The Making of the Modern British Home, 1919-1939
This project examines the rise of the suburban semi in interwar Britain and its profound economic and social impacts on the large number of working and middle-class families who migrated from inner-urban areas to new suburban housing estates. A number of articles have been published and a book is in progress.
Interwar Britain witnessed the formation of a new type of house- the low-priced compact suburban semi- which revolutionised both the housing market and the lives of the hundreds of thousands of families who moved from inner-urban areas to the new suburbs. Suburban semi's dominated the interwar building boom, which expanded the aggregate housing stock of England and Wales by around 50 per cent.
Council housing led this process (initially attracting large numbers of middle-class as well as working-class families), but by the 1930s owner-occupied houses began to dominate new building, attracting both the lower-middle classes and, for the first time, substantial numbers of working-class families. A broad range of households- ranging from slum clearance tenants to middle-class families who could no longer afford servants- were drawn to the compact, light, modern, hygienic, and semi-rural semi and the suburban lifestyle it offered, with profound socio-economic effects.
This project examines both the process of suburban housing development and its economic and social impacts on the huge numbers of inner-urban families who migrated to the suburbs. These issues are explored both via the use of conventional archival sources and a database of around 200 life histories of working- or lower middle-class people who moved from inner-urban areas to the suburbs (assembled from oral history archives, autobiographies, contemporary interviews, and other sources).
Specific themes include:
- The property development process and the development of the interwar semi
- The mass-marketing of owner-occupation, particularly to the urban working-classes who had hitherto been excluded from this market
- Working-class suburbanisation and the emergence of an aspirational and domestically-orientated 'new working class' in interwar Britain
- The impact of the new suburban house on working-class household expenditure, budgeting, and fertility
- 'Distinction', social frictions, and the social filtering of households on the new suburban estates
Outputs to date
2009 `Mr Drage, Mr Everyman, and the creation of a mass market for domestic furniture in interwar Britain,' Economic History Review, 62, 802-27.
2008 `Marketing mass home ownership and the creation of the modern working class consumer in interwar Britain,' Business History, 50, 1, 4-25.
2007 `Did owner-occupation lead to smaller families for interwar working-class households?' Economic History Review, 61, 1, 99-124 PM.