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Week 8

The Interwar Nation

I. Does the appeal of the countryside in interwar Britain indicate a nation trapped in the past?
II. To what extent did interwar Britain see the emergence of a common culture?
III. Can the success of Baldwin’s Conservative Party to be explained in terms of its ability to respond to the shifting identity of ‘the nation’ in the period?

• The most influential critique of the prominence of rural nostalgia within the culture is M.Weiner’s English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial.
• For an account which questions the dominance of this form of Englishness: Peter Mandler, 'Against "Englishness": English Culture and the Limits of Rural Nostalgia, 1850-1940', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 7 (1997).
• For a contemporary account of the state of the changing character of the interwar nation: J.B. Priestley, English Journey (1934). For contrasting views on J.B. Priestley’s vision of England: J. Baxendale, ‘“I had seen a lot of Englands”: J.B. Priestley, Englishness and the People’, History Workshop Journal, 5 (2001), 87-111; J. Baxendale & C. Pawling, ‘In Search of the People: The Journeys of J.B. Priestley’, in Narrating the Thirties: A Decade in the Making: 1930 to the Present (1996); C. Waters, 'J.B. Priestly: Englishness and the Politics of Nostalgia', in S. Pedersen & P. Mandler (eds.), After the Victorians (1994).
• Arguably, there was in fact something very modern about the interwar attitude to the countryside: D. Matless, Englishness and Landscape (1998); R. Samuel, ‘Country Visiting’, in Island Stories, pp. 132-52.
• It should also be borne in mind that the English countryside was something which had been remade relatively recently: A. Howkins, Reshaping Rural England: A Social History 1850-1920 (1991); A. Howkins, ‘The Discovery of Rural England’, in Colls & Dodd (eds.), Englishness.
• Also on the interwar countryside and national identity: D. Lowenthal, ‘British National Identity and the English Landscape’, Rural History, 2 (1991), 205-30; D.N. Jeans, ‘Planning and the Myth of the English Countryside in the Interwar Period’, Rural History, 1 (1990), 249-64; while for a general overview of literature on the countryside (does Wiener base his account on just one of several countrysides?): W.A. Armstrong, ‘The countryside’, in F.M.L. Thompson, The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950, Vol I.
• On the politics of the land question: Matthew Cragoe and Paul Readman (eds.), The Land Question in Britain, 1750-1950 (2010).
• Historians have paid particular attention to the way the interwar Conservative leader, Stanley Baldwin, came to associate his party with the nation through appropriating and personifying this discourse of Englishness: Sian Nicholas, 'The Construction of National Identity: Stanley Baldwin, "Englishness" and the Mass Media in Inter-War Britain', in I. Zweiniger-Bargielowska & M. Francis (eds.), The Conservatives and British Society, 1880-1990 (1996); Martin Wiener, English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980 (1981), esp. chapter 6 ‘Images and Politics’; Ross McKibbin, 'Class and Conventional Wisdom: The Conservative Party and the "Public" in Inter-War Britain', in McKibbin, Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain, 1880-1950 (1990); David Jarvis, 'British Conservatism and Class Politics in the 1920s', English Historical Review, 111 (1996).
• Perhaps it was the domesticity and modernity of the suburb - scorned by the rural nostalgists - which was really emerging as the dominant (and feminised?) ‘England’ of the era: T. Jeffrey, ‘The Suburban Nation: Politics and Class in Lewisham’, in G. Stedman Jones & D. Feldman (eds.), Metropolis London: Histories and Representations since 1800 (1989), pp. 189-216; M. Clapson, Invincible Green Suburbs, Brave New Towns: Social Change and Urban Dispersal in Postwar England (1998); C. Pursell, ‘Domesticating Modernity: The Electrical Association for Women, 1924-1986’, British Journal for the History of Science 32 (1999), 47-67; A. Light, Forever England: Femininity, Literature and Conservatism between the Wars (1991); Judy Giles, Women, Identity and Private Life 1900-1950 (1985).
• For extracts from the travel-writing of the period: Giles & Middleton, Writing Englishness.
• For evidence from the posters of the era: The Shell Poster Book (1998); B. Cole & R. Durack, Railway Posters, 1923-47 (1992); London Transport Posters (1976).
• For differing views of the nature of class divisions within Britain in the first half of the century: D. Cannadine, Class in Britain (1998); Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951 (1998); H. Perkin, The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880 (1989); and for a useful review of some of this recent literature on Britain and class: J. Lawrence, ‘The British Sense of Class’, Journal of Contemporary History, 35 (2000), 307-18.
• For an introduction to the divisions within national culture: J. Bourke, Working-Class Cultures in Britain 1880-1960 (1994), chapter 6 ‘Britishness; for a more detailed survey: Ross McKibbin, Classes and Cultures: England 1918-1951 (1998).
• Arguing for a polarisation between elite and mass culture: J. Carey, The Intellectuals and the Masses: Pride and Prejudice Among the Literary Intelligentsia 1880-1939 (1992).
• By contrast, presenting an important argument for the emergence of a unifying, modernising, democratic culture: D. LeMahieu, A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communications and the Cultivated Mind in Britain between the Wars (1988).
• On intellectual culture in the period: Stefan Collini, Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain (2006).
• On the persistence of intellectualism and serious reading habits within working-class culture: J. Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2001).
• On the shift from a predominantly local to national press: A. Lee, The Origins of the Popular Press in England, 1855-1914 (1976); also S. Koss, The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain, vol 2 (1984); T. Jeffrey & K. McClelland, ‘A World Fit to Live In: The Daily Mail and the Middle Classes, 1918-3’, in J. Curran & A. Smith & P. Wingate (eds), Impacts and Influences: Essays in Media Power in the Twentieth Century (1987), 27-52; J. Curran & J. Seaton, Power without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain (1991).
• On the role of broadcasting: Paddy Scannell & David Cardiff, 'Broadcasting and National Unity', in J. Curran (ed.), Impacts and Influences (1987); Paddy Scannell, 'Public Service Broadcasting and Modern Public Life', Media, Culture and Society, 11 (1989), 135-66; Paddy Scannell & David Cardiff, A Social History of British Broadcasting, Vol I, 1922-39 (1991); McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, chapter 12; A. Briggs, The Golden Age of Broadcasting (1965); Thomas Hajkowski, The BBC and National Identity in Britain, 1922-53 (2010).
• On the cinema (note here also the theme of Americanisation): A. Higson, Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain (1995); McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, chapter11; S. Harper, Picturing the Past: The Rise and Fall of the British Costume Film (1994); K. Bamford, Distorted Images: British National Identity and Film in the 1920s (1999); J. Richards, The Age of the Dream Palace: Cinema and Society in Britain 193039 (1984).
• On literature: J. Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (2001); McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, chapter 13; N. Joicey, ‘A Paperback Guide to Progress: Penguin Books, 1935-1951’, Twentieth Century British History, 4 (1993), 25-56; J.McAleer, ‘Scenes from Love and Marriage: Mills & Boon and the Popular Publishing Industry in Britain 1908-50’, Twentieth Century British History, 1 (1990), 264-88; J. McAleer, Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 19014-50 (1992); J. Winter, ‘British National Identity and the First World War’, in S. Green & C. Whiting (eds.), The Boundaries of the State in Modern Britain; and for a useful collection of contemporary writing J. Giles & T. Middleton, Writing Englishness 1900-1950 (1995).
• On music: McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, chapter 10; S. Frith, ‘The Making of the British Records Industry’, in J. Curran, A. Smith, & P. Wingate (eds.), Impacts and Influences (1987).
• On speech and dialect: P.J. Waller, ‘Democracy and Dialect, Speech and Class’, in P.J. Waller (ed.), Politics and Social Change in Modern Britain (1987).
• On sport: McKibbin, Classes and Cultures, chapter 9; John Benson, The Rise of Consumer Society in Britain, 1880-1980 (1994), chapter 6; Derek Birley, Sport and the Making of Modern Britain (1993); Richard Holt, Sport and the British: A Modern History (1989); Richard Holt, Sport and the Working Class in Modern Britain (1990); T. Mason (ed.), Sport in Britain: A Social History (1989); J. Lowerson, Sport and the English Middle Classes, 1870-1914; G. Jarvie & G. Walker (eds.), Scottish Sport in the Making of a Nation (1994); M. Marquese, Anyone but England: Cricket, Race and Class (1998).
• On Americanisation: Joel Wiener and Mark Hampton (eds.), Anglo-American Media Interactions, 1850-2000 (2007).
• On the role of consumption: John Benson, The Rise of a Consumer Society (1994), esp. chapter 5, Gary Cross, Time and Money: The Making of a Consumer Culture (1993).