Study questions for 4th April: Group 4

 Group: Vesa Höjer, Tiina Kukkonen, Anne Pylvänäinen, Tuulikki Rentola-Seppälä, Kaisu Saarela

1. What kind of political changes were brought about by World War I in the
United Kingdom (and in the British Empire more generally)?
Post-war Britain did not seem like a country that had just experienced a great military triumph. Various political, economic and social problems ensured that the return to peacetime conditions was not easy. After the war Britain was more democratic. Previously under-represented groups such as women and, in particular, the working class became better organised and more powerful during the war. The strict class hierarchy of Edwardian Britain disappeared for good in the immediate post-war years.
In June 1918 the right to vote was given for the first time to all men over the age of 21 and to women over the age of 30. It resulted to millions of new voters in Britain causing to vast changes in British party politics after 1918. The Liberal Party went into steep electoral decline during the 1920s and never recovered. Its status as Britain's 'second' party of government was taken by the Labour Party, a development confirmed when the first-ever Labour government took office in January 1924. Amid these radical changes, the success of the Conservative Party, which dominated government during the inter-war years, constituted the major remaining link to the pre-war British politics.
After the First World War, Britain was in debts to the USA and the economy was in chaos: there were strikes among the workers, unemployment rate was high, and the wartime industries such as coal, ship-building and steel decreased. In addition to this, the working women were forced to give up their jobs to the returning soldiers. In 1922 inflation was warded off by introducing cuts in public spending. Despite of all, living standards and productivity levels in inter-war Britain generally improved.
In 1918 the British Empire started to see its end. Ruling the British Empire became increasingly difficult to do in the post-war world. Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa had taken significant part to the British Empire's war efforts, therefore they wanted to represent themselves in the Paris peace conference in 1919. After the First World War these countries were gradually progressing towards their full autonomy within the British Commonwealth. Also, India had contributed to the Empire´s war efforts. Due to this, Britain promised greater self-government to India, but the main ruling power was still by the Indian Viceroy and the India Office in London. Anyway, the British position in India began to weaken slowly. In the Middle East, Britain acquired two valuable territories: Palestine and oil-rich Iraq. It also established a protectorate in Persia and occupied Afghanistan, but these acquisitions were short-lived. The situation in Africa and in the Caribbean did not change much after the war. The Paris Peace Conference concentrated on dividing the territories of Germany's African empire among the victorious Allies, who showed little interest in extending the principles of self-determination to black Africans.
The National Archives: Britain after the war, The British Empire after the war
2. Who are the “Windrush generation”, and what kind of impact did they have on British culture?

The Windrush generation name refers to the first group of dark-skinned immigrants from the then British colony Jamaica, who arrived to Britain in 1948 on a ship called the Empire Windrush, hence the name. Among the approximately 500 people were families, single men and women and even minorities. They came to Britain by the request of the British government to fulfil the lack of workforce as a consequence of the II World War casualties and devastation in Britain. The political situation in many British colonies and former colonies were unstable and as these people usually also had poor living conditions in the colonies, they also sought better life in Britain. For many, Britain offered an exciting new world of freedom and adventure.
The immigrants got jobs in poorly paid, manual sectors of the economy, including transport and the health service. They were bus drivers, postmen, waiters, shop assistants, cleaners and alike. They settled down mainly in their own communities, where they could practise their own religions, customs and recreational habits, but there were already small Caribbean immigrant communities in Britain due to a free access for immigrants within the British Empire before the year 1962. 

On the other hand, the “Windrush generation” as a term stands for the Windrush Foundation established in 1996 by Sam B. King and Arthur Torrington to celebrate the milestone of the arrival of the first immigrants to Britain. Yearly, on the 22nd June the Windrush Day is being celebrated with exhibitions, church services and cultural events, but also as an iconic new way of being British and as the founding date of multicultural Britain.

Interestingly, the vessel MV Empire Windrush was recreated in the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Between 1948 and the enforcement of the 1971 Immigration Act in 1973 more immigrants arrived to Britain. It is estimated that there are now about half of million people living in Britain who have roots in the Caribbean Islands; Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago as well as in India and Pakistan and other Commonwealth countries.

First the Windrush generation faced both positive feelings and curiosity among the white British citizens, for example, they were regarded as national treasures – as Christian, God-fearing, hardworking immigrants - making a huge contribution to British community and life. They came to rebuild Britain and work in its factories and in its essential services. On the other hand, they confronted hostility and pure racism. Some were afraid of that the immigrants would accept lower wages and ruin worker´s level of wages. As immigration increased, race became a source of social conflict. Competition for jobs and accommodation, racism and discrimination grew in Britain. Kids of the non-white people were bullied and further, the skin colour became an obstacle for several adults to find a proper house or a decent job.

In 1965, 1968 and 1976 Race Relations Acts including the principles of non-discrimination came into force accordingly. They didn´t remove the racism from the British society and the immigration continued causing social and political restlessness and instability in forms of riots.  Attitudes became hostile and in 1958 local black communities were attacked during riots in Nottingham and in London’s Notting Hill, mostly among a working-class people (e.g., later known as skinheads or soccer fans). The British Nationality Act of 1948 enabled free movement of citizens of the British colonies to Britain. However, beginning with the Commonwealth Immigrants Act of 1962, restrictions were added with each of a series of subsequent immigration acts. Therefore, in 1965 Harold Wilson as the PM with his government with the 1965 Race Relations Act officially denied discrimination and racial incitement. However, the laws of 1968 and 1976 indicated that much more would have been done, although these acts emphasized non-discrimination. However, many of these people have remained homeless, jobless, or stuck in Jamaica because of facing “bad immigrant” stereotypes of criminality and illegality targeted at black and brown Commonwealth citizens.

During the generations immigrants have more or less integrated themselves to the British society with impact on culture. They have established their own businesses such as shops, restaurants and other services. The younger generations have gone to school and got educated and employment even among higher level jobs. The first black mayor in Britain was Sam Beaver King, the Mayor of Southwark in London. 

With the immigrants multiculturalism came to Britain to stay producing novelists like Caryl Phillips (The Final Passage, 1985), David Dabydeen (The Intended 1991), Zadie Smith (White Teeth, 2001), Monica Ali (Brick Lane, 2004). These novels describe the lives of ordinary men and women arriving to the new homeland and their search for identity in the turbulence of various heritages, ways of lives, beliefs as they grow up in Britain. Furthermore, two of the most famous Caribbean writers are V.S. Naipaul and Derek Walcott. Naipaul has written a novel A House for Mr Biswas (1961) set in Trinidad in the 1950s and 1960s, and Walcott novels such as Sea Grapes (1976) and Midsummer (1983). He was rewarded with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. (Christopher 2002, 51.)

Along with the immigrants came also the varieties of music. In the late 1960s black dance music “ska” from Jamaica and the USA was made popular by artists such as Prince Buster and Judge Dread. Whereas, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and others continued creating reggae music.  In fact, Marley born in Jamaica became the first international star from a developing country. His songs and music were influenced by his Rastafarian beliefs, dealt with lives of the poor and underprivileged as well as became the most distinctive and admired in modern pop. Paradoxically, ska and reggae also were very famous among a violent subculture known as “skinheads” known for their soccer hooliganism, racism and violence against blacks and Asians, as well as other minority groups. (Christopher 2002, 39, 141.)

During the late 1960s British fans began to admire black American soul music. They began to meet in the clubs of towns in the north of England to collect and dance this type of music in special all-night sessions using acrobatic dancing in stylish baggy clothing. Between the years 1979 and 1982, mixed-race bands (e.g., the Selecter, the Specials, the Beat and UB40) were established. They made, for instance, an anti-Thatcher manifesto by supporting the Rock Against Racism movement. This left-wing populism embraced black and white musicians and subcultures and helped different forms of black music to become established in Britain. (Christopher 2002, 142, 148.) After the fusion of different Caribbean and British music styles, new music genres saw the light of day. Ska and Soca became later popular in clubs of London and Brixton. Some British musician started to use Caribbean calypso and other Caribbean beats and rhythms in their music.  Little by little, new music genres emerged, for example hip hop, ragga, jungle and dancehall and drum and bass.

During the summer months, all types of music festivals are held in Britain. One of these famous feasts is held in London is the Notting Hill Carnival, Britain’s biggest street annual party. It is organised held the Caribbean community, presenting exotic types of dance music, from Caribbean steel bands to reggae and rap. (Christopher 2002, 54, 131.)

During the 1980s, black musical styles were incorporated into poetry. The British Rastafarian poet Benjamin Zephaniah performed his “rap” verses in forms of rapid, spoken monologues. When punks and Rastafarians protested about high unemployment, homelessness and the National Front, his poems could be heard at demonstrations. A related type of performance poetry is “dub”, a verse-form with the distinctive rhythms of reggae but without the music. Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jamaican born poet, who came to Britain in 1963, has written several volumes of “dub” poetry. His dark and violent poems were often linked to urban areas. (Christopher 2002, 54, 131.) Worth of notice is that some of the Caribbean writers prefer to write in Creole, like the Caribbean poet and actor Anthony Joseph. 

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the only plays dealing with racial oppression presented by visiting actors and playwrights from the United States and South Africa. But new black playwrights gradually become blossoming, such as Michael Abbensetts. His Alterations (1978) presented an authentic West Indian view of black experience in Britain. The themes of Caryl Phillips, Derek Walcott and Winsome Pinnock reflected their experience of cultural change and racial identity. Many were adapted into successful television plays or screenplays for the cinema. Still in 1998 there were only two London theatres which regularly staged black plays. Critics believed this was not because black perspectives were being ignored, but because cultural differences were becoming increasingly unclear; more black actors were appearing in classical productions and musicals, in roles traditionally played by white actors, and works by black writers were becoming more “mainstream”, addressing themes other than race and marginalisation. (Christopher 2002, 68, 75.)

During the 1970s and early 1980s the only films dealing with the experiences of ethnic minorities were made by relatively unknown film-makers with small budgets. A renaissance in black film-making was between 1985 and 1991 thanks to grants to improve conditions followed by the race riots in the 1970s and early 1980s. As a result, several black film co-operatives appeared, (i.e., Sankofa, Black Audio and Ceddo). Isaac Julien made several films (viz. Territories (1984), Remembrance (1986) and Looking for Langston (1989)) expressing the anger and frustration felt by many black Britons. Handsworth Songs of John Akomfrah (1986) dealt with the experience of black Britons in racial conflict in Britain, filmed in Handsworth, Birmingham, during the riots of 1985. But black film-makers were few and their themes gradually became incorporated into the commercial mainstream, as Playing Away (Horace Ove, 1986), which observed humorously hypocrisy and prejudice in an English rural community, when a cricket team from Brixton visits a small country village for a friendly game as part of the village’s “Third World Week” celebrations. (Christopher 2002, 96-97.)

In television, non-whites were increasingly represented in a number of specially written soap operas and sitcoms, such as Empire Road (BBC, 1978–1979) written by West Indian playwright Michael Abbensetts for a black cast. Mind Your Language (ITV, 1977–1979) was set in a language school and presented students with national stereotypes. Love Thy Neighbour (ITV, 1972–1976) told about a white, racially prejudiced proletarian couple and their West Indian neighbours. During the 1980s the attempts to write for a black cast continued. In 1983 Abbensetts wrote No Problem (C4 and LWT, 1983–1985) with Mustapha Matura, a West Indian writer. (Christopher 2002, 120-121.)
Al Jazeera News. 18.4.2018. The UK´s Windrush generation: What´s the scandal about?
BBC. 2020. How the Windrush Generation transformed British arts and culture?
BBC News. 18.4.2018. Windrush generation: Who are they and why are they facing problems?
Burns, W. E. (2010). A Brief History of Great Britain.  New York: Checkmark Books.
Christopher, D. (2002). British Culture: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
The Windrush scandal and the Jamaica deportation flight: what you need to know. February 11, 2020. .  
Wardle, H. & Obermuller, L. 2018. The Windrush generation. Anthropology Today. Wiley. 34 (4). 
Webber, F. 2018. The embedding of state hostility. A background paper on the Windrush Scandal Additional research by Anya Edmond-Pettitt. Institute of Race Relations. Briefing Paper No. 11. 
3. Why was Margaret Thatcher such a controversial figure in British politics? 

Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), officially known as Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven, born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England came from a class of small business people and graduated from the University of Oxford in Chemistry. During her Oxford years she began her political career in student politics and later, won her Conservative seat in the House of Commons in 1959. Margaret Thatcher was regarded as a contestable person. As a secretary of state for education and science between the years 1970 and 1974, she eliminated a program that provided free milk to schoolchildren. Thus, her opponents in the Labour Party named her “Thatcher the milk snatcher.” Thatcher also created more comprehensive schools than any other education minister in history to offer rigorous academic education available to working-class children. After the leader of the Conservatives, Edward Heath lost two successive elections in 1974, Thatcher was elected leader of the Conservatives in February 1975 and thus, her 15-year-long dominance began. 

Margaret Thatcher was Europe’s first woman prime minister and the only British prime minister in the 20th century to win three consecutive terms and, at the time of her resignation, Britain´s longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827. She accelerated the evolution of the British economy from statism to liberalism and became, by personality as much as achievement, the most renowned British political leader since Winston Churchill.

She was a controversial figure in British politics. She had strong conservative values, manners and decisions that may have aroused controversial attitudes. She also belonged to the strongly divided class-society. She was a role model for many conservative small entrepreneurs, but her manners and values may have felt distant, for example, for working class men. Not all representatives of older wealthy conservatives were for Thatcher. She was also against gay-lesbian sexual identities. Even if she was a woman, feminists thought that she was against feminism and she did not support women´s rights. As a conclusion, quite many groups of British people regarded her as a controversial figure.

Thatcher favoured strongly libertarian, utmost right hand economic policy. According to the libertarians, every person and enterprise has freedom to make own decisions without government´s limitations. Market mechanism is supposed to lead to the equilibrium of prices and quantities. The state or occupational unions must not give social support, for example, to workers and strikes are not allowed, Thatcher stated. According to the liberal economics, too high wages are the reason for unemployment, and when society hardly gives social support for workers, the wages will gradually settle downwards to reach the equilibrium wage level, where unemployment vanishes. This follows the ideas of Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations. However, British society’s social structures and organs have developed more during Margaret Thatcher’s regime compared to the Adam Smith’s time of the eighteenth-century. The organs and legislation limit the free markets, but libertarian economists think that they should limit markets as less as possible.

In practice, it followed that state-owned enterprises were privatized, public housing was sold to tenants, expenditures on social services such as health care, and education and housing were reduced. Further, due to her policy limitations on the printing of money in accord with the economic doctrine of monetarism were made, and also, actions of trade unions were legally restricted. To regard Thatcherite ethical values, she stressed traditional values, known as “Victorian values” such as traditional family values, self-reliance, moral absolutism, strong nationalism, and hard working. Her anti-communist foreign policy prioritised very close relationship with the United States, especially with President Ronald Regan since his Presidency of 1981. In addition, she played a key role in warming up the relations between the West and the Soviet Union in co-operation with Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet General Secretary in the late 1980s.

Thatcher led Britain into the Falkland War, when Argentina at first occupied the Falkland Islands. Even if Britain won the war, the war also aroused criticism because of the casualties, and because of Britain spent money in the war and sent troops in a distant place.

She also became to know as the “Iron Lady”after the coal miners’ strike in 1984 and 1985, when the government saw mining becoming unprofitable and wanted to close mines. This caused the miners walked out. Finally, the miners backed down, and gradually over the next years more mines were closed in England and Wales. Also the strongest and most radical union, the National Union of Miners, was finished.

Thatcher was personally tested by the Irish nationalist terrorism. The IRA killed one of her advisors, Airey Neave, and bombed Thatcher, her husband and many conservative leaders in one of Brighton’s hotels on October 12, 1984, during their annual Party Conference. Thatcher’s with many of their fellows injured, even five died. Thereafter, Thatcher took more active and conciliatory role in formalizing cooperation against terrorism with Ireland, by supporting the Dublin government in Northern Irish affairs more, which made Thatcher’s role more significant from viewpoints of the United States. 

Rising unemployment and social tensions during her first term made her deeply unpopular. By the end of Thatcher’s second term, few aspects of British life had escaped the most sweeping transformation of Britain since the post-war reforms of the Labour Party. She encountered considerable criticism both at home and abroad for her opposition to international sanctions against the apartheid regime of South Africa.  

After her third electoral victory in 1987, she adopted a steadily more hostile attitude toward European integration. Her traditionally pro-European party became divided, and a string of senior ministers left the Cabinet over the issue. Spurred by public disapproval of the poll tax and Thatcher’s increasingly strident tone, Conservative members of Parliament moved against her in November 1990. On November 22 she announced her resignation as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
Burns William E. (2010) A brief history of Great Britain. Checkmark Books.
Christopher, D. (2002). British Culture: An Introduction. London: Routledge.
Keynes John Maynard (1936). The general theory of employment, interest and money. DOI 10.2307/2980590
Margaret Thatcher Prime Minister of United Kingdom at
Smith Adam, Wight, Jonathan B (2007). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations. Harriman House. Ebsco Ebo


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