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British Culture since 1945: Part I

Seminar Paper 2004 20 Pages

Didactics - English - Applied Geography

Excerpt

British Culture - An Introduction (David Christopher, Routledge 1999)Worksheet 1

I) Identify 6 aims of the book:

a) to give an outline of the main tendencies and movements ofBritish culture (about important people, places and events)
b) to make clear that culture changes continually and to showcertain developments
c) to offer the historical background (which influences culturalphenomena)
d) to show the influences of the breaking up of the British Empireand the feminist movement on cultural life (fundamental changesto the position of women in society and their relation with menbrought about by the second wave of the feminist movement)
e) for British readers: to try and recall to mind certain trends (the experience needed to percept certain tendencies gets lost becauseof the media such as television with its continual flow ofimages…) for readers outside Britain: to give possibilities to compare their culture to British culture
f) to develop study skills (by giving hints for further readingmaterial…)

so that students can do more research on different issues corresponding to their needs and interests.1

Which other aims of the course can you envisage?

- to improve the students’ vocabulary on cultural topics
- to improve their understanding of different films or plays
- to enable proper criticism and to write reviews in suitable words
- to get the necessary cultural background so as to be able to associateit with hints in certain texts,...

II) In which practical ways can you access information and comment on theArts in Britain today?

By reading books, looking up facts in encyclopaedias (e.g.

Encyclopaedia Britannica), modern dictionaries, reference texts,newspapers and magazines (e.g. Guardian, Independent, Observer,Telegraph, The Times…) and journals which are published three orfour times a year.

By using photocopies of old newspapers and scripts from plays.

By employing literary and pictorial sources

By analysing statistical information about social trends, e.g. the Annual Abstract of Statistics

By listening to certain radio programmes

By watching suitable TV programmes and films and DVD’s And by using the internet2

III) The Social and Cultural Context:

Explain the post-war impact in Britain of:

- ethnicity: after World War II, there were a lot of low-paid vacancieswhich had to be filled. Therefore they were offered to otherCommonwealth citizens such as people from West Indies, India,Pakistan, Africa and Hong Kong who were all offered the right ofpermanent residence. This was the beginning of an enormousmigration lasting from 1950s to the 1960s. Especially poorerregions, such as London’s East End, were flooded by enormousnumbers of people with different culture which led to a lot of racialconflicts and even riots, such as in London’s Notting Hill in 1958.

- feminism: during the war many women had to do jobs that men usedto do before. After the war they were expected to take over theirtraditional women’s roles as housewives and mothers. There was asharp increase in birth rate and a huge number of large families. Onthe other hand divorce rate increased and women became more andmore dissatisfied with their traditional roles and wanted to get intoworking life although many of them were only offered low-paid orpart-time jobs.

A large number of women demanding personal and economic

independence and freedom organized women’s movements to fightfor their rights. Thus legislation could be changed, the Abortion Act,the Family Planning Act and the Divorce Reform Act passed. The

“Sex Discrimination Act“ of 1975 was passed to bring about equality of men and women in various areas of life

- Youth: The “baby boom” after World War II caused a sharp

dropping of the average age. Society became younger there were alot of people between the ages of thirteen and twenty-five. With thegrowing economic wealth even young people were able to achievetheir financial independence much sooner than in earlier years.Business realized a huge sales potential in this group of the societyand even different fields of the art world adapted their creations tothe needs and demands of the new generation. (A new kind ofmusic, films…was made). On the other hand juvenile criminality and violence and various social problems of those young people who were not able participate in all the advantages of modernizing life could be noticed and manifested itself in different artisticcreations and works.3

IV) Why is 1979 a radical turning-point in arts subsidy?

Up to the late 70s governments gave money to support new styles of expression and thus promoted the work of artists.

1979 is a turning-point because in this year there was a change in politicallife (the Conservatives won the elections). The new government cut statesubsidies and demanded that arts should work on the principle of freeenterprise.

The benefits for arts were replaced by a “culture” of individualism. Under the conservative government culture was treated like private enterprises and the values of the market-place were applied.4

1945 - 1970

1) What did the 1951 Festival of Britain mark?

1951 was the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851 (in London’s Hyde Park). This event should be commemorated by organizing a Festival ofBritain with parties, parades, speeches. The optimism marks the modestbeginnings of a decade in which crime rates were lower, production rose and consumerism increased. It was the period of new prosperity (ordinary people discovered cars, fashion, foreign holidays…).

It showed Britain’s economic growth: the high level of demand for manuallabour in lowly paid areas of work (transport, health and catering…).There was labour shortage and the British municipal authorities offered jobsto commonwealth citizens in the West Indies, India, Pakistan, Africa, HongKong5.

2) Explain the roots of Reggae in Britain.

“Reggae is a kind of popular music from the West Indies with a strong regular beat, which developed in Jamaica in the 1960s. The songs often have apolitical message or are about Rastafrarianism”6.

Reggae is a slow and smooth dance music coming from Jamaica and the USA which then became more and more popular in England.

One of the best known Reggae musicians is the Jamaican Bob Marley.

Later this type of music caught on among the skinheads and went down well with them. 7

3) Which image of London’s Notting Hill is offered in the film of the samename?

Notting Hill is a West London suburb which was chosen as setting for the comedy “Notting Hill” written by Richard Curtis, who himself is also a resident of this area .

The writer states, “Notting Hill is an extraordinary mixture of cultures. It is rich and poor and Portuguese and Jamaican and English, and it seemed like a proper and realistic place where two people from different worlds couldactually meet and co-exist.8

There are a great number of locations from Notting Hill which is shown in the film and thus the real atmosphere of this populated area especially Portobello Road with its bookshop could be reproduced.9

[...]


1 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction. Routledge, London, 1999, p. XIIf.

2 Cf. ibid, p. XIIIff

3 Cf. ibid, p. 2ff

4 Cf. ibid, p. 11ff

5 Cf. ibid, p. 2, p. 182 and p. 160pictures: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/leisure_heritage/libraries_archives_museums_galleries/Ima/galleries/images/fest01.I.jpg (23/01/04)

http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/leisure_heritage/libraries_archives_museums_galleries/Ima/galleries/images/fest18.I.jpg (23/01/04)

http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/leisure_heritage/libraries_archives_museums_galleries/Ima/galleries/images/fest06.I.jpg (23/01/04)

6 Dictionary of English Language and Culture. Longman Group UK, Essex, 1992, p. 1105

7 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 141

8 http://www.notting-hill.com/behindsecenes/location.html. 10.01.04

9 Cf. Christopher, David: British culture. An introduction, p. 3pictures:

http://www.tvguide.com/movies/database/showmovie.asp?MI=40722http://www.notting-hill.com/behindscenes/location.htmlhttp://www.iofilm.co.uk/fm/n/notting_hill_1999.shtml

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