The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910–2010

The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910–2010

Selina Todd

Language: English

Pages: 450

ISBN: 1848548818

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


'There was nothing extraordinary about my childhood or background. And yet I looked in vain for any aspect of my family's story when I went to university to read history, and continued to search fruitlessly for it throughout the next decade. Eventually I realised I would have to write this history myself.'

What was it really like to live through the twentieth century? In 1910 three-quarters of the population were working class, but their story has been ignored until now.

Based on the first-person accounts of servants, factory workers, miners and housewives, award-winning historian Selina Todd reveals an unexpected Britain where cinema audiences shook their fists at footage of Winston Churchill, communities supported strikers, and where pools winners (like Viv Nicholson) refused to become respectable. Charting the rise of the working class, through two world wars to their fall in Thatcher's Britain and today, Todd tells their story for the first time, in their own words.

Uncovering a huge hidden swathe of Britain's past, The People is the vivid history of a revolutionary century and the people who really made Britain great.

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Pp. 277–305. 38. Shorter Hours of Labour, HC Deb., Hansard (11 November 1936), vol. 317, col. 896. 39. Interview with M. Sharp, 1994.0128, NWSA. 40. Consultative Committee on Secondary Education, Report of the Consultative Committee on Secondary Education with Special Reference to Grammar Schools and Technical High Schools (Spens Report) (London, 1938), p. 88, table 1 and p. 93, table 4. 41. I. Gazeley and A. Newell, ‘Unemployment’, in Crafts et al. (eds.), Work and Pay, p. 235. 42. Thane,.

At it on the bus, and the conductor said “I suppose you haven’t got a spare copy of that?”’65 Beveridge’s report was published at an auspicious moment. That year, 1942, had seen the United States enter the war, and Hitler’s disastrous decision to declare war on the USSR. The war was, finally, going Britain’s way. Many in the Labour Party were already considering the future. In April Ernest Bevin had welcomed the International Labour Organisation’s emergency committee to London with the words:.

The sole civilized amenity was the pubs, but they closed at eleven … Rationing was still on. The war still lingered, not only in the bombed places but in people’s minds and behaviour. Any conversation tended to drift towards the war, like an animal licking a sore place. There was a wariness, a weariness.3 Lessing’s memory contains a good deal of truth. But we need to ask whose truth this was. For those who were used to a comfortable way of life, the late 1940s was an uncomfortable period of.

‘all the initial inadequacies – the lack of local industry, schools, transport and the rest, the “one age-group” population’ that investigators found on post-war estates. But by the early 1960s, ‘extended families … have grown up … on the estate, and so have local networks of neighbours.’64 The residents of Dagenham and elsewhere had worked hard to turn muddy fields with houses but few amenities into vibrant communities. Their commitment demonstrated just how enthusiastic millions of people were.

During the war’ and when her own mother became a waitress in the mid-1950s ‘this was just normal’. Her father, a factory worker, ‘didn’t like it at first, but he soon got used to it’, and her three children relished the new clothes and books for school that their mother’s work bought them. Hazel knew, too, that her mother’s earnings were important for her own self-worth and pleasure. She was ‘handy with a needle’ and used some of her earnings to buy cheap material from the market, but she didn’t.

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