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Historical Background

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1 Historical Background
1930’s and 1950’s Created by L McCarry

2 Historical background to 30’s and 50’s
This presentation is to give you some basic information on the time that two of the main plays you will study are set. These are only ‘starter’ notes as you will explore these time periods in more detail in your ‘Research task.’ It is important to have a knowledge of life in the 30’s – the setting of Men Should Weep and in the 50’s – the setting of ‘The Steamie.’ This will help you to fully and accurately justify any points you will make when writing essays. Created by L McCarry

3 The 1930’s Lloyd George introduced the old age pension in 1908 it was 5 shillings a week at 70 years old. He taxed the rich to pay for this and had to battle to get his budget through the House of Lords. There was a world economic crisis in This followed the American slump in 1929 (the stock market crashed.) These crises followed on from payments due in the aftermath of World War One. As a trading nation Britain was very dependant on trade abroad and was hit hard by the international financial squeeze. Wages and unemployment benefit were cut. Created by L McCarry

4 The 1930’s Life in the thirties was a grim struggle for the long term unemployed. For those in work it was actually alright because there was deflation, as opposed inflation (prices went down instead of up.) It was not possible to be properly housed and fed on unemployment benefit. In a typical (long unemployed) family, the family had nothing but bread, margarine and tea, with condensed milk, for breakfast and dinner. They would go to bed early so as not to feel as hungry. Created by L McCarry

5 The 1930’s Men Should Weep paints a fairly typical picture of its time; slum housing, overcrowding and the spread of disease. Most families lived in very cramped conditions with whole families living in one room – ‘single end’ or a ‘room and a kitchen.’ Maggie has a ‘two room and a kitchen,’ which was still cramped for the ten people living there. Two adults and three small children would sleep in one ‘set-in bed’ (that is fixed in the bed recess or alcove,) and perhaps another two or three on a mattress on the floor or a pull out bed under the set-in bed. Under the bed was usually a trunk to keep clothes in. Created by L McCarry

6 The 1930’s Heating and cooking was done on a ‘range,’ fuelled by coal.
There would also be a sink with cold water only. In order to bathe water had to be boiled up on the ‘range’ and a tin bath filled. That happened once a week!    Water was easily contaminated, carrying diseases. Washing was done in the communal wash- house (an outbuilding in the back court or the yard) or by visiting a Steamie. Created by L McCarry

7 The 1930’s Toilets were communal – one on each landing which could be shared by as many as forty people. Some shared out door privies. With so many people there was no privacy. Living, sleeping, cooking, eating, washing and dressing all had to be done in one room. The overcrowding meant that disease was easily spread. The biggest killer was Tuberculosis. Little could be done to treat T.B, most people were sent to a Sanatorium in the country in the hope that the fresh air would help. Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria and Polio were also common. One of the most common sights was a child with Rickets – bowly legs – caused by a lack of Vitamin D. Created by L McCarry

8 The 1930’s There were open sewers in the middle of the street and rubbish was left piling up. The rivers and air were polluted with waste from factories and houses. Large families were the norm. Women did not have access to contraception and were constantly tired having to cope with pregnancy, rearing children and the constant struggle to keep the house clean and the family fed. Doctors had to be paid for and so a doctor wasn’t called unless you were very ill. Charitable institutions would take in a sick child, but often no contact was allowed with the child’s parents. Many families put ‘surplus’ children up for adoption or into homes and orphanages. Clothes were usually hand-me-downs. The ‘Parish’ would issue clothes to the very needy and these were always marked as Parish clothes. Created by L McCarry

9 The 1950’s Created by L McCarry

10 The 1950’s Britain was still trying to recover from the effects of World War Two. The only investment taking place in the war years was on arms and defence installations, nothing on housing, health and education. The country still bore the scars of war. There was still food rationing at the start of the decade and petrol rationing until 1950. During the War (as had been the case in WW1) women were given jobs usually done by men, but after the war the women returned to their more ‘domesticated’ roles. There was a huge post-war baby boom, which would increase the demand for health, education and housing. Created by L McCarry

11 The 1950’s New homes were badly needed due to overcrowding. A third of British households, at the time of the 1951 census, did not have a proper bathroom and one in twenty households did not even have running water. There was a public expectation that housing conditions would improve particularly for the working classes. Post-war the policy began of housing people in huge housing schemes. In the 1940’s work began in Barlanark. A development at Drumchapel was originally planned in 1939, but because of the outbreak of WW2, work did not begin until 1951. It was planned that Drumchapel would be a ‘self-contained township of ultimately 30,000 persons’ a small town within the city boundary. It would have its own town centre, day-to-day shops among the houses and complete communal services and amenities, such as Churches, Schools, Baths and Libraries. Created by L McCarry

12 The 1950’s A Labour government were in power from 1945 (end of the war) until Conservative were then in power for 13 years. There was full employment; in fact there was a shortage of workers to fill jobs. This led to large-scale immigration to Britain. There was a political agreement that housing was a priority, so people could look forward to a steady income and new housing. It was a decade of huge change – it saw the spread of the car and television. At the start of the 1950s, most people travelled by public transport. Car ownership was nothing like it is now. Steel shortages affected overall production of cars and a higher proportion of cars had to be sold abroad to help bring money into the country. Created by L McCarry

13 Historical background to the 30’s and 50’s
On the next slide is a group task. This will help you to take a social issue and research this in the time setting of the plays. Created by L McCarry

14 Historical background to the 30’s and 50’s Tasks
In groups you will each be given a social issue; you should research as much as you can about this issue in the 30’s AND 50’s and prepare an interesting presentation for your peers. You need to include notes on the social issue and use images to help your peers to understand life in the 30’s and 50’s. You may also want to highlight if the social issue has changed or improved over that time period. You should also link to the play, to start to make connections between the social issue and how it affects the characters in The Steamie and Men Should Weep. Created by L McCarry

15 Historical background to the 30’s and 50’s Tasks
The choice of social issues are: 1. Housing and Living conditions 2. Community and Disintegration 3. Work and Unemployment 4. The Depression/Poverty 5. Health 6. The role of women and the role of men in society 7. Education Created by L McCarry

16 Good Luck! Created by L McCarry

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