British Culture since 1945: Part II

Seminar Paper, 2004

34 Pages, Grade: sehr gut


British culture 1970-… (Worksheet2)

1) Why was there a slight, but perceptible rise in the birth rate at the start of 1975? Speculate.

After World War II there was an increase in the birth rate. A generation later (about 20 years later) this part of the population was of a fertile and childbearing age. That’s the reason why more people were having children and the birth rate was again higher.

2) Which 5 reasons are offered for persistent economic failure in the 1970s?

- Mining, shipbuilding, steel production and motor vehicle manufacture were declining over a long period of time
- The heavy industries were no longer so competitive worldwide.
- The trade unions refused to comply to industrial change.
- The management was only used to planning over short periods.
- There was a rather high inflation rate.
- There were the consequences of the oil crisis in the mid-1970s.1

3) Discuss the implications of the title of Germaine Greer’s seminal text of 1970.

Germaine Greer is Australian but has spent the bulk of her life in England.

In the 1970’s the women’s movement took on an increasingly political character. At that time Germaine Greer wrote her book “The Female Eunuch” which “has become the seminal work of second-wave feminism….”2. A eunuch is a castrated man who had parts of his sex organs removed. In the title Germaine Greer speaks of a female eunuch. I think she refers to female sexuality and the fact that women’s sexuality had been denied for centuries. She encourages women to dare to live out their sexuality and not to live like “Eunuchs”.3

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Germaine Greer

4) Distinguish between types of feminism in the 1970s

At the beginning of the 1970s feminists are splintering up into two groups. On the one hand there are the radical feminists who are based on lesbian relationships and on the other hand there are the more moderate feminists who believe that equality of women does not necessarily exclude living in a family and having relationships with men.4

5) Sam Fox was a “page 3 girl”. Explain

A page three girl is “a young and attractive woman, usually with large breasts, whose photograph appears on the third page of the Sun.”5

At the age of 16 Samantha Fox was discovered by “The Sun” a tabloid daily newspaper which often has a photograph of a bare breasted woman on page three. Sam Fox became one of the 80s most photographed female acts. A look at the enclosed picture can only back up the opinion that Samantha Fox (born in 1966) was a “page 3 girl”.

Later the top model began her career as a singer and released her first single “Touch Me” in 1986.6

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6) Explain why “punk” fashion became the rage in the mid/late 70s

A consequence of the economic depression was a lot of unemployment especially in working-class areas. Especially young people could not find any jobs. That caused a lot of social dissatisfaction and a rise in violent and criminal activities. There were a lot of acts of vandalism and other kinds of hostility and especially young people in less respected regions got the impression of having been let down without any hope and prospect of a better future.

The punks are a group of those “No future” generation. They have a philosophy of fatalism and show their disgust with society by their special outfit. The main colour of punk-fashion is black. Punks wear stovepipe trousers with safety pins, chains and belts. Especially their strange way of styling their hair which is often brightly coloured is a sign of their rebellion against society and all authorities.7

7) Interpret Mrs Thatcher’s version of St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer. How does it relate to social, political and economic realities in 1979? In 1974 Margaret Hilda Thatcher became leader of the Conservatives and in 1978 she won the elections. Opening the period Thatcher quoted St. Francis of Assisi promising harmony instead of discord, truth instead of error, faith instead of doubt and hope instead of despair.

The political and economic situation of Britain was very difficult at that time and the state was in an economic malaise which was aggravated by the oilprice rise in 1979. There was severe recession and a high unemployment rate. All this lead to political and social unrest and there were various riots especially in industrial towns like Liverpool. In addition to this the situation in Northern Ireland became more critical.

Margaret Thatcher wanted to solve the problem by applying the principles of the free market and by reducing the role of the Government concerning economy. Her government brought about the end of the Welfare State established in the years after World War II. More and more provisions were reduced.

All these are measures that do not harmonize with the philosophy of the medieval Saint, on the contrary they are reasons for nicknaming Margaret Thatcher “the Iron Lady”. Although the Falklands War increased Margaret Thatcher’s popularity in her own country it is not in accord to the harmony being promised in her speech. That’s why I think that Margaret Thatcher misused this saint as a political tool and misquoted this famous prayer.8

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8) Define the economic principles of “Thatcherism”

One of the main economic principles of Thatcherism was Monetarism which brought about the firm control of public spending. Another important characteristic of Thatcherism is the importance of the capitalist principles of free market and free enterprise. Now a period of privatisation began. Services like telecommunication, gas, electricity, public transport and steel were privatised. Even parts of the health system were taken charge of by private providers.

Taxes became lower so that inflation could be reduced but the price was a drastic increase of unemployment.9

9) For which reasons were there serious riots in cities around Britain in the mid 1980s?

The consequence of Thatcherism was a sharp North-south divide and an alarming increase of poverty on the one hand whereas on the other hand a certain number of rich became richer and richer.

A lot of enterprises which were economically not worthwhile had to be closed which made a lot of people lose their jobs. On the other side public spendings - social assistance for those in misery- were reduced which led to an increase in poverty. As a consequence the number of crimes such as thefts, burglaries and vandalism became higher and higher and in certain areas football hooligans caused a lot of problems. In addition to this many working-class people were frustrated because the government tried to break the power of the trade unions. And in regions which were economically devastated, even open riots broke out (London, Bristol, Liverpool, Nottingham).10

10) Which factors caused the financial sector to boom after 1986?

When the government had removed restrictions on money-lending and dealing in shares, the financial sector began to boom. In addition to this North Sea oil was found. Especially the better educated people and people on higher social levels could profit from these new economic trends.11

11) What were the social “downsides” of such a boom?

Unskilled workers were now no longer able to get manual work and especially the women were offered low-paid part-time jobs in which they had to renounce to pensions and union benefits.12

12) Which changes in the Labour Party are observable in the early/mid 1990s?

The Labour Party was divided until the leadership of Neil Kinnock when it became less militant and less left-winged and it replaced its symbol- the red flag- by a red rose. It was no longer the Party’s main aim to fight for stronger unions and to defend state ownership of the main industries.13

13) In which ways has the New Labour Government tended to direct action? After their election victory under the leadership of Tony Blair the Labour Government introduced a devolution of power to Scotland, furthered regional autonomy for Wales and made a peace treaty with Northern Ireland.14

14) How have the Royal Family changed since the death of Diana in August 1997?

The Royal Family have renounced a lot of formality and protocol and have tried to get into closer contact with the population in order to regain their previous popularity.15

15) In which ways has the loss of confidence in science been shown?

Scientists report on new diseases, such as CJD, which cannot be defeated or cured and they talk about the dangers of the ever increasing pollution of our world and demand measures to protect the environment and they warn of global warming and further exploitation of our natural resources. But there is little hope that the necessary measures will be taken in time.16

16) Discuss critically the author’s assessment of the “post-feminist” era in Britain.

The author’s opinion is that in spite of all efforts the women’s movement has made there are a lot of British institutions which are still male-dominated and that in many domains women have not been able to achieve real equality even today. He states examples like the government where the number of female members does not even make up a quarter of the total amount ministers. At the High Court the proportion of female and male judges is even worse. Only 1 in 80 posts is held by a woman. The Church of England still does not allow women to become bishops, deacons or even priests.

Not even 10 per cent of the business world is in women’s hands and less than three per cent of professors at Oxford and Cambridge are women. The majority of women in top positions are white and middle-class university graduates and they still earn twenty per cent less than their male colleagues. The post-feminists cared more for social issues than for economic ones. They fought for correctness in language and behaviour, sexual harassment and male violence.

17) Account for the multi-cultural aspect of Britain in the late 1990s.

Only 6 per cent of the population assigned themselves as belonging to a “non- white group”. Although half of them were born in Britain they have problems to integrate fully into British society although their way of life is not any longer comparable to the lifestyle in their original home countries. These people stay in the same urban areas as in the 1950 and 1960s so that the share of non-white people there is much higher than in other regions.17

18) How, since 1997, are the arts organised by government?

The newly elected government of 1997 created the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which is responsible for museums and galleries. Besides this there are Arts Councils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the regulation of the film industry, broadcasting and the press.18

19) Offer examples of “New Realism” in film and the visual arts.

A lot of “reality” programmes are broadcasted on television which show the spectator authentic life scenes from different settings such as cruise ships, airlines, model agencies, animal hospitals etc.19

New Realism or Naturalism

In the 1990s the political background was changing and films became less overtly political. In the new films normal people are shown in various different situations of life.

Representatives of this stream are:

I) Mike Leigh

He was born in 1943 in Salford, Manchester. First he wanted to become an actor and therefore he trained at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. But later he was more attracted by writing and directing. He is one of the most renowned contemporary directors and his feature films have won a lot of awards.

In his film he has “depicted the open (superficially) uneventful lives of ordinary people.”20

His films describe the dramas which occur in his characters’ everyday lives. He develops his stoies in a quite unusual way. “He comes up with a general situation, finds actors to people it, and together with camera operators, production designers, and other crew members, they all basically write the script.”21

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He directed the following film:

(1) Bleak Moments (1971)22

The central figure of the film is Sylvia, a lonely clerk. She lives in a south London suburb together with her mentally disabled sister, Hilda. The secretary begins to see Peter, an uptight schoolteacher with whom she can spend moments of happiness. One day Norman, a hippie playing the guitar, rents Sylvia’s garage. Hilda is fascinated by Norman playing his guitar.

One night Peter and Sylvia go out to a Chinese restaurant. Sylvia’s workmate, Pat, cares for Hilda. But the evening turns out to be a painful experience and therefore Sylvia looks for some consolation with Norman. But he leaves the garage and departs to a West End folk club. Now the two sisters are left alone once again and must combat their boredom and loneliness. The characters all feel a desperate need to communicate but they are tongue-tied and can’t find the words and the courage. So they are all somehow handicapped such as Hilda is.

The film describes scenes of daily existence with the background of a repressive social and political society.23

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(2) Abigail’s Party (1977)24

It’s about a dinner party which is organized by Berverly, a middle-class Londoner.

She is married to Laurence and invites their new neighbours Angela, a nurse, and her husband Tony, a computer programmer and Susan, a divorced single mother who has a 15-year-old daughter, Abigail. She is having her own party.

The guests talk about their work, their family-life, and how they met their partners. When alcohol takes effect, Beverly and Tony start dancing slowly and tightly. Laurence gets enraged and furious and suddenly falls to the ground. The party is brutally interrupted by his heart attack.

The film is a satire about consumerism of middle-class.25

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(3) High Hopes (1988)26

The story is about Cyril, a 35-year-old motorbike courier and his girlfriend Shirley, who are living in a small flat. They are both working class.

They are looking after Cyril’s aging mother, who lives in the last councilowned house on a gentrified street. Her next-door neighbours are an upperclass couple. Cyril’s sister, Valerie, is married to Martin, who sells used car and who is middle-class.

This comedy shows the conditions of England in the late 1980s, a time of deep pessimism especially among left-wing British intellectuals and it criticises the British class system by comparing lives of characters of different social levels.

“High Hopes is not just an indictment of Thatcher-engendered inequity; it is also a survival primer for those who have lost faith in the Left’s traditional grand solutions yet refused…”27.28


1 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction. Routledge, London, 1999, p. 9f.


3 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 42 pictures:

4 Cf. ibid, p. 10f.

5 Cf. Dictionary of English Language and Culture. Longman Group UK, Essex, 1992, p. 951

6 Cf. and and ch&tbnid=C6ISkCyt8- HcM:&imgrefurl= mgurl= 280621.jpg&w=250&h=260&ei=xwBNT_L6D8yGswaO0uHIDw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=505&vpy=329& dur=182&hovh=137&hovw=132&tx=97&ty=98&sig=107529498889384107702&page=1&tbnh=137&tbnw =132&start=0&ndsp=56&ved=1t:429,r:2,s:0 picture: and 1qw7v.html

7 Cf:

8 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 11f. picture: and

9 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 12f.

10 Cf. ibid, p. 13

11 Cf. ibid, p. 13

12 Cf. ibid, p. 13

13 Cf. ibid, p. 16f.

14 Cf. ibid, p. 17f.

15 Cf. ibid, p. 18 picture:,1,1716,00.html and queens-despair-over-charless-split-from-diana-and-love-for-camilla

16 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 18

17 Cf. ibid, p. 19

18 Cf. ibid, p. 19f.

19 Cf. ibid, p. 20

20 Cf. picture: and and ticker.html


22 picture: and

23 Cf. and Cf.

24 picture:

25 Cf.

26 picture: and


28 Cf.

Excerpt out of 34 pages


British Culture since 1945: Part II
University of Innsbruck  (Translationswissenschaften)
sehr gut
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British Culture;, Germaine Greer;, Seminal;, Female Eunuch;, feminism;, Sam Fox;, Samantha Fox;, Punk;, Mrs. Thatcher;, St. Francis of Assisi's prayer;, 1945;, Fifties;, Sixties;, Seventies;, economic realities;, Thatcherism;, riots;, Britain, Eighties;, financial sector;, boom;, 1986;, downsides;, Labour Party;, Neil Kinnock;, Tony Blair;, Lady Di;, Charles;, death;, CJD;, post-feminist era;, 90s;, multi-cultural aspect;, Department of Culture;, art;, New Realism;, visual arts;, Naturalism;, Mike Leigh;, Bleak Moments;, Abigail's Party;, High Hopes;, Life is Sweet;, Secrets and Lies;, Alan Parker;, Bugsy Malone;, Fame;, Pink Floyd;, The Wall;, Evita;, The Commitments;, Peter Cattaneo;, The Full Monty;, Mark Herman;, Brassed Off;, Peter Chelsom;, Hear my song;, Ken Loach;, Riff Raff;, Danny Boyle;, Shallow Grave;, Trainspotting;, John Boorman;, The General;
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MMag. Dr. Sabine Picout (Author), 2004, British Culture since 1945: Part II , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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