Unemployment and the state in Britain

The means test and protest in 1930s south Wales and north-east England

Stephanie Ward
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Unemployment and the State in Britain offers an important and original contribution to understandings of the 1930s. This is the first full-length study of the highly controversial household means test introduced by the National Government in 1931. The means test was often at the centre of public and private debates about unemployment, and it generated the largest examples of street protests in the interwar period. The book examines the construction of the image of the means test and claims that it worsened the position of the long-term unemployed. The idea that the test led families to separate, malnutrition and ill health to increase and suicide rates to escalate ensured its lasting significance politically and culturally. How the unemployed responded to the measure and the wider impact of collective action is a central theme of this book. Through a comparative case study of south Wales and the north-east of England the nature of protest movements, the identity of the unemployed and the wider relationship between the working class, local authorities, the police and the government is explored. Based upon extensive primary research, this study will appeal to students and scholars of the depression, social movements, studies of the unemployed, social policy and interwar British society.

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