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History of England in the first half of 1900

the Edwardians (english society in transition)

Socially, Edwardian and Victorian England were similar. Class distinctions were defined and preserved, there were inequalities of wealth and signs of revolt. Road transport were ran through by horses, fashion showed little variations. About six million inhabitants (landowners, bankers, industrialists) were members of upper and upper middle classes. Four million people (less successful business men, shopkeepers, most of professional men) were members of lower middle classes. In 1911, 66 per cent of national income were granted by upper and middle classes, 33% were granted indeed by 39 million people of working classes. Most of people were in a serious poverty, were unable to provide essential goods for their families. In E.P. popular newspapers were published. Universal education created a great reading public, who could not pay “The Times” or “Daily Telegraph” or was not interested in politics. The “Daily Mail” was published in 1896. It cost only a halfpenny and had a novel style of journalism. It had short articles, a simple vocabulary, an attractive lay-out. Its aim was to entertain and to inform, talking about crime, sport, sensation as well as politic. In London the underground railway was electrified and extended after 1905: so working-class people could be transported cheaply to work in the town Centre.

between the wars (English society in the 1920s e 1930s)

Britain returned to Edwardian stability after the war. There were technological developments and population grew, but slowly than in the V.A. because of the use of birth-control practices. In 1900, families of between 6 and 10 children were common, in 1930 the average was 2. The death-rate was stopped by the development of medicine and hygiene. People went to south from north because heavy industry in the north declined, and light industry in south grew. Managers and professional people moved from the centers of towns to suburbs and dormitory towns. Many working-class families went to live in new estates on the edges of towns. In social contest, men who had profits out of the war, became members of upper class. The number of clerical workers and professional men grew as a result of the new industrial process and of the expansion of individual firms. Families of coal miners, shipbuilders and cotton operatives in the north of England, central Scotland and South Wales, were hit by economic depression. The terrible unemployment brought misery and poverty, but crime did not grow. The government built council houses with low rents for working-class families. The Fisher’s Education Act (1918) made obligatory education for children up to 14. Local authorities should help boys, new universities were founded and state scholarship allowed poor students to attend university.
By 1928, women could vote, had more working opportunities and could go to the university. By 1930, daily press had a boom in the sales. Serious newspapers maintained their quality and character, but new popular newspapers appeared. By 1920, newspapers, that were the only mass communication tool, were supplemented by radio (British Broadcasting Company). By 1920 cars like American Model T Ford substituted horse transport, but vehicles could be buy only by a wealthy minority. The commonest form of public transport was electric tram-car, gradually replaced by motor bus and trolley-bus. Trains were not used for long journey, and flying was regarded as a sport. By 1920, young people enjoyed themselves with hectic dancing and American jazz. Also cinema was for everyone, and the films were silent with a sentimental plot. Football was less appreciate than cricket.

the age of anxiety (the crisis of certainties)

By 1880, Victorian values declined, and the material gain implied spiritual loss. The FWW caused the death of a million of British soldiers and left people in a disillusioned and cynical mood. The gap between the younger and older generation grew: in fact older were considered responsible for the deaths in war. Frustration transformed the notions of Imperial hegemony and white superiority. Nothing, even science and religion, seemed to be right or certain. Scientists destroyed the old Victorian world and recreated a new vision of the man and of the Universe. Sigmund Freud, in his “The Interpretation of Dreams”, emphasized the power of the unconscious (irrational force) to affect behavior (man’s actions): this was very disturbing. Super-ego, that is the constraints imposed by society and moral-laws, can distort man’s behavior. The “libido”, manifested in Oedipus phase, had a great importance: child sees the father as a rival for his mother’s affections. So the relationship between parents and children was altered. The Freudian concept of infantile sexuality made childhood to regain a role it had only had in the pages of romantic Rousseau. The relationship between sexes was readjusted by the struggle of women to obtain right to vote. Freud investigated human minds through analysis of dreams and the concept of “free association”.
Carl Gustav Jung introduced the concept of “collective unconscious”, a cultural memory containing the universal myths and beliefs of the human race. Albert Einstein introduced “relativity” in science, conceiving time and space as subjective dimensions. So the world view lost its solidity. The idea of time was resumed also by James and Bergson.
Bergson distinguished historical time, which is eternal, linear and objective, measurable, and psychological time, internal and subjective. There was uncertainty to accept a common picture of Man: to Freud, he was a part of Nature, to Marx he was the outcome of social and economic forces. Friedrich Nietzsche declared that “God was dead” and believed in human power and perfectibility. So people tried to find alternatives to Christianity. English philosophers did not want to increase their knowledge but to rectify the knowledge possessed. Writers wanted to reaffirm the centrality of literature as a guide to the uncertainties of the age, whose key-words were isolation, alienation and anxiety.

revolt and experimentation (modern literature)

The FWW marked the departure of modern literature. The sense of doubt of V.A., continued at the start of 20th century and developed in a spirit of revolt and experimentation in all artistic fields. Most movements emphasized the break between past and present, but Eliot said that tradition and innovation were linked. The experimentation of the 1920s was not arbitrary. Writers and poets tried inspiration from classical and new cultures. Artists could remould past in a personal, orginal way. English literature was becoming cosmopolitan: most famous writers were the Americans living in England (Ezra
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