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How far do you agree with the view that World War II triggered major and long lasting changes in British society? To begin to understand the importance of the Second World War on the post-1945 period

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Introduction

How far do you agree with the view that World War II triggered major and long lasting changes in British society? To begin to understand the importance of the Second World War on the post-1945 period, a sensible starting point would be the 3rd September1939 - the date in which Britain declared war on Germany. In the lead up to this date the government began to make preparations for war. They knew that when war broke out large cities would be the target for German bombs. A million coffins were prepared. It was feared that child casualties would affect morale, so with this in mind, the government introduced an evacuation programme to move children out of the cities. Although the scheme was voluntary, the government put immense pressure on parents to send their children away to the safety of the countryside. Of course, not all parents were willing to part with their children and many were unsure as to the usefulness of evacuation. The official government story was that the whole evacuation process had been efficiently organised and executed with precision. However, this is not entirely true. Evacuated children found that their hosts were not always welcoming and that their two lifestyles clashed. Host mothers were dismayed at the poor behaviour of some of the inner city children and locals in rural areas complained of an increase in petty crime. The immediate reaction of people faced with unruly children was to blame their parents. ...read more.

Middle

However, the commission was ineffective. Of course, it would have been remarkable if women had achieved equality in the workplace during wartime. This is because the fight for equal wages and equal rights with men is still going on today. Although this fight began, in many ways during World War Two. For the first time, women began to question social and economic rules and demand equal access to educational and career options. Initially, the government made little action to meet these demands. It was commonly believed amongst politicians and trade unions at the time that women's employment would end with the war. Many thought that when the war was over, there would be a shift back to the old values. This belief was shared by the women workers themselves. A survey conducted during wartime revealed that most women expected to lose their jobs once war had ended. One young married woman believed that "You can't look on anything you do during the war as what you really mean to do: it's just filling in time till you can live you own life again". Another wartime survey demonstrated that three-quarters of women would give up work when they got married. This shows there was an element of continuity with the 1930s and that the war had changed very little. If the war had made any changes in the image of women, they were superficial and temporary. The reality was that most women returned to being homemakers during the prosperity of the 1950s. ...read more.

Conclusion

Moreover, Labour had the blueprint at hand. It was in the Beveridge Report, prepared by a government appointed commission during World War II under William Beveridge, a civil servant who had been head of the London School of Economics. The report proposed that all people of working age should pay a weekly national insurance contribution. In return, benefits would be paid to people who were sick, unemployed, retired or widowed. Beveridge argued that this system would provide a minimum standard of living "below which no one should be allowed to fall". Beveridge recommended that the government should find ways of fighting the "Five Giants" of Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness. Socially within Britain, many people had witnessed the "Five Giants" at first hand with the evacuation of cities. Derek Fraser tells us "Bombs, unlike employment, knew no social distinctions...rich and poor alike were affected in the need for shelter and protection...Food rationing produced common shortage". It is for this reason, alongside the popularity of the Beveridge Report, that universalism became the attitude for the Welfare State's induction, as social justice and equality were in demand. Although Beveridge laid down the foundation of the Welfare State, state provision was being made long before his report in 1942. Beveridge's policies were said to be "evolutionary and not revolutionary" and I believe that this is because his ideas were based on previous legislations, which he simply brought up to date. It is proven by the number of similarities between Beveridge's policies and the policies that had been in use previously e.g.; David Lloyd George's 1911 insurance proposals. ...read more.

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