Historical Studies in Industrial Relations

The Second World War: Remaking the British Working Class?

Historical Studies in Industrial Relations (2021), 42, (1), 133–143.

Abstract

In the post-war years, to the 1970s, most historians’ verdict on the Second World War was abundantly clear: it represented a watershed in social and political relations, shifting Britain in a social-democratic and more egalitarian direction. In more recent years, this verdict has increasingly been called into question. Some historians began to judge the war’s results, especially in terms of the flattening of social and gender hierarchies, to have been considerably exaggerated. Geoffrey G. Field has produced a sizeable, detailed and well-produced work which reaffirms the judgements of the ‘war as dramatic watershed’ school. He synthesizes much of the work on British society and the working class in the Second World War, interspersed with analysis of the vast holdings of The National Archives, the Mass Observation Archive, as well as film and literary sources. This review focuses on industrial relations, particularly the arms industries: where unionization, collective bargaining and workplace union organization were transformed. Joint production committees, however, proved ephemeral.

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Author details

Croucher, Richard