Life expectancy increased and standards of living improved.
The post war period saw rationing gradually end, the birth of the National Health Service and better standards of living. In the West, people's expectations rose and more people owned cars and televisions. More
The motor car transformed peoples lives and the landscape.
Car ownership grew rapidy in the post-war years, allowing people to travel further. This led to the need for new roads and infrastructure. The first part of the M1 (Britain's first motorway) was opened in 1959 with further developments between 1965 and 1968. Other roads followed, changing the landscape in many areas. More
By the mid 50s, wages had increased and the economy was growing.
There was growth in industries such as steel, coal and motor cars and this led to a rise in wages, export earnings and investment. In 1957, the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, told the nation at a Tory rally in Bedford that "Britons have never had it so good". More
People's horizons expanded with more money to spend on daytrips and holidays.
In the 50s, holiday camps like Butlins were popular, and parks and historic sites had more day trippers. People also started to take a wider interest in the world abroad, with the growth of foreign travel and TV programmes that brought other lands closer to home. More
By the 1970s, economic confidence had been replaced by economic gloom.
The early 70s saw high inflation, strikes, power cuts and a three-day working week. Only essential services like hospitals and mass communications like telephones were exempt. More
The late 1970s and early 80s saw widespread strikes and social unrest.
The strikes resulted in food shortages, frequent power cuts and rubbish building up in the streets. The British winter of 1978-1979 became known as ‘The Winter of Discontent'. The 1980s saw high unemployment, social unrest and a bitter political struggle between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Conservative government. More
The postwar years saw the development of the European Union.
After the end of World War 2, people wanted to ensure that such a terrible war could never happen again. The fear of another government like the Nazis made people want to unite Europe, and led to the development of the Common Market, later known as the European Union. More
The end of the war also saw the start of the Cold War.
The Cold War developed between the Soviet Union and her allies on one side, and America and her allies on the other - each with nuclear weapons aimed at important places in the others' countries. This brought the world to the edge of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. More
Supermarkets and 'impulse buying' led to a great deal of waste.
The growth of supermarkets and prepackaged food also led to ‘impulse' buying (buying something because you see it on the shelves, not because you need it) and the beginning of a huge waste problem, both in food itself and the packaging around it. More
Over-production in Europe saw the development of 'food mountains'.
Subsidies on food production (grants given to farmers for certain types of food) in the 1970s saw farmers producing very much more than was needed in the European Economic Community (EEC). The food could not be sold and was stored, creating huge food mountains. More
Developing countries faced debt and sometimes famine.
At the same time developing countries, where much of the population lived in poverty, were facing more and more debt. TV pictures showing the results of famine in Ethiopia made people more aware of this and all over the world new charities arose to help with famine relief. More
Society changed greatly and there were calls for greater equality.
This period saw huge changes in what people felt was right in society. More people chose to live together rather than to marry. There were calls for equality for women and for people of all races and social backgrounds to have equal access to education and jobs. More
Education in Britain gradually changed.
At the beginning of the period, children were split up at 11, some going to grammar schools (12-20% of the population) and the rest to schools with more basic education. Then comprehensive schools were introduced, which gave education to children of all abilities and interests. More
The threat of nuclear war led to widespread protests.
Fear that the Cold War could lead to a terrible nuclear war led to the setting up of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and a growing demand for world peace. In the USA and Britain, mass peace rallies attracted thousands during the 60s, 70s and 80s. More
The period also saw the growth of human rights and environmental groups.
These included Amnesty International, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Groups like Greenpeace campaigned about environmental issues. They used direct action but with no violence (e.g. they would form barriers to stop things happening that they thought were wrong). More
The 1950s saw the start of youth culture and the idea of the teenager.
Each youth culture had its own fashion and style (e.g. mods, rockers, hippies, punks, new romantics) and music (e.g. Rock and Roll, Psychedelic Rock, Glam Rock, Punk, New Wave). Fashions in clothes and music were aimed mostly at the teenage market. More
Youth culture had a great influence on art, politics and social values.
The Hippie movement introduced ideas which have lasted right up to today, from the spread of people living together to the popularity of health foods and alternative medicines. However youth movements also caused concern to the older citizens. More
Fashion in clothing changed quickly and was used to make a statement.
Different groups had different fashions that were often used to make a statement. For example, hippies tended to wear flowing, colourful clothes adapted from eastern garments while punk clothing, with its ripped clothes and mohican hair styles, was designed to be confrontational and shocking. More
Fashion in the home was also important.
For example, bright and exciting materials for curtains replaced dull florals. Open-plan living layouts were seen for the first time, new furniture came from Scandinavia and Italy and DIY gained in popularity. Cosy and warm became unfashionable. Cool, clean and without clutter was the new look. More
New towns and flats were built to house those who had lost their homes in WW2.
A number of new towns were built, which were also used to re-house people in old insanitary housing. In the early years, problems developed as people felt more cut off, without the support of the friends and neighbours they had lived among for years. In many inner city areas, tower blocks replaced low rise housing. More
New social problems arose.
More use of illegal drugs saw a lot of money being made by rich criminals who bought and sold drugs for profit. Football hooliganism was a big issue from the 1980s onwards. The tower blocks, built after the Second World War as a "quick-fix" to housing shortages, became areas of rising crime, vandalism and people feeling cut off from the rest of society. More
The Space Race saw the first manned space flight, the moon landing and the microchip.
In 1961, the Russians launched the first manned space flight. This was followed by the first manned moon landing by the Americans in 1969. Because of the Cold War and the Space Race, computers were developed along with linked technologies such as the transistor, followed by the silicon chip and then the microchip. More
TV advertising led to a big increase in entertainment and consumer goods.
Dinner parties were popular and, in the 1970s, a new dance craze, the disco, was born. Homes were also full of the latest labour saving gadgets. There was a growth of home shopping and companies offered to deliver goods before people had to pay. Britain was becoming a credit-driven society. More
This era also saw the end of European empires and the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland.
The countries in Africa and Asia ruled from Europe demanded, and eventually were given, self government. The early 70s saw a savage outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland, which continued over many years and led to a generation that grew up never knowing peace. More
Despite improvements there were new challenges to face.
There was still a lot of poverty and a lack of opportunity within countries in the West, as well as in the world at large. New problems were also developing. Family ties were breaking down leaving more elderly people isolated and AIDS, a totally new disease, shook the world. More