yet committed, dedication to encouraging women’s social citizenship in the inter-war years, and a more pluralistic understanding of women’s engagement with ‘feminist’ ideas in everyday life across Britain.

Tabloid Century: The Popular Press in Britain, 1896 to the Present . By Adrian Bingham and Martin Conboy


Tabloid Century: The Popular Press in Britain, 1896 to the Present. By BinghamAdrian and ConboyMartin. Peter Lang, Oxford, 2015. 258 pp. ISBN 978-1906165321, £20.00.

British Imperialism and ‘The Tribal Question’: Desert Administration and Nomadic Societies in the Middle East, 1919-1936 . By Robert S. G. Fletcher


British Imperialism and ‘The Tribal Question’: Desert Administration and Nomadic Societies in the Middle East, 1919-1936. By FletcherRobert S. G.. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2015. viii+324 pp. ISBN 978-0198729310, £65.

The Consul and the Beatnik: The Establishment, Youth Culture and the Beginnings of the Hippy Trail (1966–8)


This paper analyses the attitudes expressed by consular and embassy officials to a new type of traveller they encountered in the mid-1960s. Their observations are contextualised within wider debates concerning ‘youth’ in the late 1950s and 1960s. Officials distinguished sharply between ‘overlanders’ (who could be tolerated or accommodated) and ‘beatniks’ whose behaviour was characterized as illegal and/or unacceptable. Smoking cannabis was identified as a key marker of beatnik behaviour. Officials' observations are contrasted with four accounts by new travellers from the period. The paper concludes with a proposal for an ‘anti-nominian’ approach to the study of youth cultures: researchers should be more sensitive to the constructed nature of the labels used to identify the various strands of youth identity.

Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late Twentieth Century . By James Hinton


Seven Lives from Mass Observation: Britain in the Late Twentieth Century. By HintonJames. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2016. vii+207 pp. ISBN 978-0198787136, £25.

Foreigners, Minorities and Integration: The Muslim Immigrant Experience in Britain and Germany . By Sarah Hackett


Foreigners, Minorities and Integration: The Muslim Immigrant Experience in Britain and Germany. By HackettSarah. Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2013/16. 272 pp. ISBN: 978-0719083174, £70.