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Title:Unemployment and the Working Class: Bolton, Lancashire in the 1930's
Author(s):Soloff, Daniel
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Arnstein, Walter L.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, European
History, Modern
Abstract:This study raises some questions about how unemployment has been studied, concluding that previous efforts have been limited in their ability truly to analyze the impact of unemployment. It places the issue of class at the center, arguing that the study of unemployment not only needs to examine individual experiences and reactions, but also those of the socio-economic group that the individuals belong to--the working class.
There were three seminal assumptions that shaped this study: without context, there can be no analysis of the impact of unemployment; in order to develop context, a total historical approach is useful and, hence, the value of grounding the study at the local level, bringing in the regional and national where appropriate; and, ultimately, the lived experience of the phenomenon provides the most relevant insights into its impact.
Unemployment in Bolton was a serious problem throughout the 1930's. While the Unemployment Insurance System provided a safety net of sorts, its design was not necessarily in the best interests of its recipients; rather, the way it was administered generated anger, frustration, and the experience of powerlessness. Unemployment placed great stress on both the family and on gender roles. It also helped to differentiate between those who were in a better position to take advantage of improving material/consumer opportunities and those who could not. There is also clear evidence that it had a negative impact on physical health--at a time when health care was improving--and mental health.
The employed workers also experienced a sense of powerlessness and frustration, much of which was at least indirectly related to unemployment. The workplace was characterized by increased competition and other dynamics which enhanced a sense of stratification. This process was furthered by the move to housing estates and other developments which threatened the traditional sources of working-class identity, solidarity, and continuity. Ironically, however, it is argued that the very dynamics which enhanced stratification in the 1930's played a role in the predominantly class-based Labour victory in 1945.
Issue Date:1993
Description:432 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1993.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI9411786
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-17
Date Deposited:1993

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