It is Martin Pugh’s contention that the popular perception of the interwar years as a drab interlude of unemployment, means testing, appeasement and fascism has been overtaken by a wave of new scholarship which shows that times were a good deal jollier. His new social history of interwar Britain has little doom and gloom. It is packed with cheerful evidence that the British were better fed, better housed, more regularly entertained and less violent than before 1914. The consumer boom and modernising values of the 1950s and 1960s, he argues, have their origins solidly in the much-maligned Chamberlain age.
This is a provocative and entertaining thesis and he does thorough justice to it in a lively account of social life in all its aspects – from divorce and drunkenness to holiday jaunts and health. The mood is generally upbeat, since the story he