Culture Question:

Do British people feel at a loss when the UK became a second-class country after WWII?

(posted: Oct 2009)

After WWII the British people were probably feeling more relief than anything else. The war had affected everyone in Britain with air raids, the separation of families (with men sent off to fight and many children sent away from the cities into the countryside), and with the rationing of food and household items.  After the war, as things were slowly rebuilt, British people began to have some affluence. People had had so little during the war that after it was over they just wanted to get on with their lives and make their living spaces less utilitarian, more modern and well-equipped. Through the 1950s many British people were focused on their own families and enjoying their first TV or automobile and going to the cinema once a week.

There were also other big changes in Britain in addition to her loss of empire and her lowered position in the world. Working class youth felt they could improve their position in the world through their own efforts. Women, who had worked outside the home during the war, had gained self-confidence and demanded equality at home and work. Children were becoming more independent as family structures changed and there was a greater acceptance of their freedom.

So, many individuals in Britain did not give much thought to Britain’s changing position in the world. At a political level though, Britain did feel at a bit of a loss. It was still trying to hold onto world power with the Anglo-French invasion of the Suez Canal in 1956. The invasion proved a political mistake and probably sped up the dismantling of the remaining British colonies. This prompted the comment from Dean Acheson, former US Secretary of State that "Britain has lost an Empire, but has not yet found a role.”

To some extent, Britain is still looking for a role. It has turned its attention from imperial ambitions to building ties with the European Union, but it has not yet fully committed itself there.

Source:

  1. Barrow, Mandy. “World War Two”, (http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/Homework/war/protect.html) 09-Oct-2009

  2.  “Britain Since 1945”, (http://www.great-britain.co.uk/history/post45.htm), 09-Oct-2009

  3. Eliska, “How did the Second World War Affect British Society?” (http://www.studuj-jinak.cz/referaty/nahled/how-did-the-second-world-war-affect-british-society-in-the-50s-and-60s), 09-Oct-2009

  4. Wikipedia. “Suez Crisis” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis), 09-Oct-2009 

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Map of British Empire

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