How do you account for the co existence of poverty and prosperity in Britain during the interwar years?


In this essay I am going to examine how and why there was both prosperity and poverty within Britain throughout the interwar years.


The war left Britain with a weakened economy, after a brief post war boom ending in April 1921 Britain was in a position where the pre war staple industries such as coal mining were no longer providing jobs. This caused the problem of unemployment concentrated in certain areas. However there was another side to Britain’s economy that was on the rise, thought there was mass unemployment for some others where becoming very prosperous. Some of the population where living in good conditions, receiving paid holidays while others where unemployed and living in poverty. There was great diversity in the health care available in different areas. Prosperous peoples real wage rose as prices feel. Prosperous area had never had it so good while areas of poverty where living in poor conditions with bad health and insufficient food supply.


The prosperous people had a lot more on offer to them and leisure rose tremendously. People had more to spend on entertainment and leisure than before, in 1939 20 million people visited the coasts of England. Dance halls where also very popular in the 1930s as a source for enjoyment and for a nice evening out. Family sizes gradually lowered in working class families and this meant that they had even more money to spend.


During the interwar years there was a change between the vast amounts of blue-collar workers from before world war one to becoming more white-collar workers due to the growth of new industry.


The rise in real wages and the gradual decrease in family size meant that the middle class now had much more disposable income, this was seen by the amount spent on leisure. Gambling became Britain’s second biggest industry in 1939 with 10million people every week. A lot of the people in lower classes and from the areas of poverty also played in the chance of winning.


Due to mass unemployment many families where living in poverty, having worked previously in staple industry’s theses workers found themselves unemployed with no jobs available to them.


During world war one the problems with staple industries had been masked by the need for war supplies. After the war the problem of employment in these industries then arose. This left the men who had been in job in the staple industries without a job. There was support from the government for the unemployed but the benefits they received were not close to the wage they had previously had. This made their life style very hard, the death rates in these areas rose greatly. Many of the parents would go without so they children could eat sufficiently making them weak and unhealthy.


One factor in the coexistence of poverty and prosperity was the geographical position of industries. Before world war one staple industries such as coal mining where heavily concentrated in the north of England, Scotland and south Wales. These areas where worst hit by unemployment and poverty. The great poverty in these areas was not seen in others because they had not relied on the staple industries to provide jobs.


The decline in old staple industries was accompanied by a growth in new industries such as electrical engineering, motor manufacture, man made fibres and chemicals. These newer industries where located mostly to the south particularly between the east midlands and London. Areas where new industries where located was where the prosperity was. People had well paid jobs. This in turn meant that the health was higher in these areas. It was higher for many reasons, many house holds would contribute small sums to support their local hospitals, in areas of poverty people could not afford to contribute so the hospitals where of low quality. Another way the health was better was because there was a better diet in prosperous areas, there was a greater range of foods and enough to go round. Although money was being put into health new facilities where unevenly spread, the services where unavailable to lower class families. The situation in areas of poverty was very different. There would not be enough