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Week 13

The End of Victorian Britain (ii): The Permissive Society

I. To what extent did the 1960s see Britain transformed from a ‘Victorian’ to a ‘Permissive’ society?
II. What were the main causes of the changes that took place?
III. Why did ideas of a declining nation set in during the 1970s and 1980s and were they justified?

• On the idea of Victorian values: Raphael Samuel, ‘Mrs Thatcher’s Return to Victorian Values’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 78 (1992), 9-29
• Much of the debate on ‘permissiveness’ has focused on sexuality. For an excellent overview: Jeffrey Weeks, Sex, Politics, and Society: The Regulation of Sexuality since 1800 (1989), especially chapter 13 ‘The Permissive Moment’. For emphasis on the importance of the 1960s but set in a longer perspective: Hera Cook, The Long Sexual Revolution. Challenging to the degree to which attitudes in relation to sexuality changed before the sexual revolution: Kate Fisher and Simon Szreter, Sex Beofre the Sexual Revolution: Intimate Life in England 1918-1963. Also: Frank Mort, Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1830 (1987); Cate Haste, Rules of Desire. Sex in Britain: World War 1 to the Present (1992); Arthur Marwick, British Society since 1945, chapter 15 'Gimme a Man After Midnight'. For particular aspects: Marcus Collins, 'The Pornography of Permissiveness: Men's Sexuality and Women's Emancipation in Mid-20th Century Britain', History Workshop Journal, 47 (1999), 99-120; Chris Waters, 'Disorders of the Mind, Disorders of the Body Social: Peter Wildeblood and the Making of the Modern Homosexual', in B. Connekin, F. Mort & C. Waters (eds.), Moments of Modernity, pp. 134-151; Liz Stanley, Sex Surveyed, 1949-1994 (1995); Jeffrey Weeks, Coming Out (1977); Barbara Brookes, Abortion in England 1900-1967 (1988); James Hampshire and Jan Lewis, ‘”The Ravages of Permissiveness”: Sex Education and the Permissive Society’, 20th Century British History, 15 (2004), 290-312. On earlier shifts: Claire Langhammer, ‘Adultery in Post-War Britain’, History Workshop Journal, 62 (2006), 86-115; J. Costello, Love, Sex and War: Changing Values 1939-45 (1985). For parliamentary debate on abortion reform: Hansard 732 (1966-7) 1067-1163; and on homosexuality Hansard 724 (1965-6) 782-870, and 738 (1966-7), 1067-1150.
• On women: Elizabeth Wilson, Only Halfway to Paradise: Women in Postwar Britain, 1945-1968 (1980); Pat Thane, ‘Towards Equal Opportunities? Women in Britain since 1945’, in A. O’Day T. Gourvish (eds.), Britain since 1945 (1991);
Eve Setch, ‘The Face of Metropolitan Feminism: The London Women’s Liberation Workshop, 1969-79’, 20th Century British History, 13 (2002), 171-90
• On gambling: M. Clapson, A Bit of a Flutter (1992)
• On students: Nick Thomas, ‘Challenging the Myths of the 1960s: The Case of Student Protest in Britain’, 20th Century British History, 13 (2002), 277-97
• On drugs: John Davis, ‘The London Drug Scene and the Making of Drug policy, 1965-1973’, 20th Century British History, 17 (2006), 26-49
• More generally on permissiveness: Christie Davies, Permissive Britain: Social Change in the Sixties and Seventies (1975). And for insights on the retreat of the state as a guardian of values: S.J.D. Green & R.C. Whiting (eds.), The Boundaries of the State in Modern Britain (1996).
• On the ‘counter-culture’: E. Nelson, The British Counter-Culture, 1966-73 (1989); Jonathon Green, Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground, 1961-73 (1988); F. Musgrove, Ecstasy and Holiness: Counter Culture and the Open Society (1974).
• On popular culture: R. Eyerman & A. Jamison, ‘Social Movements and Cultural Transformation: Popular Music in the 1960s’, Media, Culture and Society, 17 (1995), 449-68; S. Hall & T. Jefferson (eds.), Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (1976); A. Marwick, ‘The “Cultural Revolution” in Britain’, Journal of Contemporary History, 19 (1984), 127-52; A. Marwick, ‘Six Novels of the Sixties’, Journal of Contemporary History, 28 (1993), 563-91; A. Aldgate, Censorship and the Permissive Society: British Cinema and Theatre, 1955-65 (1995); Ian MacDonald, Revolution in the Head: the Beatle's Records and the Sixties (1994), pp. 1-34.
• On the enemies of permissiveness and their role in construction of the idea of the permissive society: Lawrence Black, ‘Whose Finger on the Button? British Television and the Politics of Cultural Control’, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, 25 (2005), 547-75.
• For an assessment of whether the period saw moral decline: Alan Sked, Britain's Decline (1987), chapter 3.
• And for the extent to which national welfare-state values may have waned: Rodney Lowe, 'Postwar Welfare', in Paul Johnson (ed.), 20th Century Britain; ; Martin Francis, 'Set the People Free? Conservatives and the State, 1920-1960', in Bargielowska & Francis (eds.), The Conservative Party and British Society; J. Stevenson, 'The Jersusalem that Failed? The Rebuilding of Post-War Britain', in T. Gourvish & A. O'Day (eds.), British History since 1945 (1991); Rodney Lowe, The Welfare State since 1945 (1993); Paul Johnson, 'The Welfare State' in R. Floud & D. McCloskey (ed.), The Economic History of Britain since 1700. Volume 3 (1994); Nicholas Timmins, The Five Giants: A Biography of the Welfare State (1995).
• On the context of mounting anxieties resulting from perceptions of economic decline (and the more complicated reality): B. Supple, ‘Fear of Falling: Economic History and the Decline of Britain’, Economic History Review, 47 (1994), 441-58; Jim Tomlinson, ‘Inventing Decline’, Economic History Review, 49 (1996); P. Clarke & C. Trebilcock (eds.), Understanding Decline: Perceptions and Realities of British Economic Performance (1997).
• On the problem of Britain in the 1970s: Nick Tiratsoo, 'You've never had it so bad: Britain in the 1970s', in Tiratsoo (ed.), From Blitz to Blair; perceptions of decline also discussed in Marwick, British Society since 1945.; Weight, Patriots, chapter 8; Peter Clarke, Hope and Glory, chapter 10; S. Beer, Britain against itself: The Political Contradictions of CollectivismI (1982).
• For critiques of the blaming of decline on a shift in values: Raphael Samuel, 'Mrs Thatcher's Return to Victorian Values', Proceedings of the British Academy, 78 (1992), 9-29; J. Harris, ‘Enterprise and Welfare States: A Comparative Perspective’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 40 (1990).