10 Key Cultural Changes in 1960s Britain

10 Key Cultural Changes in 1960s Britain

The 1960s was a decade of change in Britain.

Shifts in law, politics and media reflected a new individualism and growing appetite to live in a more liberal ‘permissive society’. People began to stand up for their rights, both civil and at work, and express themselves in new ways.

Here are 10 ways Britain changed in the 1960s.

1. Affluence

In 1957 British Prime Minister Harold Macmillen remarked in a speech:

Indeed let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.

Go around the country, go to the industrial towns, go to the farms and you will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.

This idea of having “never had it so good” earmarked an age of affluence that many historians feel drove social change in the next decade. After the economic hardship of the 1930s and the massive strain caused by World War Two, Britain and many other large industrial economies were having a resurgence.

With this resurgence came important consumer products that changed lifestyles; while we might take refrigerators, washing machines and telephones for granted, their introduction into the home on a mass scale from the late 1950s onwards had an important impact on people’s everyday lives.

In terms of income and expenditure, in general, British people earned and spent more.

Between 1959 and 1967 the number of incomes below £600 (around £13,500 today) per year dropped 40%. On average people were spending more on cars, entertainment and holidays.

2. Law changes and the ‘Permissive Society’

The 1960s was an important decade in liberalisation of the law, particularly in relation to sexual behaviour.

In 1960, Penguin won a ‘not guilty’ verdict against the Crown, which had brought an obscenity prosecution against D. H. Lawrence’s novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

The passport photograph of D.H. Lawrenece, the author of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’.

It was seen as a watershed moment in the liberalisation of publishing, with the book going on to sell 3 million copies.

The decade saw two major milestones for women’s sexual liberation. In 1961, the contraceptive pill was made available on the NHS, and the Abortion Act of 1967 legalised termination for pregnancies under 28 weeks.

Another significant change was the Sexual Offences Act (1967), which decriminalised homosexual activity between two men over 21 years old.

There was also liberalisation of laws affecting prostitution (Sexual Offences Act, 1956) and divorce (Divorce Reform Act, 1956), while capital punishment was abolished in 1969.

3. Increasing secularisation

With a rise affluence, leisure time and media viewing habits, populations in Western society began to lose their religion. This could be felt in the drop in the number of people engaging in religious customs and practices.

For example, between 1963-69, Anglican confirmations per head dropped by 32%, while ordinations fell by 25%. Methodist membership also dropped by 24%.

Some historians have seen 1963 as a cultural turning point, pointing towards a ‘sexual revolution’ encouraged by the introduction of the pill and the Profumo scandal (see number 6 on this list).

4. The growth of mass media

Immediate post-war Britain saw only 25,000 houses with television. By 1961 this number had risen to 75% of all homes and by 1971 it was 91%.

In 1964 the BBC launched its second channel, the same year Top of the Pops began broadcasting and in 1966 over 32 million people watched England win the football World Cup. In 1967 BBC2 broadcast the first colour broadcast – the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

England’s victory at the 1966 Football World Cup was watched on televisions all over Britain.

During the decade the number of colour television licences grew from 275,000 to 12 million.

In addition to mass television viewing, the 1960s saw big changes in radio. In 1964 an unlicensed radio station called Radio Caroline began broadcasting in Britain.

By the end of the year the airwaves were filled with other unlicensed stations – mainly broadcasting from offshore. The public were drawn to the young and free-spirited disc jockeys who played “Top 40” hits. Unfortunately for listeners, these stations were outlawed in 1967.

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However, on 30 September of the same year, BBC Radio made some major changes. BBC Radio 1 was launched as a ‘pop’ music station. BBC Radio 2 (renamed from BBC Light Programme) began broadcasting easy listening entertainment. BBC Third Programme and BBC Music Programme merged to create BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Home Service became BBC Radio 4.

Almost every household in Britain owned a radio during the 1960s and with that came the spread of both news and music.

5. Music and the British invasion

British music changed significantly, with widespread introduction of rock and roll music and creation of the pop market.

The Beatles defined British music in the 1960s. Both Britain and the United States were swept up in “Beatlemania”. With their formation in 1960 and break up in 1970 the Beatles bookend the 1960s musical revolution.

By August 1964, the Beatles had sold around 80 million records globally.

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show, February 1964.

The Beatles were just one part of the “British Invasion” – bands such as the Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who and The Animals were becoming popular in the United States.

These bands topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and appeared on popular talk shows such as the Ed Sullivan Show. It was one of the first times British music had made its mark on America.

The Kinks in 1966.

5. The waning of ‘the Establishment’

In 1963 the Minister for War, John Profumo, denied having an affair with Christine Keeler, a young aspiring model. Although Profumo later admitted he had lied to the House of Commons about the affair and resigned his post, the damage was done.

Christine Keeler going to court in September 1963.

As a result, the public lost a degree of trust in the establishment and by extension, the government. Harold Macmillan, the Conservative Prime Minister, resigned his post in October 1964.

With the rise of mass media and television, people began to hold the establishment to a higher standard. The personal lives of politicians were under scrutiny like they never had been before.

Profumo and Keeler embarked on their illicit affair after their meeting at Cliveden House, which belonged to Lord Astor.

It is was later revealed that Harold Macmillan’s wife was having an affair with Lord Robert Boothby.

The satirical news magazine Private Eye was first published in 1961, while comedian Peter Cook opened The Establishment comedy club the same year. Both took to lampooning politicians and people of apparent authority.

6. Labour’s general election win

In 1964, Harold Wilson became the youngest Prime Minister in 150 years – winning a narrow victory over the Conservatives. This was the first Labour government in 13 years, and with it came a wave of social change.

Home Secretary Roy Jenkins introduced a number of liberalising legal changes that decreased the states role in people’s lives. Extra university places were created along with polytechnics and technical colleges. More people had access to further education than ever before.

Although Harold Wilson brought in a wave of social change, the economy suffered and his government was voted out in 1970.

Wilson’s government also built over a million new houses and introduced subsidies for people on low-income, helping them to buy houses. However, the economy suffered under Wilson’s spending and Labour were voted out in 1970.

7. Counterculture and protest

With a growing distrust of the establishment came a new movement. The term counterculture – coined by Theodore Roszak in 1969 – refers to the world-wide movement which gained momentum as issues of civil and women’s rights took centre stage.

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Protests swept the globe during the 1960s and counterculture was a driving force behind these. Student protests against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons were especially popular.

In London, the UK underground originated in Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill.

Often connected with the “hippie” and “bohemian” lifestyles, the underground was influenced by beatnik writers such as William Burroughs and held benefit gigs where bands like Pink Floyd performed.

Carnaby Street towards the end of the decade. It was a fashionable centre of the ‘Swinging Sixties’.

The underground also produced its own newspapers – notably International Times. The counterculture movement is often connected with more open drug use – particularly cannabis and LSD. This in turn lead to a rise of psychedelic music and fashion.

8. Fashion

Throughout the decade people were finding new ways to express themselves.

Designers such as Mary Quant popularised new styles. Quant is famous for “inventing” the mini-skirt and bringing mass production of affordable fashion to the public.

Mary Quant in 1966. (Image source: Jac. de Nijs / CC0).

Quant’s simpler designs from the ‘Ginger Group’ were available in 75 outlets in the UK to those on a more modest wage. On 4 February 1962, her designs graced the cover of the first ever colour Sunday Times Magazine cover.

As well as the rise of the mini-skirt, the 1960s saw women wearing trousers for the first time.

Carnaby Street was a fashionable hub in the 1960s.

Styles such as drainpipe jeans and capri pants were popularised by influential figures like Audrey Hepburn and Twiggy. Women became increasingly comfortable asserting their equality with men.

10. Increase in immigration

On 20 April 1968 British MP Enoch Powell gave a speech to a meeting of the Conservative Political Centre in Birmingham. The speech criticised the mass immigration Britain had seen in recent years.

Enoch Powell made his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in 1968. Image source: Allan warren / CC BY-SA 3.0.

Powell said:

As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’.

Powell’s speech reflects how both politicians and the public considered race in the 1960s.

The 1961 census found that 5% of the population were born outside of the UK. About 75,000 immigrants a year were arriving in Britain in the mid-1960s and overcrowding became a problem in many areas. Racist incidents were part of everyday life – shops would put up signs denying entry to immigrants.

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However, partly due to the introduction of the Race Relations Act of 1968, post-war immigrants had more rights than before. The act made it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race or ethnic origins.

Immigration steadily increased over the coming decades and boomed in the 1990s – creating the multicultural society we live in today.


1. Strategic alliances

For the Anglo-Saxons and Britain's early tribal groups, marriage was all about relationships - just not in the modern sense. The Anglo-Saxons saw marriage as a strategic tool to establish diplomatic and trade ties, says Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History: How Love Conquered Marriage. "You established peaceful relationships, trading relationships, mutual obligations with others by marrying them," Coontz says.

This all changed with the differentiation of wealth. Parents were no longer content to marry their children off to just "anyone in a neighbouring group". They wanted to marry them to somebody as least as wealthy and powerful as themselves, Coontz says. "That's the period when marriage shifts and becomes a centre for intrigue and betrayal."


Early 60&aposs Fashion Icons

Emilio Pucci

Post-war designer Emilio Pucci introduced tapered capri pants and new lightweight clothing that was perfect for travel. His wrinkle-free silk jersey made in bold colors and vibrant color combinations created a new casual style with a youthful appeal.

Jackie Kennedy

The youthful first lady presented herself with a natural yet sophisticated style in a manner that was classically simple. Mixing Parisian couture and a breezy, athletic American style, Jackie Kennedy favored boat-neck tops, trousers, and sleeveless dresses. Her formal attire lost the fussy look of the past, leaning toward clean lines and bright colors.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn, the muse of Herbert de Givenchy, became a fashion icon influential to this day. She was tall and thin, following an era when the feminine ideal was curvy and robust. In her flat shoes and dancer&aposs stance, she created a youthful new look without flashy ornamentation that relied on a natural grace as depicted in her films Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany&aposs.

Screen shot from "Roman Holiday" wikimedia commons public domain

Twiggy

A fashion model and muse for Mary Quant, Twiggy became a hugely famous figure in the early to mid-&apos60s. Thin to the point of emaciation, her androgynous appeal became the slouchy, big-eyed portrait of a modern girl. Her short, boyish hair and exaggerated eye make up gave her a unique look recognizable to this day.

Jean Shrimpton

Shrimpton was named Model of the Year by Glamour magazine in 1963 and was known for her long legs, pouty lips, and straight hair with bangs.


10 Major Social Changes in the 50 Years Since Woodstock

The young people who assembled at the Woodstock music festival in August 1969 epitomized the countercultural movements and changes occurring in U.S. society at the time. One commentator described the three-day event as "an open, classless society of music, sex, drugs, love and peace."

The "open" display of these activities at Woodstock was a direct challenge to the relatively conservative social views of the time. Fifty years later, Gallup offers a rundown of the major ways U.S. norms have changed.

1. Religious Attachment Has Waned

Americans' attachment to religion was steady at a high level from the 1950s to the mid-1960s, as measured by the percentage of Americans saying religion was very important to them. But this was followed by a sharp drop in religiosity spanning the Woodstock era.

Gallup did not measure religiosity in 1969, but its two measures bracketing Woodstock, taken in 1965 and 1978, show this was a period of sharp decline. The percentage describing religion as very important to them fell from 70% to 52%.

Reported church membership and church attendance declined more gradually between the 1960s and 1970s, but both figures have dropped precipitously in the past 15 years.

2. Marijuana Legalization Has Gained Support

Despite open drug use at Woodstock, it would be several decades before Americans would support the legalization of marijuana. The figure was 12% in 1969, rising to only 16% in 1973 and 28% by 1977. Support picked up in the 2000s, however, rising from 31% in 2000 to 66% in 2018.

3. Interracial Marriage Has Gained Acceptance

Some of the most transformational changes since the Woodstock era relate to racial tolerance, particularly interracial marriage.

In 1968, 20% of Americans said they approved of marriage between blacks and whites. That figure rose to 87% by 2013, Gallup's most recent measure. However, as Gallup has discussed previously, widespread acceptance for interracial marriage was long in coming, with majority approval first recorded in 1997.

4. Majority Now Think First-Trimester Abortions Should Be Legal

In 1969 -- before the Supreme Court's 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which struck down state restrictions on abortion in the first trimester -- 40% of Americans favored making it legal for women to have an abortion "at any time during the first three months." In 2018, 60% of Americans thought abortions in the first three months should be legal.

Americans' views on abortion in certain specific circumstances have not changed as much. Both in 1969 and 2018, majorities of U.S. adults supported legalized abortion when the mother's health would be endangered or when the child would be born with serious medical problems.

5. Americans Have Become Willing to Vote for a Woman for President

Women were just starting to break through higher education's glass ceiling in 1969, as Princeton and Yale admitted women for the first time. Several other Ivy League schools didn't follow suit for years.

This is the cultural context within which barely half of Americans in 1969 said they would support their party's nominee for a "generally well-qualified person for president" if that nominee were a woman, although that was itself an improvement from 33% in 1937. Today, Americans' expressed willingness to support a woman for president is nearly universal, at 94%.

6. Willingness to Vote for a Black President Has Grown

Two-thirds of Americans in 1969 (66%) said they were willing to vote for a black presidential nominee, more at the time than said they would vote for a woman. Today, a decade after the first black president took office in the U.S. and two decades after the figure first surpassed 90%, the sentiment is nearly universal, at 96%.

7. Americans Now Prefer Smaller Family Size

A number of political movements in the 1960s -- demand for reproductive rights, demand for women's equality and concerns about global population growth -- may have contributed to a decline in Americans' preference for large families between the late 1960s and early 1970s, spanning Woodstock.

In 1967, fully seven in 10 Americans said that having three or more children per family was ideal. In Gallup's next measure in 1971, that figure had dropped to 52% -- and by 1977, it was at 36%. After bottoming out at 28% in later years, Americans' preference for large families has since increased to 41% but is still not at the level it was before Woodstock.

8. Premarital Sex No Longer Taboo

The expectation that couples wait until marriage to consummate their relationship may have been so entrenched in U.S. social norms that Gallup didn't poll on the issue until 1973. Even then, less than half of Americans (43%) supported premarital sex, saying it was not wrong for people to have "sex relations before marriage." Today, that figure is 71%.

9. Homemaking No Longer Women's Preferred Vocation

In 1974, five years after Woodstock, a majority of U.S. women (60%) said in a poll conducted by the Roper Organization that given a choice, they would rather "stay at home and take care of the house and family" than "have a job outside the home." Roper updates later that decade found women more evenly divided on the question. Three years ago, Gallup found a slight majority of women preferring to work outside the home.

10. Support for Gay Rights Goes Mainstream

Gallup has no measures of support for gay rights from the 1960s -- the first measure was in 1977. But since then, there has been a sea change in Americans' views on the issue, no doubt reflecting an even greater change since the Woodstock era.

The percentage of Americans saying gay or lesbian relations between consenting adults should be legal has risen from 43% in 1977 to 73% today.

Bottom Line

Woodstock wasn't so much a catalyst for change as a signal that it was coming. The Vietnam War, the women's and civil rights movements, the environmental movement, medical advances in birth control and the proliferation of household television are just some of the factors that contributed to social change in the 1960s. Woodstock was, however, symptomatic of major societal changes underfoot.

Gallup trends indicate that in 1969 the majority of Americans were very religious, disapproved of premarital sex and frowned on interracial marriage. Half opposed first-trimester abortions, and many likely thought gay relations should be illegal. Additionally, bias against women and blacks who might run for president was pervasive, and a majority of women preferred to be homemakers rather than work outside the home.

Americans' stances have since changed on all of these matters, in some cases markedly so. However, except for the decline in religiosity and preference for smaller families, these changes didn't happen abruptly after Woodstock, but evolved over several decades.

In retrospect, social change may have been inevitable from a generational perspective, as the youth of Woodstock are now the youngest cohort of senior citizens, meaning most of American society today is composed of the Woodstock generation and its progeny.


The story of wine in Britain is the story of female drinkers

“Drinking spaces always excluded women, until fairly recently,” Clare Herrick, a geographer at King’s College London, told me. There was also the idea that “women should drink sweet sherry, or have a half-pint, not a pint.” This, she argues, came from the fear of women becoming more masculine than men, competing with men, drinking the same drinks as men. I remember experiencing the tail end of this culture when ordering beers as a student. The barman pulled a pint for my male friend and then reached, without asking, for a half-pint for me.

‘It takes a bold girl to ask for a Guinness’, says this 1970s advertisement (Credit: Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo)

Today, it’s taken for granted that a woman can walk into a pub and order whatever she wants. It’s largely the result of the profound change in women’s financial and social status over the past half-century. It’s also a big part of why my generation drank so much. Alcohol consumption by women almost doubled in the three decades leading up to Peak Booze, a change that was one of the “key drivers” of the UK’s increased consumption.

The rave wave

The 1980s were an unusual time for the drinks industry. After 30 years of near-continuous increases, British drinking pretty much levelled out between 1980 and 1995 – the nation’s thirst reined in, perhaps, by the high unemployment that gripped the country. But the alcohol industry had not pressed pause. It was preparing to target a new generation of drinkers, and would go on to transform the places Brits drank in. These changes would set the scene for one of the most rapid increases in alcohol consumption seen in the last century.

One of the industry’s initiatives was the introduction of a new category of drink – a drink with origins in a culture that once posed a threat to alcohol companies.

As clubbing became popular in the 1980s, pub attendance fell and alcohol consumption levelled out (Credit: Maciej Dakowicz/Alamy Stock Photo)

Rave culture was part of my generation’s adolescence, even if the closest some of us got to it was buying glow-in-the-dark bracelets and smiley-face T-shirts. I still remember the Shamen’s number-one hit, with its “Es are good” chorus. My friends and I sang along, even if we didn’t know for ourselves.

But there wouldn’t have been many smileys in alcohol company boardrooms: ravers didn’t want beer when they had ecstasy. That’s probably part of the reason pub attendance fell 11% between 1987 and 1992. The industry’s solution wasn’t long in coming, however. It began when the government used new legislation to force rave entrepreneurs into what alcohol policy consultant Phil Hadfield calls a stark choice: “work within the system… or be closed down”. Some chose the latter option, but the more successful started licensed indoor dance venues, such as the Ministry of Sound in London.


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One of the famous persons born in Liverpool is John Lennon. He was the member of The Beatles who rose to fame in the beginning of 1960s. Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 during an air raid.

Facts about Liverpool in the 1960s 4: the restoration project

The restoration project was conducted in 1960s after the war. The people began to rebuild the Seaforth Dock. The project was considered as the largest in the country. Moreover, the housing estates were massively built in Liverpool.

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Fashion in 1964

Coco Chanel wearing a hair bow

Dress manufacturers quickly jumped on the bandwagon, creating sheer-topped evening dresses with only the flimsiest layer of flesh-colored net used for a bodice.

The topless bathing suit created all kinds of problems. A woman in Chicago was arrested for wearing it in public. Throughout the summer, comments concerning the controversial design were published around the globe.

“Feminine” was perhaps the most overworked word in 1964’s fashion vernacular. It referred to swinging, knee-high skirts, fitted bodices, ruffles, pleats, a lace revival and the return of the hair bow as the coiffure accessory for women of all ages. “Coco” Chanel was responsible for the hair bow revival.

The cosmetics industry reflected the fragile, feminine look that had come into fashion. Pale lipsticks and nail polish replaced the vivid shades for the sought after natural look. Hair was no longer curly, but merely waved to follow the contour of the head. Eyebrow brushing bangs became the trademark of the young, along with hair bows work front, rear and off-center. Girls with hair too curly besieged hairdressers known for the straightening techniques — a chemical session that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40.

Textured stockings were very popular in 1964. Winter also saw the revival of fuller skirts, smaller coiffed heads under close-fitting hats and the return of the ball gown.

For men, the accent was on youthful appearance. Suit colors were lighter and brighter. Suit coats and sport jackets were shorter, with wider lapels. Trousers were often uncuffed. A wider stripe appeared on shirts and striped were popular in sweaters.


Working-Class History

Emma Griffin charts the postwar emergence of working-class history as a scholarly discipline and argues that, thanks to the torch-bearers, the rationale for it has ebbed away.

When history emerged as a scholarly discipline in British universities at the end of the 19th century, it rarely took working-class people as its focus. History was about the great and the good – about kings, queens, archbishops and diplomats. Historians studied reigns, constitutions, parliaments, wars and religion. Although some historians inevitably strayed from the mainstream, they rarely organised their ideas around the concept of ‘the working class’. For example, Ivy Pinchbeck’s Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution, 1750-1850 (1930) and, with Margaret Hewitt, Children in English Society (1969) certainly foreshadowed the concerns of a later generation of social historians, yet took ‘women’ and ‘children’, rather than the ‘working class’ as their subject.

This changed with the emergence of the social history movement in the second half of the 20th century. At the end of the Second World War and – a decade or so later – as the universities expanded, the historian’s remit widened enormously. Poor and disenfranchised subjects, such as the working women and orph-aned children that Pinchbeck had studied, swiftly moved from the intellectual margins to the mainstream. The newly-formed social history movement splint-ered into numerous branches – black history, subaltern studies, women’s history, urban history, rural history and so on. Soon working-class history had also emerged as a distinct historical specialism. The Communist Party History Group (founded 1946) and the Society for the Study of Labour History (1960) together consolidated its place in the universities. The History Workshop movement, established in the late 1960s with a slightly broader remit, provided an important platform for the study of ordinary people. Now historians of the working class enjoyed all the trappings of a modern academic sub-discipline, with their own societies, annual conferences and journals.

The cause of this fledgling historical strand was greatly advanced through association with some of the leading scholars of the age, including the Communist Party History Group members Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Raphael Samuel and E. P. Thompson. These four were also part of the group that founded the journal Past & Present, now widely regarded as one of the most important historical journals published in Britain today. Thompson’s monumental The Making of the English Working Class (1963) was arguably the single most significant contribution to working-class history, but it is easy to forget that he was just one part of a larger community of scholars with a shared interest in the emergence and experiences of the working class at the time of the British Industrial Revolution.

Much of Hobsbawm’s early work was devoted to explaining the absence of a working-class revolution in Britain. He made his entry to academia with the influential essays ‘General Labour Unions in Britain, 1889-1914’ (1949) and ‘The Tramping Artisan’ (1951) in the Economic History Review ‘The Machine Breakers’ in Past & Present (1952) and ‘The labour aristocracy in 19th-century Britain’, which appeared in John Saville’s, Democracy and the Labour Movement: essays in honour of Dona Torr (1954). Like Thompson, he was part of a much larger community of scholars interested in the working class. Hobsbawm’s interventions on the ‘standard of living debate’ in Economic History Review in the late 1950s and 1960s only achieved such prominence because the question of what happened to the working class during the Industrial Revolution was a question of enormous academic interest in those years.

Working-class history does not arouse the passions that it once did and, although historians continue to question what happened to working people during the Industrial Revolution, for the most part they do so without the vitriol that characterised debate in the 1960s. There are a number of reasons for this. An important essay by Gareth Stedman Jones, ‘Rethinking Chartism’, published in his Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History, 1832-1982 (1983), caused scholars to question a core working assumption of historians of the working class, namely whether such a thing as a ‘working class’ actually existed. Stedman Jones asked, what if the emergence of this term was a linguistic and rhetorical development rather than a reflection of a new social reality? This incendiary suggestion struck at the core of the Marxist account of class that had long underpinned working-class history. For a number of years afterwards, historians were distracted by debating whether or not the working class actually existed, rather than thinking about what happened to those working people during the Industrial Revolution (a debate played out at length in the pages of the journal Social History in the 1990s). At the same time, the 1980s saw a waning of the initial energy and enthusiasm of the social history movement and a shift towards a much more apolitical style of writing. Impassioned, angry scholarship and the figure of the activist-cum-scholar were becoming increasingly rare across the profession.

Working-class history as originally established has not disappeared completely. The Society for the Study of Labour History and History Workshop movement still exist, as does the successor to the Communist Party History Group, the Socialist History Society. All three publish journals and remain committed to the study of the working class broadly conceived. Nonetheless, most historians studying working people in 19th- and 20th-century Britain do not publish under the working-class history banner. Much of the work published today with working people as its focus takes a quantitative form and comes from practitioners who consider themselves to be economic historians rather than working-class ones. Others find an intellectual home in the broader traditions of social and cultural history, which illustrate the diverse interests of historians of the working class today, such as Andrew August’s The British Working Class, 1832-1940 (2007) Julie-Marie Strange’s Fatherhood, Attachment and the British Working Class, c.1871-1914 (2013) and Selina Todd’s The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 (2014). My own Liberty’s Dawn: A People’s History of the Industrial Revolution (2013) looked at hundreds of autobiographies written by working people to reconsider the question of what happened to them during the Industrial Revolution, but framed the research around questions of experience, family and culture rather than ‘class’. In this respect, ‘working-class history’ has shared the fate of many of the other branches that splintered from the social history tree in the 1960s. Thanks to their efforts, we no longer need to justify our interest in marginalised groups. Now that the working class has been firmly established as a legitimate topic for serious academic enquiry, the rationale for being a separate sub-discipline has simply ebbed away.

Emma Griffin is Professor of History at the University of East Anglia. She is writing a history of working-class life during the Industrial Revolution for Yale.


Cost of Living 1960

1960 The cold war continued to become colder as the two sides distrusted the other more and tried to influence other parts of the world. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson won the Presidency with one of the smallest margins in history ( 113,000 votes ) out of 68.3 million. The sexual revolution of the 60's had begun with the use of birth control pills and Hugh Hefner opening the first of his Playboy clubs in Chicago. The "Flintstones" is shown on television for the first time and movies this year include "The Magnificent Seven" and "Psycho" . Notable technical achievements include the invention of the Laser and a Heart Pacemaker. France tests its first atomic bomb and joins those countries with nuclear bomb technology. Notable names that appear in the limelight that year include "Cassius Clay" and "Sir Francis Chichester" . The US sends the first troops to Vietnam following the French withdrawal in 1954 in the fight against communist North Vietnam.


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