By John Baxendale
In a chain of case-studies, ranging generally from documentary movie and the writings of J.B. Priestley to postwar historiography and continues to be of the Day, this ebook explores the ever-changing and hotly contested narratives of england within the Thirties. The authors argue that photographs of 'the Thirties' were a continuous presence within the development of the wartime and postwar international, and specifically within the emergent discourse of social democracy and its next decline.
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Extra info for Narrating the Thirties: A Decade in the Making: 1930 to the Present
The political and ideological controversies of later Victorian England did no grave or lasting damage to this remarkably cohesive bloc, but from that time onwards, changes of a less dramatic character began gradually to erode the foundations of its cultural monopoly. The relative decline of the public schools and Oxbridge within an expanding educational system, the amelioration of the educational prospects of lower-middle-class children, the growth and diversification of State activity, the expansion of whole sectors of cultural production and the creation of new ones (publicity and the cinema, for instance) together induced the formation of an intellectual stratum which, although still dominated by the old Victorian bloc, was necessarily of a different character.
So, intellectuals such as William Empson, Humphrey Jennings and John Sommerfield, who were 'drafted in' to Bolton, were the products of a particular education and although they might espouse radical political views, the ingrained assumptions which they carried from school and university were not necessarily designed to challenge the hierarchical cultural arrangements of British society. The Worktown project is an interesting example of the contradictions which are discernible in the 'social rhetoric' of Documentary and Mass Observation, in that it is possible to pinpoint manked differences between the outlook of the largely working-class sample from the town and their mainly middle-class interviewers.
On the one hand, Documentary and Mass Observation implied a new 'take' on Britain which relativised notions of 'rulture' and, by implication, raised the status of 'ordinary people', particularly the working class. nornenologica~terms from that of a 'tribal' society in the New Hebrides, then one could, in theory, dispense with hierarchical notions of 'high' and 'low' art and their class connotations. Analysing the national culture as a set of 'rituals', which were all of equal intrinsic interest, was a major break with an Arnoldian, literary-based cultural tradition, which was inevitably constrained by its commitme~~t to certain canonical forms and practices.