Was There A Depression In Britain In The 1930s

From 1929 to the mid 1930’s the Great Depression occurred. It was so big it affected almost every country as the effects of it carried on and on. However, for different people in different places things weren’t always so bad. I shall explain how the ‘Depression’ affected various people. One group of people who were affected by the Great Depression was the government. In America, the Wall Street Crash, the stock market had collapsed. In just one day 12,894,650 shares were sold. America had to withdraw its loans to Europe and so the Great Depression began.

The Labour party became more and more divided as the different people wanted to do different things to amend the depression. The Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald eventually formed an all-party “National Government” as international banks refused to accept the British pound. The depression had split the government, so what would do to the people? During the Great Depression there was a huge impact on the old industries such as coal mining. This was because people neither wanted nor needed the old industries so much any more as new things such as cars and hoovers were becoming more desirable.

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Also, because trade was low, the ship companies became out of business, and because they didn’t need as much or even any materials to work with any more such as iron, steel or coal, people who worked in these ‘material’ industries were also put out of work. Every time some people lost their jobs, other people were bound to too. Because of this huge chain of unemployment, life became much tougher for the unemployed. Before the last war a quarter of all households were living below the poverty line. They could no longer afford to buy luxuries such as cakes and sweets or many new clothes.

In the 1920s unemployment pay was given out which was paid through taxes. However, as more and more people lost their jobs, the taxes began to rise. The government therefore decided to cut the unemployment pay (also known as dole money) by 10%. They also said (in 1931) that anyone who wished to receive the dole money was to take the ‘means test’. This involved an official visiting the persons home and if they found that the person was receiving any sought of income, like the mother doing paid washing, or the child doing paper rounds for example, then the dole would be cut.

A man would go to prison for at least 3 months for doing an extra job such as caddying whilst receiving the dole. Also, while the ‘offender’ was in prison, his family would receive no dole. Because of their shortage of money, families had to live on food which barely any of us now would want to eat. For example, mothers were known to cook pig’s heads, pigeons and cod heads. Families were forced to lend each other various necessities such as clothing and soap. There was usually no running water inside a household and families often had to share a bed between them.

There were countless bugs and insects living on the floors and walls which people fought hard to get rid of and in most cases families were so desperate for money that their children resorted to stealing. 230,000 families in London alone lived in unfit housing and in the whole of England it was a colossal 1000,000 families. However, family life wasn’t all that bad in the depression. For two weeks in the year, families who could afford it went on holiday. In the working class Blackpool was the leading holiday destination where many people joined holiday camps.

The holidays based in Blackpool were always very social vents as the camps were very communal and held very sociable activities and on the packed beaches many people were paddling or sun-bathing together with their neighbours from their homes. This was because many people from the same streets went together to the same places in the holidays. For the richer and better off people however, Blackpool was not the most desired of holiday destinations. These more affluent families often spent their free time in Cornwall, enjoying more private, family holidays as opposed to ones where everyone seemed to be there.

Middle class families also began to acquire cars and soon families spent their weekends on motor trips to local cricket matches or for a picnic in the countryside. Also later on, the government introduced paid holidays, and so more and more people found themselves having a rest and a bit of fun in a different place to usual. They could also quite cheaply visit the cinema each week, which was a very popular new form of entertainment. If we focus our attention away from the more northern areas of England, where all the old industries were set up, we can see that not everyone was suffering from the Great Depression.

Indeed, people in places such as Oxford were becoming more and more wealthy and living in a much more enjoyable situation. This was all because of the new industries such as cars which were making lots of money. Of course, these companies employed the people who had had better education and the ones with more wealth and power, and so as the companies grew, so did the wealth of the employees. The country was in effect being divided between the two different styles of living.

People down in the south were buying more luxuries such as hoovers, cars and wirelesses whereas the people living up in the north envied the multiple bedroomed and gardened houses of the south whilst they had to live in one or two roomed houses with only a shared back yard, if any. However, massive slum clearance schemes were soon introduced and more and more working class families found themselves being moved from their tiny old houses into new ones. 1500,000 families had been allocated new homes by the end of the 1930s. They were amazed to find that they had running water taps inside their houses and even a bath!

There was more than one bedroom so they definitely didn’t have to share a bed any more and sometimes there was even a bedroom for each of the children! Families were delighted to find that they now had small gardens and a front family room. The change was huge and definitely adds to one of the highlights of that time in history. I conclude that the decision as to whether there really was a Great Depression is still indecisive. There are many convincing points for both cases. It’s for certain that some families suffered greatly, and some were becoming wealthier and wealthier, but as to whether it was a Great Depression, it’s not for sure.

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