To help me get into the mindset of my fictional characters I have spent the last few years researching recent history. Those of you who are familiar with my novels will know they are all set during the iconic decade of the 1960s, a time when Britain experienced a significant cultural shift. To explore the backstory of those characters, I extended my research to read about family life during the span of years when the Second World War raged and everyone had to reconsider every aspect of their lives.
The more I read, the greater my fascination was for the way that life changed for individuals and families after the war – during the post-war decades of the late forties, the fifties, and sixties. On this blog I have already fleshed out many of the aspects that affected day-to-day life in Britain during the late 1940s. I hope to continue with blog posts moving on through the 1950s, when Britain moved from a period of austerity to a time, when according to Harold Macmillan’s speech in 1957, the nation had ‘never had it so good’.
However, my reading and research has led me to frame a question, which I plan to explore in greater depth. Much of what has been written about the post-war years by eminent social historians focuses on what I would describe as a ‘top down approach’. I have read several marvellous books that look at the detailed political, economic and legislative changes during those decades and how they affected life in Britain. But I would like to turn that on its head! My question is, to what extent did popular opinion and action drive those changes?
We often hear nowadays about popular uprisings across the world, but what of the popular uprisings from the late 1940s through to the end of the 1960s? People took to the streets to protest against the Vietnam war, the threat of nuclear war, laws that made homosexuality and abortion illegal. Women fought for equal pay, equal educational opportunities, and equal rights. Of course, the electorate could have their say each time there was a general election, but in-between those election years people weren’t silent. And I’m intrigued to explore to what extent the accumulation of voices made a real difference to the lives we live today.
There’s a lot to unpick, but I’m certain I’ll enjoy the journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have memories to share about those post-war years, it would be great to hear them. You can leave a comment below, or if you’d prefer, you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org