I am fascinated by the 1930s as I’ve been going through many family letters, documents and photographs to learn more about the lives of my grandparents when they were young (my grandmother is at the bottom of the photo above enjoying a day at the beach in the early thirties when she was in her early twenties).
Whilst researching books written about the period I came across the fantastic The Thirties: an intimate history by Juliet Gardiner. It is a beast of a book, well over 500 pages packed full of fascinating facts and figures as well as personal stories about what life was like in 1930s Britain. It shows just what an interesting decade this was. It was when the country transitioned from an old order, saw huge social shifts, and when many of the things we take for granted today – the car, the radio, the cinema for instance – became mainstream for the burgeoning new middle class.
What I found particularly interesting about the book was the way it mixed economic, political and social history, with small details of everyday life sitting easily alongside chapters dealing with major themes such as the continuing impact of the first world war on society.
Highlights for me were an excellent account of unemployment in the depression and the history of the Labour movement of the period, a reminder that a frequent sight would have been seeing injured ex-servicemen from the first world war on the streets, the growth of domestic appliances and consumer goods, the hunger experienced by many, the appearance of tractors on farms, changing fashions, the growth of department and chain stores, the effect of paid holidays, and of course the mighty Arsenal of the 1930s.
My sister is a big fan of the 1930s so I’ve just bought her this for her birthday and hope she enjoys it as much as I did.