The prevailing view of the interwar period. Unemployed people lining up in London, (1930)
Please excuse the delay in publishing this. My mind has been elsewhere during the Covid-19 lockdown
In this episode of History Fireside Chats, I discuss the extent to which the 1930s can be characterised as the ‘devil’s decade’ by exploring the disparity of experience during the interwar period.
Of course, this is a nuanced issue boiled down into a cursory chat. The experience of people at the time was incredibly complicated. The experience people had depended on where they live and what their jobs were. Some people experienced intense, long term unemployment. Some people experienced an improvement in their daily lives. Some people experienced both at different times. For a more extensive discussion of the period I would recommend the following books:
For two contemporary accounts, I would suggest J. B. Priestley, English Journey and George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier.
An excellent introduction to the period, replete with lots of strong statistical evidence can be found in John Stevenson and Chris Cook, The Slump: Britain in the Great Depression.
A. J. P. Taylor, English history, 1914-1945. Taylor presents a more positive view of the depression than previous historians have. In his words, whilst the depression had dark periods for many ‘Yet, at the same time, most English people were enjoying a richer life than any previously known in the history of the world.’
Laura Beers, Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkinson. This biography of Wilkinson provides an excellent account of her time as MP for Jarrow, providing a good deal of context for her role in the Jarrow March and a broader impression of life during this period.
History Fireside Chats are produced, recorded and researched by Dr Kristopher Lovell.
Dr Devon Simons (Aberystwyth University) kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the CNN Effect for students enrolled on my War and the Media module whilst we were both in isolation in Coventry and Jacksonville during the Coronavirus Outbreak. This is partly why the recording quality is not perfect. But we thought it might be interesting and useful to a wider audience as well. This is the second part of the conversation during which Dr Simons explains how the CNN Effect forces the government to take a foreign policy stance.
After studying at Oglethorpe and Kent, Dr Simons’ was awarded a PhD at Aberystwyth University. Her PhD explored ‘The Media’s War on Terror’.
Dr Devon Simons (Aberystwyth University) kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the CNN Effect for students enrolled on my War and the Media module whilst we were both in isolation in Coventry and Jacksonville during the Coronavirus Outbreak. This is partly why the recording quality is not perfect – although I cannot defend my incoherence. (Even I don’t know what I said).
We thought it might be interesting and useful to a wider audience as well. In this first section, she gives a strong introduction to the concept of the CNN Effect. Subtitles should be accurate – let me know if there is a mistake and I’ll correct them as quickly as possible.
After studying at Oglethorpe and Kent, Dr Simons’ was awarded a PhD at Aberystwyth University. Her PhD explored ‘The Media’s War on Terror’.
In 1937, Tom Harrisson, Charles Madge and Humphrey Jennings created Mass Observation, a project aimed at recording everyday life in Britain. Mass Observation collected diaries and reports, conducted surveys and paid investigators to record conversations among members of the public. # RecordCovid19 is loosely inspired by Mass Observation. It aims to collect submissions from people living in these extraordinary times of social distancing, economic uncertainty, social self-isolation and state-enforced lockdown during the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. We seek to collect and publicly record the experiences of individuals living through these turbulent times. This #RecordCovid19 project initially started out as an individual personal project but it is now being developed in conjunction with Coventry University.
You are being invited to take part in research historicising and preserving experiences of Covid19 by submitting anonymous blog posts to the #RecordCovid19 project. Dr Kristopher Lovell, Lecturer in History at Coventry University is leading this research. Before you decide to take part it is important you understand whythe research is being conducted and whatit will involve. Please take time to read the following information carefully.
What is the purpose of the study?
This project is intended to be a collection of resources available for future generations about the Covid-19 outbreak. In particular, we hope the diaries and accounts, which are to be published online as events unfold, will be a valuable collection of primary sources for sociologists and historians to use in future research who are interested in the historical, social, cultural and political impact of the pandemic. You are free to discuss any aspect that you feel comfortable discussing which might be published anonymously in the future. Occasionally, we will add a page that asks for opinions about specific events.
This is, of course, voluntary.
Why have I been chosen to take part?
You are invited to participate in this study because you, as a member of the public, have experienced an historic event as an individual and individual accounts make history. This is a volunteer project and there is no obligation or expectation to participate. Any entries will be treated anonymously however offensive material will not be published online. Any individual can ask to withdraw from this project at any time.
What are the benefits of taking part?
By sharing your experiences with us, you will be helping Kristopher Lovell and Coventry University to better understand the social, cultural and political impact of the Covid19 pandemic and the impact it has had on individuals. Your experiences will also help us to historicise and contextualise the pandemic and the responses to it.
Are there any risks associated with taking part?
This study has been reviewed and approved through Coventry University’s formal research ethics procedure. There are no significant risks associated with participation however the project recognises that talking about the impact of Covid19 can be upsetting and the pandemic is making difficult situations even harder for many people. If you do find participating upsetting or that things are getting difficult, there are lots of amazing wellbeing services out there such as Mind and the Samaritans that can help provide emotional support. Please find some suggestions here: https://kristopherlovell.com/2020/11/17/list-of-resources/
Do I have to take part?
No – it is entirely up to you. If you do decide to take part, please keep this Information Sheet and complete the Informed Consent Form to show that you understand your rights in relation to the research, and that you are happy to participate. If you seek to withdraw from the study at a later date please contact the researcher. You are free to withdraw your information from the project data set at any time. You should note that your data may be used in the production of formal research outputs (e.g. journal articles, conference papers, theses and reports) in the future and so you are advised to contact the university at the earliest opportunity should you wish to withdraw from the study. To withdraw, please contact the lead researcher (Kristopher Lovell, email@example.com). Please also contact the Research Support Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) so that your request can be dealt with promptly in the event of the lead researcher’s absence. You do not need to give a reason. A decision to withdraw, or not to take part, will not affect you in any way.
What will happen if I decide to take part?
If you volunteer to take part, you will be asked to input a diary entry on the submission page https://kristopherlovell.com/record-covid-19-project/. Before submitting your entry you will need to check the disclosure box acknowledging that you have read the Terms of Service and understand what data is being collected, and you consent that materials submitted will be published online anonymously.
The project is interested to know how people felt, for example, hearing the Prime Minister’s broadcast informing the country that the population is entering a period of mandatory isolation. We are interested in understanding how people feel about the prospect of isolation, how they are keeping themselves occupied and hopefully how people feel when this is all over. We aim to collect your stories, be it in the form of diaries, general accounts and observations on your experiences. We would like to collect general information about participants, such as your general location, occupation, gender and age range.
All entries made to this website will be anonymous, please do not add your name or the personal identifying details of any other individual. If you do, these will be deleted. To increase your privacy, we strongly encourage you to use initials or made-up names for the people you mention and to do your best not to inadvertently identify yourself. The length of your anonymous diary entry is up to you. It may consist of several lines or several paragraphs. How much time and how many diary entries you wish to volunteer is entirely up to you.
Data Protection and Confidentiality
Your data will be processed in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation 2016 (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018. All submissions should be anonymous. Submissions that are not anonymous will be anonymised and only information you choose to discuss will be shared with and on WordPress. Any identifying data inadvertently submitted will only be viewed by the researcher/research team prior to anonymisation. A password protected backup copy of the data will be stored electronically by the lead researcher. The lead researcher will take responsibility for data destruction and all collected data will be destroyed after anonymisation.
Data Protection Rights
Coventry University is a Data Controller for the information you provide. You have the right to access information held about you. Your right of access can be exercised in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. You also have other rights including rights of correction, erasure, objection, and data portability. For more details, including the right to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office, please visit www.ico.org.uk. Questions, comments and requests about your personal data can also be sent to the University Data Protection Officer – email@example.com
What will happen with the results of this study?
The results of this study may be summarised in published articles, reports and presentations. Quotes or key findings will always be made anonymous in any formal outputs unless we have your prior and explicit written permission to attribute them to you by name.
Terms of Service
By submitting content to this website, I confirm that I have read and understood the Participant Information documentation. I understand that my contributor content is hereby assigned to the curator of the Record Covid-19 Project. I hereby waive all rights of every kind pertaining to this information, whether or not such rights are now known, recognised, or contemplated in relation to this work, on the understanding that the content will not be used in a derogatory manner and that as the author my words will be published anonymously. I understand that no payment is due to me for this assignment and consent. In assigning my copyright, I understand that I am giving the curator of the Record Covid-19 Project the right to use and make available the content of my contribution in the following ways:
publicly displayed on the Record Covid-19 Project website
use in schools, universities, colleges and other educational establishments, including use in a thesis, dissertation or similar research
public performance, lectures or talks
use in publications, including print, audio, digital media and online
public reference purposes in libraries, museums & record offices
use on radio or television
publication worldwide on the internet
offered to a public archive
Making a Complaint
If you are unhappy with any aspect of this research, please first contact the lead researcher, Kristopher Lovell [firstname.lastname@example.org]. If you still have concerns and wish to make a formal complaint, please write to: Professor Damian Sutton Faculty Ethics Lead – Arts and Humanities Coventry University Coventry CV1 5FB Email: email@example.com
In your letter please provide information about the research project, specify the name of the researcher and detail the nature of your complaint.
General Statement – use and storage of your data
We take the Protection of Data and Information Security seriously.
This is a voluntary project and is being curated for public good purposes, historical records and research (in the tradition of Mass Observation studies). Contributions will be anonymised. The information, thoughts, writings, diary entries and comments will be published using WordPress and may be used for research at this time or in the future. To increase your privacy, we strongly encourage you to use initials or made-up names for the people you mention, and to do your best not to inadvertently identify yourself. Any information linking a contributor, their contribution(s) and their identity will be stored securely and not processed automatically, sold or made public. These data might include (but not limited to) e-mails, phone and other contact details, full names, or other information from which an individual could be identified. Any individual can ask to withdraw from this project at any time.
Honoré de Balzac drank 50 cups of coffee a day. Honoré de Balzac lacked dedication. He allowed himself to get too distracted by his writing. I am more devoted to the coffee cause.
Every morning, before anything else can happen, I watch the kettle boil in anticipation of the ‘click’ that signals the best part of my day is about to begin. Everything is ready. The coffee granules have been poured into my favourite cup. Poured. I have moved beyond measuring spoonfuls of powder. As soon as the water hits the coffee, the smell can turn any dark, grey Monday morning into a technicolour world.
People who think of coffee as just a beverage will never truly understand. Coffee is more than just a drink. It is an extension of my body, a considered part of my interactions. A social shield. A slow, satisfying sip lets me gather my thoughts without an awkward pause or it can help me hide my real thoughts by drowning the words on the tip of my tongue. Any nervous fidgeting is masked by the cup in my hand. Everyone is more confident if they are holding a hot drink.
Coffee can also be a social bridge. “Would you like to grab some coffee?” is a clear sign that I value your companionship, that I trust that you will not ruin my hourly trip to the cafe or kitchen. People bond over their choices of coffee. Americano. Latte. Cappuccino. Flat White. Flat Black. You nod in appreciation when someone orders the same drink as you. It is a sign of understanding. Macchiato respect.
Of course, some people use coffee to divide the world. There are the purists who claim coffee should only ever be black, short and unsweetened. Some want the benefits of coffee without any of the bitterness – they buy coffees that are more milk and sugar than actual coffee. Most people want a coffee somewhere in between these two extremes. Those who seek to use coffee to divide us forget that we are united by coffee. Brazilian beans are brewed in the Bronx. Coffea canephora from across Africa can be enjoyed in Camden Cafes. If there was one drink that represents the rise of the Global Village it is coffee.
‘Really? Another one?’, the barista asks me after a particularly long day.
‘It’s my last cup’, I lie. I’m already thinking about the coffee I’ll make when I get home. I’m already thinking about the joy of that first cup in the morning.
For 130 years, the Coventry Evening Telegraph has, in one form or another, served as the voice of Britain’s City of Culture. The Telegraph has charted, documented, and helped to shape the city’s history. But what was it like to tell the stories which made that made Coventry? In this short film, historians from Coventry University speak with former employees about life behind the scenes of the Telegraph, allowing them to share their stories and give a unique insight into one of the city’s defining institutions.
I was very pleased to be involved in the Coventry Evening Telegraph documentary exploring the Oral History of an important local newspaper alongside my colleagues Dr Darren R. Reid, Dr Chris Smith and Brett Sanders. Fellow newspaper historian, Dr Rachel Matthews, and I are currently working on a couple of publications based on this project having presented our research at the Oral History Society’s conference last year.
What was particularly great about this project was that it was a collaborative effort at all levels. We had some wonderful Undergraduate students (Poppy Britter, Sophie Knowles, Stefan Bernhardt-Radu and Yahim Ali) who conducted the interviews and helped film and produce the documentary.
It is great to be able to put this effort out there.
In this episode of History Fireside Chats, we discuss the Downfall of Chamberlain and the rise of Winston Churchill and we explore how neither was as inevitable as we often think.
As always, this is only a cursory chat. The events preceding the downfall of Chamberlain were incredibly complicated and nuanced. Thankfully, Neville Chamberlain has been the subject of many detailed histories and biographies, and Winston Churchill’s Premiership is one of the most well covered political events in history. There are too many to list but I would recommend the following:
Iain Macleod, Neville Chamberlain (London, 1961). A sympathetic, if problematic, account of Chamberlain’s life written by a British Conservative minister that explores in detail Chamberlain’s early reforms.
Frank McDonough, Neville Chamberlain, Appeasement and the British Road to War (Manchester, 1998). A classic account of Chamberlain and his political career. It presents a very different view of Chamberlain to Macleod.
Peter Neville, Neville Chamberlain: A Study in Failure? (1992). Peter Neville’s book a short but enticing introduction to Chamberlain’s life and is particularly suited for A-Level students. At the end of each chapter, Neville offers a series of exercises designed to explain some of the issues Chamberlain faced.
Jonathan Schneer, Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet (London, 2015). With enviable style, Schneer produces a history of high politics that reads at times like a well-written political thriller and he brings to life many of the rich personalities that clashed so frequently during the war.
Of course, Churchill’s own account of events is worth reading (even if it requires a slight pinch of salt). For his account see his The Second World War: Volume II: Their Finest Hour (1951)
Please excuse the more-than-usual nasally voice which is due to a mild cold. Apologies and I will try to re-record it when when I fully recovered.
History Fireside Chats are produced, recorded and researched by Dr Kristopher Lovell. The audio was recorded using the Samson G-Track Pro: https://amzn.to/2YU2cit
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