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Author Topic: London in the 1930s  (Read 9450 times)

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grahampowell

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London in the 1930s
« on: May 28, 2010, 08:48:02 PM »

Can anyone recommend some resources for finding out about London in the 1930s?  I'm reading novels set there around that time by the likes of John Dickson Carr, Philip MacDonald, etc., mainly to get a feel for how contemporaries talked about the city, but I'll also need to do some more serious research.

Any help will be appreciated!
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Lance Charnes

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2010, 12:03:21 AM »

It depends on what you want to find out.

That said, I was recently in London and did my usual crawl through museum bookstores. There are a lot of books available at the V&A, Imperial War Museum, Museum of London, and so on that delve into the minutia of England's and London's social, political, economic and cultural life in the first half of this century. That means most of those books are probably available through Amazon UK.

Unfortunately, asking about London in the 1930s is like asking about New York City in the 1930s. How many lifetimes do you have?
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dhparker

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2010, 11:48:10 AM »

If you can find a source of London newspapers from that time period, it's amazing  what you can learn from them. 

Lance Charnes

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2010, 11:07:10 AM »

Good call - Alan Furst uses period newspapers and magazines extensively in his research. However, you'll probably have to go to England to get at them. (Oh, the sacrifices...)

Check the on-line shops for the major museums and English Heritage. They carry many of the books you can find in their real shops, without having to be there. Also check the BBC website; like PBS, they have a lot of supplementary material for their history programming, as well as on-line shopping. Look for BBC History magazine in your local Borders & Noble. Then start your slog through Amazon UK (yes, it's got different stuff than the US version).

Too little information is not going to be a problem for you.
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grahampowell

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2010, 05:52:48 PM »

You know, I now recall that the Times of London has its entire archive online.  Only a small part is free, but it would certainly help.
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Lance Charnes

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #5 on: June 02, 2010, 09:05:33 PM »

The Times will give you a "newspaper of record" view of the world, but it's always taken itself extremely seriously, catered to the posh classes and (except for a brief period in the 1960s) has always had a rightist editorial line. If you're looking for upper-class tastes and thinking, it'll do fine.

OTOH, if you want to find out what the working or middle classes were concerned with during your period, you might need to look at papers like the Guardian, which has long been a left-of-center organ for those who aren't part of the ruling class. It has complete digital archives for itself and its Sunday sister publication, the Observer.

Both of these are very news-centric. The Mirror -- which was founded as a newspaper for women -- featured tabloid-like material, celebrities, fashion and homemaking topics. (It also went through a political whipsaw in the 1930s, going from admiring Oswald Mosley to being a voice for workers and soldiers). This is where you'd likely find the details of everyday life, as well as an insight into the aspirations of its readers. Unfortunately, its archives aren't online.

Keep in mind that lifestyle journalism didn't really appear in newspapers until after WWII, and as such the "legitimate" press isn't going to give you a lot of information about how people really lived. For that you'll need to go to the mass-market magazines, which also typically don't have on-line archives.

Something else to consider: there is a surplus of books about life in Britain during WWII. If you consider that the war froze British domestic life in 1939, you may be able to find some of what you need in these books. Also, the "mend and make do" ethos forced on the middle and upper classes by wartime rationing is essentially the life the working classes had been living in the 1930s.

For the physical fabric of the city itself, check the V&A and Museum of London for books such as "Lost London" and the like. There are also tons of websites out there concerning aspects of London's history during the Age of Photography, both official (National Archives) and unofficial.
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dhparker

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2010, 10:11:19 AM »

I don't know if this applies to London newspapers in the '30s, but my husband (the history teacher) has some papers from the early years of the U.S.  The news stories are fascinating, but the ads--wow!  The things you can learn from the ads, both commercial and personal, will really make the era come alive.

Another resource might be films made in England in the '30s--if you can get hold of any.  I understand they made some "realist documentary films".  I haven't seen them, but would imagine they could show you what at least parts of London looked like at the time.

B L McAllister

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2010, 01:37:23 PM »


...

Another resource might be films made in England in the '30s--if you can get hold of any.  I understand they made some "realist documentary films".  I haven't seen them, but would imagine they could show you what at least parts of London looked like at the time.

Films not actually made then but portraying the period will at least show what the makers believed England was like then.  Many Marple and Poirot films portray this period.  Have  you tried just Googling "England in the '30s"?  (Neither have I, but I'll be surprised if somebody hasn't written an appropriate book on the subject.)
BLMcA
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Charles King

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #8 on: September 17, 2010, 12:54:10 PM »

There must be a preservation society with maps and maybe local histories. London changed so much by the time WWII ended.

 8) CKing

PS: Tony Broadbent's series 'The Smoke' takes place in the War's later years. They contain a lot of flavor from the period, and maybe more important for research he placed a glossary at the end. Many out of date sayings and words might help-- at least for consideration. Are you from the UK?

PSS: You might want to check out your local VFW. Some of the vets are still around and might give you valuable insights or contacts for their fellow British soldiers.
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Lance Charnes

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Re: London in the 1930s
« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2010, 10:07:24 PM »

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