Topic 57A – The united kingdom in the interwar period And during the second world war. Representative authors

Topic 57A – The united kingdom in the interwar period And during the second world war. Representative authors


1919-1929 Consequences of the war

1929-1939 Consquences of Black Friday



At the end of the war, after the Conference of Paris, 1919, the British empire is widened: It is formed by three types of territories:

The Dominions: Canada Australia New Zealand South Africa Ireland

They constituted the original British Community, ruled according to the statute of Westminster.

Colonies and Dependant territories: Mainly in Asia and Africa

Mandates which the Society of Nations had awarded to Britain after the 1 WAR. The former German colonnies in Africa and the Turkish possesions in Oriente Proximo.

But, after the war, England was in a worse position than US or Japan because:

British industry was larged based in the production of COAL. With the appearance of new energies, like oil and electricity, the industry of coal fell into a crisis.


Loss of INTERNATIONAL markets

The first Labour Government after the war did not provide Great Britain any efficient solution to palliate the crisis.

1924: Conservative party wins election. They reestablish the Sterling Pound and the Gold Standard (the price of money), to the level it had before the war. The consequence was rise in prices, a stagnation of industry and an increase in social conflicts.

1926 the miners go on strike, and for 9 days they are supported by a general strike. It meant a generalized crisis in the British Economy.

By this time, the number of unemployed people in England was over one million.


The first world war produces an official commitment to the restitution of traditional values and ideas, and a popular enthusiasm for social change, or even revolution, in intellectual and working systems.

The war brought radical changes in life and social forms. However, revolutionary innovations in technology already existed in 1914. The motor car, the aeroplane, the cinema, the telephone, the principles of radio, but the war speeded their development. Similarly, many of the most radical manifestations of modernism in the arts belong the the pre war period.

The “bright things”: The women who gained the vote (partially) in 1918 and in 1928 (totally), were able to enjoy other freedoms as well, the right to smoke, to enjoy films and sports, a more open sexual life, or to wear clothes in a much freer fashion than those the puritan code could accept. It created a culture associated to universities like Oxford, (students: bright things), a culture of self expression, tending to decadence, nihilism.

1 Poetry expressing the personal experiences of the young men who went to war.
Rupert Brooke:

On the outbreak of the war Brooke enlisted in the navy and few months later he wrote a series of poems called 1914 expresssing a sense of exalted patriotic dedication. In the spring of 1915, on his way to the Gallipoli campaign, Brooke died of blood-poisoning. 1914 achieved immense posthumous fame. Manipulation, selecting only patriotic poems. In his letters he denounces the inutilidad of the war. They were published in 1968.

Wilfred Owen:

He served as a young officer in the war and was killed in action in 1918, one week before the armistice.

As poet, sensuous and sensitive. Owen began as a fervent late-Romantic, but the front-line experience subjected his poetry to an extraordinary rapid development. His poems are preoccupied with the deaths of young men, his attitude to the soldiers full with a sense of premature paternal responsablility, a common motif in the poetry of the war.

2 The emerging modernist writers which was published during the war years.
Ford Madox Ford: He also fought with the British Army in the 2nd world war. As we have said, the modernist writers had begun their careers before the war. Ford had collaborated with H. James and J. Conrad before the war.

1915 The good soldier: his masterpiece. Story of two couples, where he explores the hidden passions of the characters by means of a series of flashbacks and changes in the point of view carefully controlled.

In The end of the parade, (tetralogy) he describes the life before and after the war by means of the same technique.

Virginia Woolf

: The voyage out (first novel) She is not concerned with the subject matter of the war, but rather with widening the possibilities of the narrative technique. Interior monologue, experiments with the speed and rhythm.

D.H Lawrence:

The rainbow (1915) One of his best novels. He explores with sincerity the nature of the sexual and psychologic relations between men and women. The novel was attacked for his supposed obscenity.

3 After the war:

Apart from the presence of pre war giants as Kipling, and James Joyce.

The most important phenomenum is The Bloomsbury Group:

This group was formed for writers (Woolf, Leonard Woolf, E. Forster), art critics, economists, literary critics and painters. They had no unifying basis but all of them reacted by means of modernism to the rigid realism of the end of XIX.

Virginia Woolf

. His contribution to stream of consciousness, subtle delineation of human character, fluid form, the most vital modernism in novel.

E.M. Forster:

Passage to India, (1924) deals with the conflict between the cultures from the personal relation between an English traveler and an indian woman in the times of the English government in the country. He shows here his aversion for imperialism. He also wrote an important book of literary criticism, Aspects of the novel, which is still used in literary analysis. He was always a defender of freedom. He fought actively against the prohibition of the publication of the work of Radclyffe Hall, and of Lady Chatterley´s lover, of D.H. Lawrence.

T.S Eliot

The waste land. ,One of the most polemic and important poems of the beginning of the twentieth century. He draws a resigned and melancholic picture of the devasted Europe of post war. His literary and cult allusions, his irregularities in the rhyme.

Poems as this are the cause of the critics that the group had in the 30s. They were accused from isolating art from the popular masses.



Black friday—-world impact—-Imperial Britain——go through the crisis——modern England.

Number of unemployed from 1 to 2 millions.

This led to the division of the government. In 1931 a new government rose with the labourist candidate Mac Donald, as Prime Minister. National union Government with the support of the conservative party.

The party follows an interventionist policy, which resembles a socialism of state. In 1934, a slight sign of economic recovery starts to be felt. Development of new industries (radio, cinema, automobile). A change from invest into another countries to invest in England.

Decade of the 30s: economic isolation and relative prosperity.


In spite of the expansion of comunist and fascist ideologies in the continent, these hardly affected the British society. The Empire remained unchanged, even when the Westminster Statute (1931) proclaimed the equality in the Common Wealth of all the territories, included Canada and Australia. However, the rise to power in Germany of Hitler and the Nazi party were cause for increasing anxiety.

1 A new generation of poets
W. H Auden

He was the central piece of a group of intellectuals formed by he himself, Stephen Spender, Cristopher Isherwood, Cecil Day Lewis and Louis Mac Niece. He lived a life full of experience, travelling to Islandia, China, living in the Nazi Germany, driving an ambulance in the Spanish civil war. In his poems, he reaches the technical level of Eliot, but he is more concerned with social matters. He was endowed with an extraordinary capacity of psychologic analysis, and an especial sensibility for poetry. He is considered by many critics a master of poetry, and his influence on following poets has been inmense. Auden and his group were extremely critical with their society, all the opposite to other poet of the same period:

John Buchan:

his heroes, clean living and athletic public school men save England and the Empire from foreigners in Scotland or the deserts of Asia.

2 Prose:
Cristopher Isherwood: (from the group of Auden) His experience as teacher in Berlin is the basis for Goodbye to Berlin. These tales are a warning of the rising power of Nazism. They were adapted to the theatre (I´m a camera), and the cinema (Cabaret).

His prose has the clarity and the impersonality of a photograph. Like his friend Auden he was a practishing homosexual. This homosexuality is reflected in A single man.

George Orwell

He was a politically committed writer, that offered a bright and passionate portrait of his times. He lived ill and poor in London and Paris, and from this experience he wrote Down and out in Paris and London. He fought in the republican army in the Spanish civil war, experience described in Tribute to Catalonia, a touching story about the war and a critic to the spanish comunist party.

The road to Wigan Pier give graphic accounts of the life among the miners out of work in the North of England. The satirical novel 1984 offers a terrifying description of the authomatized and deshumanized world we are being led to.

Animal Farm is a critical alegory for comunism.

Evelyn Waugh

The counterpart for these progressist writers is Evelyn Waugh. In Decline and fall, he expresses the idea that society is breaking down because people have not the sense to stick by the old rules of conduct. He was the representative of a positive faith in aristocracy, and Roman Catholicism. His conservative opinions don´t prevent him from being an excellent and intelligent writer, as he showed in Return to Howard´s End.



In 1933, Adolf Hitler achieves the political control of Germany. He decides to break the Treaty of Versailles, which limited his army to 100 000 men, and which prevented him from rearmying the country. He anexionates Austria. It is when Hitler invades Poland that the U K and France declare the war on Germany. After the occupation of France in 1940 England has to face the war on its own, in what came to be known the Battle of England.

In May of 1940, Winston Churchill, replaces Chamberlain, partidary of diplomatic solutions, as president of the government. After the german invasion of the USSR and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Churchill forms the Great Alliance, together with Iósiv Stalin, and F D Roosevelt, against Germany, Italy, and Japan. In 1945 the Alliance get the final victory.

The war was the longest and most terrible experience. destroyed population no basic necessities



Before the 2 war: British Empire formed by 3 types of territories:

All along the XIX, from the independence of NorthAmerica, the colonnies grew more and more independent, and nationalistic feelings increase. This led to the British to consider the establishment of a new regime for the colonnies. After the 2WAR, Britain couldn´t afford the keeping of an empire which had no sense in the new XX panorama. The CommonWealth is created, where the former colonnies and dominions achieve practical independence.


The forties were a colourless and grim decade, first with the hardship of war and afterwards with the austerities of post war. The tendence was to dream of other worlds and different ways of existence.

Novels of fantasy as Mervin Peake Titus Groan, and J.R.R. Tolkien the lord of the rings.
Elizabeth Bowen:

She is concerned with the distress of sensible characters involved in a conflictive relation with their environment, influence of Henry James.

The heat of the day is an eloquent requiem for the ruins of London after the Blitz.

Graham Greene:

His work reflects the spiritual conflicts of a world in decadence.

In his work he distinguished between entertainements (the third men, Orient Express) and novels, like The power and the glory.

Dylan Thomas:

In his first book of poems, Eighteen poems, he deals with themes as sex, death, sin, religion. They have surrealistic elements, but the universality of the experiences portrayed and the freshness of his language make them very readable nowadays.



It was characterized by a catholic political fight to repell the Act of Union. In 1845-1849, the potato famine takes place. The protestant north, where oats rather than potato were the main element of popular diet, was spared from famine, when the potato crop failed. It was the catholic small farming and labouring classes in the south, heavily dependent upon the potato, (SPUD) which bore the main consequences of the crises. By 1851, Ireland had lost a quarter of his population by emigration or death, a social tragedy which had its greatest impact upon the catholic poor. From this moment, Irreland is left behind as supplier of agricultural products.

A nationalistic feeling is born , which grows and acquires great importance in the 80´s under the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell (one of the leit-motifs of Ulysses). The proyect of legal recognizement of the Irish authonomy (Home Rule), was passed in 1886 by the Chamber of Commons, but not by the chamber of Lords. Besides, Parnell was taken to the judge by an offended husband. The clergy and many followers abandoned him.


The authonomist party disappeared with Parnell, and it was replaced by several forces, among which we have Sinn Feinn (we alone). It was created in 1902, by Arthur Griffith. At first, this organization was devoted to promote the economical Irish prosperity and to get the complete independence or Ireland. Afterwards, it became an important political party of the island and the most important political force claiming for independence. Other groups created after the disappearance of the authonomist party were the Irish labourism, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Gaelic League, literary movement (Lady Gregory, W. B. Yeats) The tragedy of this movement was that Joyce and Shaw left the country.

In 1916, the Easter Rising is produced. The rebellion is dominated by the British army, and their leaders are executed.

In 1920, Ireland gets a national government. A part of the Ulster, the northern irish province, chose to seceed politically from the rest of Ireland and keep a closer relation with Great Britain. It gave place to a separate division called Northern Ireland, with its own constitution, parliament and administration of local matters. Most people of Northern ireland, protestant, found this secession as the possibility to maintain their religion and their dominant position into the Irish society.