This account of English working-class communities in England from 1940 to 1970 is told through the words and memories of those who lived then. The book is at once vivid, moving and eye-opening. This was a period of change, usually seen as progress. People everywhere became better off. Healthcare was provided free and the education of children was universal. This was the first age of the domestic machine, releasing women for employment in paid work. The church, the police, teachers and the state became less sources of authority than of care. Television provided entertainment in the home. Improved methods of contraception emancipated sexuality. But, as Elizabeth Roberts shows, the caring state and the privatized family were also accompanied by a diminished sense of community an neighborliness, and by a loss of confidence in previously accepted standards and values in family relationships and the rearing of children. Women and Families provides an always fascinating insight into the realities of social change during three crucial decades of English history.
Few of the accepted generalizations - concerning the changing roles of men and women, the loss of working-class solidarity, the decline of family and communal life, the effects of high-rise living, and the benefits of healthcare and social welfare - survive the evidence so ably assembled here. This is an important and exciting book: it will be widely read.
Elizabeth Roberts is Director of the Centre for North--West Regional Studies in Lancaster University. She is a social/ oral historian with a particular interest in womena s and family history. Born in Barrow--in--Furness, she has spent most of her life in the North West and is involved in the local community as a magistrate and school governor.