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BBC broadcasts during the Second World War

During the Second World War the BBC established many of its foreign services.

The ambiguity of Radio Londra, as the BBC was known in Italy, is clearly reflected in the broadcasts of the BBC Italian Service. The British station was both the voice of an occupier and a liberator of Italy from Nazi fascism. Despite this, the radio is mainly remembered as the authentic voice of anti-fascism and resistance.

By analysing, from a transnational perspective, archive material collected in Italy and the UK, this book aims to understand why the BBC programmes have become one of the myths of Italian cultural heritage of the Second World War. To what extent were the Italian exiles at the BBC independent from the government? How did the programmes engage with ordinary Italians, and how did Italian civilians receive them?

The book also investigates the role played by transnational broadcasts in offering ordinary people a window onto a foreign world, and the contribution of foreign refugees living in the UK to the war effort and the development of the BBC. The book claims that the Corporation did play an ambiguous role, but it was the reception of the programmes in Italy at the time that created the myth of the BBC as an authentic supporter of Italian anti-fascism. It also argues that one of the key reasons for the success of the Italian Service was its ability to engage with ordinary people and address their concerns during the difficult years of the war.


This book provides a detailed consideration of the history of racing in British culture and society, and explores the cultural world of racing during the interwar years. The book shows how racing gave pleasure even to the supposedly respectable middle classes and gave some working-class groups hope and consolation during economically difficult times. Regular attendance and increased spending on betting were found across class and generation, and women too were keen participants. Enjoyed by the royal family and controlled by the Jockey Club and National Hunt Committee, racing's visible emphasis on rank and status helped defend hierarchy and gentlemanly amateurism, and provided support for more conservative British attitudes. The mass media provided a cumulative cultural validation of racing, helping define national and regional identity, and encouraging the affluent consumption of sporting experience and a frank enjoyment of betting. The broader cultural approach of the first half of the book is followed by an exploration if the internal culture of racing itself.

A social history

Darts offered an opportunity to make the English pub appear more respectable. This book examines the development of darts in the context of English society in the early twentieth century. It reveals how darts was transformed during the interwar years to become a popular recreation in England, not just amongst working class men and, to a lesser extent, working class women but even (to some extent) among the middle and upper classes. The book also considers the growth of the darts manufacturing industry and assesses the overall effect the growing popularity of darts had on interwar society and popular culture, with particular reference to the changing culture and form of the English public house. After reconstructing the origins of darts in England, it attempts to eradicate myths and fabrications which have until now distorted the history of the game. The book also examines the inter-war English public house in the context of the expansion of mass leisure. It reveals the threats to the brewing industry from new leisure choices and groups pressing for the improvement or alternatively the total banishment of the public house. The book also identifies the organisations, such as the National Darts Association (NDA), which developed darts as a new form of mass leisure. From small beginnings as part of the toy and fancy goods industry of the mid-to-late Victorian period, the book traces the emergence of the dartboards and related products. Finally, it examines darts as a cultural phenomenon of the 1930s.


Far from a trivial topic, the post-war train spotting craze swept most boys and some girls into a passion for railways, and for many, ignited a lifetime's interest. This book traces this post-war cohort, and those which followed, as they invigorated different sectors in the world of railway enthusiasm. Today Britain's now-huge preserved railway industry finds itself driven by tensions between preserving a loved past which ever fewer people can remember and earning money from tourist visitors. It was Hamilton Ellis and Philip Unwin who were the joint pioneers of the 'Railway Book Mania' which ran from 1947 to the dwindling of popular and mid-depth railway history writing in the 1970s. British railway enthusiasts suffer from an image problem. Standing forlorn on station platforms, train spotters are butts for every stand-up comic's jokes. Like some other collectors, train spotters collect ephemera: locomotive numbers are signs unconnected to any marketable commodity. Train spotting had its own rich culture. As British railways declined from their Edwardian peak, enthusiasts' structure of feeling shifted steadily from celebrating novelty to mourning loss. Always a good hater as well as a skilled engineer, more than seventy years ago Curly Lawrence identified issues which still bounce around modelling sections of the British railway fancy. The book discusses toy trains, model engineering and railway modelling. British railway enthusiasm remains a remarkably varied activity today, articulated through attachment (of whatever kind) to prototype railways' life-world.

Leisure, the young working class and urban space in Britain, c. 1870–1939

In neighbourhoods and public spaces across Britain, young working people walked out together, congregated in the streets, and paraded up and down on the ‘monkey parades’. This book explores these sites of leisure and courtship – the streets, public and neighbourhood spaces of towns and cities across Britain – telling the story of young people and developing youth cultures from the perspective of their spatial occupation and behaviours. It argues that the beginnings of a distinct youth culture can be traced to the late nineteenth century, and that the street and neighbourhood provided its forum. The book draws together the actions of adults with the experiences of young people from the later years of the nineteenth century through to the interwar period, considering the continuities in young people’s leisure lives and reflecting on the development of an increasingly conspicuous youth culture that became more clearly linked to commercial leisure opportunities. Drawing on an extensive range of sources, from newspapers and institutional records to oral histories and autobiography, the book enriches our understanding of young working people by narrowing the focus on their spaces and sites of social interaction, and argues that exploring the relationship between the young working class and urban space allows for a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the lives of young people.

Dance floor encounters and the global rise of couple dancing, c. 1910–40
Authors: and

Worlds of social dancing explores the huge growth of couple dancing in commercial venues across the globe as a major trend in the history of popular culture in the era of the two World Wars. Looking out for the appearance of modern steps around the geographical world, it also shines a light on the social world of dancing, where conventions that were specific to this realm shaped the conduct of its population. It considers how significant these ‘worlds of dancing’ were for class, gender, race and inter-generational relations, for personal relationships and social interactions. In case studies from Buenos Aires to Tokyo, from Manchester to Johannesburg and from Chelyabinsk to Auckland, the anthology also examines how dance cultures spread around the world and analyses their local adaptations. Finally, the volume asks how, and with what consequences, the mass culture of radio and film affected social dancing as an institution in various parts of the globe.

Class, gender, and nation in popular film and fiction in interwar Britain

Popular culture became a crucial aspect of the rising consumer society in the interwar Britain. Romantic exchanges and happy endings were a defining trait of bestselling novels and popular films in 1920s and 1930s Britain. This book ties contemporary concerns about ex-soldiers, profiteers, and working and voting women to the heroes, villains and love-interests that occur in several films and novels. It addresses the role of the hero as a character who embodies traits collectively valued by readers and the audience. In books and films like Sorrell and Son, the pre-war masculine role model was re-established as patriotic soldier, breadwinner and pater familias. The male villain is the opposite of this value set, and in works such as Bulldog Drummond, he is concerned with profit and the undermining of the national economy and social well-being. The female love-interest often occupied a fairly dynamic role in bestselling novels and hit films. Women in A Star Is Born and Queen Christina are shown as giving up their careers for love and forsaking wealth and power for love. Villainesses, by contrast, seek wealth, status and power at all costs. Censorship of films by the British Board of Film Censors and of literature by the Home Office in interwar Britain contributed to the construction of a popular narrative formula. Censorship aimed to produce an idealised vision of man's and woman's place within the economy and nation. The troubles of the real world were not to have a significant place in film or fiction.

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Advertising, affluence and transatlantic relations, c. 1951–69

Advertising agencies were important conduits through which the norms of American consumption travelled eastwards across the Atlantic. This book explores the institutional developments in British advertising and the wider shape of the market for advertising services in the 1950s and 1960s. It details the growing internationalism of the advertising industry in Britain, including the increased presence of US-owned agencies in London and deals with the concern with the apparent 'Americanization'of British commerce. Considering its relationship with its parent company, the book explores the dynamics of Anglo-American advertising relations within the J Walter Thompson (JWT) company. It looks at the uses and development of market research within JWT London and allied companies, and examines the techniques that were used to generate ways of understanding the 'mass housewife'. It was the legacy of British documentary film making which helped to give a distinctive British character and feel to many of the early TV commercials produced in the 1950s and 1960s. The book explores the ways in which TV advertising focused on commercials which promoted washing powders, washing machines and convenience foods. It considers the reception of advertising by cultural critics and by those concerned with the broader governance of commercial life and consumption. The advertising people offered a positive and spirited defence of the role they performed and the pleasures of mass consumption in the age of affluence. For critics, advertising was seen as a harbinger of American 'hard sell' techniques of salesmanship within British business.

Life changes in England since 1700

This book provides the first history of how we have imagined and used time since 1700. It traces the history of the relationship between work and leisure, from the 'leisure preference' of male workers in the eighteenth century, through the increase in working hours in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to their progressive decline from 1830 to 1970. It examines how trade union action was critical in achieving the decline; how class structured the experience of leisure; how male identity was shaped by both work and leisure; how, in a society that placed high value on work, a 'leisured class' was nevertheless at the apex of political and social power – until it became thought of as 'the idle rich'. Coinciding with the decline in working hours, two further tranches of time were marked out as properly without work: childhood and retirement.

By the mid-twentieth century married men had achieved a work- leisure balance. In the 1960s and 1970s it was argued that leisure time would increase at a rapid rate. This false prediction coincided with the entry of married women into the labour market and a halt to the decline in working hours and in sectors of the economy a reversal of it. These two developments radically changed the experience of time and thinking about it. Time became equated with achieving a 'work-life balance' where 'life' was often unpaid childcare and domestic work.


This is the first book about women’s advance into the man’s world of pub, club and beerhouse that examines drinking habits covering a century and more. Currently, historians view enduring changes in women’s drinking habits as a product of the last half of the twentieth century. Our present understanding of women’s drinking in the first half of the century is based on uncertain assumptions and limited statistical evidence. Scholars have ignored critical differences between pubs and beerhouses which shaped drinking habits. In estimating the proportion of women frequenting interwar licensed premises, scholars rely heavily on statistics from York, Bolton and London without scrutinizing their validity. Overlooking the lounge, a gender-neutral room introduced into interwar improved pubs, likewise creates misunderstanding. Women first began entering drink premises during World War I, and Progressive brewers protected and enlarged their numbers building or rebuilding reformed pubs with wider amenities, interiors without partitions and the lounge as a separate room. New drinking norms reinforced the image of middle-class restraint and respectability. Wine bars targeting professional women appeared from the mid-1970s, but women remained uninterested in drinking beer or frequenting pubs save for the decade from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s. Domestic drinking, already popular, soared from 1990 and reached nearly half of total sales. Women’s public drinking habits were revolutionized in the last quarter of the twentieth century. Female-friendly chains, style bars, clubs and wine bars gave women greater choices than traditional masculine boozers, which steadily contracted in numbers. Wine selections widened, notably from the New World, food became common and gay bars multiplied.