Doing history: perspectives on sources project proposal form

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Please complete all of the sections of this form, by typing into each of the boxes provided (below the text already given). Sections 1-3 do NOT count towards the word limit of 1000 words. You should not write more than 500 words each for sections 4 and 5.

Student Number:


Name of Supervisor:

Staffan Müller-Wille

1. What question you will address in the Source Portfolio. This should be one sentence only.
How were young people affected by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1980s Britain?
How effective was Margaret Thatcher’s government for school leavers in 1980s Britain?

2. List the primary sources that you intend to use for the Portfolio. There should be at least five different sources that address different aspects of the question. These should all be different types of source as far as possible. Give a full reference for each and indicate the type of source and a brief description.
Anonymous, ‘Summer 1981’ in the Mass Observation Project, last accessed on 14 October 2013: correspondence as part of a project that regularly sent questions regarding various aspects of life in Britain during the 1980s to volunteers, this letter being from one such volunteer giving an overview of their opinion on Britain after the first few years of Thatcher’s rule.
Brady, Fredrick interviewed by Jones, Virtue ‘Observing The 80s’ in the Millennium Memory Bank, last accessed on 14 October 2013: a retrospective interview of an older man giving his perspective on the reasons for young workers being made unemployed.
Kinnock, Neil ‘Labour Party Conference 1988’ in the British Political Speech Archive, last accessed on 14 October 2013: the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition regarding Thatcher’s governmental policies and their effects.
Smith, Jenny interviewed by Witham, Wendy ‘Observing The 80s’ in the Millennium Memory Bank, last accessed on 14 October 2013: a retrospective interview of a young woman on her experiences of the Youth Opportunity Programme, and her experience of youth unemployment.
Thatcher, Margaret ‘Conservative Party Conference Speech 1988’ in the British Political Speech Archive, archive.htm?speech=134 last accessed on 14 October 2013: the speech delivered by Thatcher herself, addressing public and political concerns about her leadership and the effectiveness of her policies.
The Socialist Society’s Education Group ‘The Youth Training Scheme’ (1983) last accessed on 14 October 2013: a Pamphlet issued by the Socialist Society’s Education Group describing their findings on Thatcher’s government’s educational policies and the effects they have had on young workers.
The Specials ‘Ghost Town’ (1981) last accessed on 14 October 2013: lyrics to a protest song that addressed issues affecting young people in Britain as a direct result of Thatcher’s government.
The Style Council ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ (1985) last accessed on 14 October 2013: lyrics to a protest song that addressed issues affecting young people in Britain as a direct result of Thatcher’s government.

3. List key secondary works (books and articles) for this question, in alphabetical order by surname of author. Give a full reference for each.
Works Consulted:
Campbell, John Margaret Thatcher Volume Two: The Iron Lady, (London, 2008) pp.244-245
Goodwin, Mark ‘Chapter 4: The Changing Local State’ in Paul Clocke, (ed.) Policy and Change in Thatcher’s Britain, (Oxford, 1992) p.81
Evans, Eric J. Thatcher and Thatcherism, (London, 1997) p. 71
Gilmour, Ian, Dancing with Dogma: Britain under Thatcherism, (London, 1992) p.149
Johnson, Christopher The Economy Under Mrs Thatcher 1979-1990, (London 1991) p.242
McVicar, Malcolm, ‘Chapter 9: Education Policy: Education as a Business’ in Stephen P. Savage and Lynton Robins (eds.) Public Policy Under Thatcher, (Basingstoke, 1990) p.133
Peden, G.C. British Economic and Social Policy: Lloyd George to Margaret Thatcher, (Oxford, 1985)
Seldon, Anthony and Collings, Daniel, Britain Under Thatcher, (Essex, 2000)
Tomlinson, J.R.G. ‘Chapter 14: The Schools’ in Kavanagh, Dennis, and Seldon, Anthony (eds.), The Thatcher Effect, (Oxford, 1989) p.185
Webster, Wendy Not a Man to Match Her, (London, 1990)
Young, Hugo, One Of Us, (London, 1991) p.135
Yet to consult:
Hanson, Charles G. Taming the Trade Unions: A Guide to the Thatcher Government’s Employment Reforms, 1980-1990, (Basingstoke, 1991)
Ingham, Bernard Kill The Messenger, (London, 1991)
Ionescu, Ghita Leadership in an Interdependent World: The Statesmanship of Adenauer, De Gaulle, Thatcher, Reagan and Gorbachev, (Essex, 1991)
Kavanagh, Dennis Thatcherism and British Politics: The End of Consensus?, (Oxford, 1987)
Riddell, Peter, The Thatcher Decade: How Britain has changed during the 1980s, (Oxford, 1989)
Shephard, Gillian, The Real Iron Lady, (London, 2013)

4. What are the issues raised by your question? How does it contribute to the understanding of the wider topic? Explain in not more than 500 words.
Firstly, the question addresses the issue of the nature of Thatcher’s legacy in Britain, and how her success can be assessed by looking at the opinions of those who grew up during her time in office.

It draws upon the wider issue of the effectiveness of Thatcher’s domestic policy, for example the effect on young people of privatising services; specifically the reforms to education that allowed local councils and schools themselves to have more control, as well as the impact of introducing the national curriculum in 1988. This also relates to Thatcher’s difficulties with unions, the importance of which historians discuss, for example J.R.G.Tomlinson, in The Thatcher Effect: A Decade of Change (Oxford, 1989), in which changes to who was in charge of schools was ultimately seen as a way for the government to consolidate central governmental power, rather than allowing power to rest with teacher trade unions. Mark Goodwin’s chapter in Policy and Change in Thatcher’s Britain (Oxford, 1992), and Seldon and Collings in Britain Under Thatcher (Essex, 2000), argue a similar point, thus highlighting that historiography on the topic shows great interest in the impact of Thatcher’s changes to government on young people, and the reason behind these changes. As Malcolm McVicar’s chapter in Public Policy Under Thatcher (Basingstoke, 1990) argues, efforts to cut costs ultimately led to failures of the state education system.

By looking at sources that focus on school leavers and unemployment amongst young people, MOProject the effects of these changes to education can be analysed; a focus on scientific and technical training of young people that is encompassed by the question can be extrapolated and used to assess why the country’s industry was in decline during the Thatcher years. Interest in Thatcher’s policies on industry, unions and labour, looks to analyse why young people were unemployed and receiving the dole in such high numbers. This is reflected in the work of historians such as Gilmour’s book Dancing with Dogma (London, 1992), which discusses the issue of what was to blame for the high rates of unemployment and the homelessness that it caused in many cases, and whether this was a result of Thatcher’s fixation with abolishing the welfare state, or as Thatcher’s government argued, the result of family break-up. From a different angle, Seldon and Collings mention the government’s focus on City Technology Colleges; created to focus on technical skills. They argue against a lack of focus on this area of education, adding a different approach to the analysis into the cause of unemployment and lack of skills amongst young people.

Additionally, the question can be used to address a general view of Thatcher’s view that people should help themselves, and how some people, both at the time and in retrospect, such as Webster in Not a Man to Match Her (London, 1990), believe this to have created an environment of individualism and materialism in Britain which alienated young people.

5. How do the sources which you have identified help you to answer the issues raised by your question? Explain in not more than 500 words.

The correspondence source gives a general sense that the government was doing nothing to help young people, with policy such as the creation of the national curriculum, the effectiveness of which Eric Evans questions in Thatcher and Thatcherism (London, 1997), thus highlighting how historians consider whether Conservative changes to education were ultimately successful in improving education, as well as trying to analyse why, if these changes were considered to be successful, unemployment continued throughout Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister. This source also mentions the wider feeling of discontent relating to British society becoming materialistic and individualistic, and the effect this had on young people, as the author expresses direct concern for having observed this change throughout the decade.

The pamphlet document indicates the negative effects of Thatcher’s policies on young people, from the perspective of an opposing organisation, focusing on unemployment specifically. Johnson’s work, The Economy Under Mrs Thatcher 1979-1990 (London, 1991), relates to the issues presented in this source, focusing on the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), arguing young people remained out of work because the schemes were ineffective. Johnson also states that the government focused too much on short-term results by not fully recognising the need for enhancing the skills of the workforce, which the pamphlet also addresses.

The two contrasting political speeches show where party leaders at the time considered there to be issues regarding young people, and what their proposed solutions were. Labour saw a problem in selfish and careless Conservative policy, whereas the Conservatives defended choices to localise education and wider economic policy. Both argued over the point of individualism, with Thatcher arguing the focus on the individual ultimately resulting in the bettering of society, thus showing youths to ultimately benefit, whereas the Labour speech addresses this issue by arguing it simply caused selfishness, to the detriment of young people, (something mentioned previously in the correspondence source). Kinnock also argues that science and technical training are being neglected, so young people will grow up in a stagnant economy that cannot compete with the likes of Germany and Scandinavia. This point is addressed by Seldon and Collings in Britain Under Thatcher (Essex, 2000), adding more analysis into the cause of unemployment and lack of skills amongst young people.

The two sources of song lyrics reflect the popular beliefs and discontent of youth in popular culture; showing the general feeling of disillusionment between young people and Thatcher’s government, that there was no thought for them, leaving them jobless and without effective training or qualification. Webster in Not a Man to Match Her (London, 1990) argues the stance that Thatcher’s opinion, not only of youth, but of the unemployed, was very much a ‘them’, not an ‘us’ issue, which could account for this general feeling of alienation by Thatcher’s government, as expressed in the lyrics.
The retrospective interviews allow for a first-hand account of a member of the general public affected personally by Thatcher’s governments, providing details of her own child’s unemployment and struggle to find more work. This provides insight into the training schemes that were implemented during the 1980s, and the outcomes of this, helping to show a realistic measure of how they affected young people.

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