Week 5: Mass Culture and Popular Pastimes in Interwar Britain



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Week 5: Mass Culture and Popular Pastimes in Interwar Britain


  1. To what extent did interwar Britain see the emergence of a ‘common culture’?

  2. How did gender, class and age shape access to common culture?

  3. How did ideas of ‘class’ and ‘taste’ relate to each other in interwar Britain?

  4. What made some people so afraid of 1930s youth culture?


Core Reading

  • Cardiff, D. & Scannell, P. (1987), ‘Broadcasting and National Unity’ in: Curran, J., Smith, A. & Wingate, P. (eds.) 1987, Impacts and Influences: Essays on Media Power in the Twentieth Century, London: Methuen, pp. 157-173 (Digitised Source)

  • Selina Todd, ‘Young Women, Work and Leisure in Interwar England’, The Historical Journal 48:3 (Sept 2005), 789-809.


Further Reading


  • Good general stuff: LeMahieu, D.L. (1988), ‘History Workshop Journal, No. 42 (Autumn, 1996), pp. 173-179Sight and Sound: Studies in Convergence’ in A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultivated Mind in Britain between the Wars, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 227-292 (Digitised Source); Allison Abra, ‘Doing the Lambeth Walk: Novelty Dances and the British Nation’ Twentieth Century British History20:3 (2009), 346-369.; McKibbin, R. (1998), ‘The Sporting Life’ in: Classes and Cultures: England, 1918-1951, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 332-385 (Digitised Source); Wiener, M.J. 1981, The ‘English Way of Life’?. In: English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit 1850-1980, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, pp. 41-80 (Digitised Source)




  • On the gender politics and sexual transgressions of new modes of leisure and culture: M. Houlbrook, ‘The Man with the Powder Puff in Interwar London’, The Historical Journal 50:1 (2007), 145-171.; Marek Kohn, ‘Cocaine Girls: Sex, Drugs and Modernity in London during and after the First Word War’, in P. Gootenberg (ed.), Cocaine: Global Histories (Routledge, 1999)

The City and the Suburb:



  • 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 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).



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