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To What Extent Was Britain a Divided Society at the Beginning of the Second World War?

  • Date Submitted: 11/25/2013 11:29 AM
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To what extent was Britain a divided society at the beginning of the Second World War?

After the First World War came to an end, Britain, as were many other countries, was in a rather fragile state. Unemployment was as high as 70% in some areas of the country and the British Empire was fast receding. Due to factors such as these the 1930’s have been referred to as ‘The Devil’s Decade’, insinuating hardship for everyone involved. However, I would argue that not everyone was having a hard time in Britain in the 1930’s, in fact some were having a better time than ever, meaning Britain as a society was indeed divided.

The state of the British economy in the 1930’s was far from the best it had ever been. After the Great Depression of 1929 unemployment had risen in Britain, in some areas as high as 70%., “for almost twenty years there were never fewer than one million people unemployed in Britain” (1). This was due to the fact that there was many single-industry towns dotted around Britain (particularly in the north). This segregation contributed to the division of society in Britain as because these areas were often isolated, there was a lack of knowledge about these problems in upper class society. As Priestly put this “we do not know these districts” (2), it was often unknown to different sectors of society just how much the working class struggled. Priestly (2) also talks of his experiences meeting those who were lucky enough to have a job, and says that the wage was often “two pounds with luck”, which today equates to around £121 per week (3). This demonstrated the huge difference between wealth of classes in Britain in the 1930’s, which creates an obvious divide in society. To further matters, the existence of the welfare state and the bitterness created due to the ‘testing’ of people’s eligibility to receive government benefits widened the societal gap. It seems as though there was a sense of injustice amongst the poorer sectors of society, and quite rightly...


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