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1960s Britain

1960s Britain

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The "cultural decade" of the 1960s is more loosely defined than the actual decade. It begins around 1963–1964 with the John F. Kennedy assassination, [2] [3] the Beatles' arrival in the United States and their meeting with Bob Dylan, [4] [1] and ends around 1969–1970 with the Altamont Free Concert, [5] the Beatles' breakup [6] and the Kent State shootings, [7] or with the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam and the resignation of U.S. President Nixon in 1974.

The term "the Sixties" is used by historians, journalists, and other academics in scholarship and popular culture to denote the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends around the globe during this era. Some use the term to describe the decade's counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling others use it to denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos that occurred during this time, but also because of the emergence of a wide range of music from the Beatles-inspired British Invasion and the folk music revival, to the poetic lyrics of Bob Dylan. Norms of all kinds were broken down, especially in regards to civil rights and precepts of military duty.

By the end of the 1950s, war-ravaged Europe had largely finished reconstruction and began a tremendous economic boom. World War II had brought about a huge leveling of social classes in which the remnants of the old feudal gentry disappeared. There was a major expansion of the middle class in western European countries and by the 1960s, many working-class people in Western Europe could afford a radio, television, refrigerator, and motor vehicle. Meanwhile, the East such as the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries were improving quickly after rebuilding from WWII. Real GDP growth averaged 6% a year during the second half of the decade. Thus, the overall worldwide economic trend in the 1960s was one of prosperity, expansion of the middle class, and the proliferation of new domestic technology.

The confrontation between the US and the Soviet Union dominated geopolitics during the '60s, with the struggle expanding into developing nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia as the Soviet Union moved from being a regional to a truly global superpower and began vying for influence in the developing world. After President Kennedy's assassination, direct tensions between the US and Soviet Union cooled and the superpower confrontation moved into a contest for control of the Third World, a battle characterized by proxy wars, funding of insurgencies, and puppet governments.

In response to nonviolent direct action campaigns from groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), U.S. President John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian [8] and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. Kennedy's assassination in 1963 was a shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors around the globe. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. upon working with underpaid Tennessee garbage collectors and the anti-Vietnam War movement, and the police response towards protesters of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, defined politics of violence in the United States.

In Western Europe and Japan, organizations such as those present at May 1968, the Red Army Faction, and the Zengakuren tested liberal democracy's ability to satisfy its marginalized or alienated citizenry amidst post-industrial age hybrid capitalist economies. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. [9] In France, the protests of 1968 led to President Charles de Gaulle temporarily fleeing the country. [10] For some, May 1968 meant the end of traditional collective action and the beginning of a new era to be dominated mainly by the so-called new social movements. [11] Italy formed its first left-of-center government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. When Aldo Moro became Prime Minister in 1963, Socialists joined the ruling block too. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

The Great Society

During his presidential campaign in 1960, John F. Kennedy had promised the most ambitious domestic agenda since the New Deal: the “New Frontier,” a package of laws and reforms that sought to eliminate injustice and inequality in the United States. But the New Frontier ran into problems right away: The Democrats’ Congressional majority depended on a group of Southerners who loathed the plan’s interventionist liberalism and did all they could to block it. The Cuban Missile Crisis and failed Bay of Pigs invasion was another disaster for Kennedy.

Did you know? On June 27, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The bar’s patrons, sick of being subjected to harassment and discrimination, fought back: For five days, rioters took to the streets in protest. “The word is out,” one protester said. “[We] have had it with oppression.” Historians believe that this “Stonewall Rebellion” marked the beginning of the gay rights movement.

It was not until 1964, after Kennedy was shot, that President Lyndon B. Johnson could muster the political capital to enact his own expansive program of reforms. That year, Johnson declared that he would make the United States into a “Great Society” in which poverty and racial injustice had no place. He developed a set of programs that would give poor people 𠇊 hand up, not a handout.” These included Medicare and Medicaid, which helped elderly and low-income people pay for health care Head Start, which prepared young children for school and a Job Corps that trained unskilled workers for jobs in the deindustrializing economy. Meanwhile, Johnson’s Office of Economic Opportunity encouraged disadvantaged people to participate in the design and implementation of the government’s programs on their behalf, while his Model Cities program offered federal subsidies for urban redevelopment and community projects.

Fashion Icon: Audrey Hepburn

A n enduring icon of the 1950s and ‘60s, movie star Audrey Hepburn embraced the progression of sixties fashion up to the hippie aesthetic of the last part of the decade. Having firmly established herself as a leading lady in 1950s films like Roman Holiday, Sabrina, and Funny Face, Hepburn’s influence continued into the sixties.

In 1961, she starred as Holly Golightly in one of her most iconic films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Fig. 14). In this film, like so many others, Hubert de Givenchy designed the costumes, including the iconic black dress from the opening scene (Fig. 17). Hepburn and Givenchy worked together both on- and off-screen to create a simple, but stylish wardrobe that was easily copied by women of all means.

In the early 1960s, Hepburn wore feminine, Jackie Kennedy-esque skirt suits. Like the First Lady, she paired these suits with the requisite accessories: gloves and hat, like the green Givenchy suit worn in Paris When It Sizzles in 1962 (Fig. 18). The clothes she wore in 1963’s Charade would not have looked out of place on Kennedy but also cut a stylish figure as she gallivanted through Paris (Fig. 15). As the decade progressed, so did her fashion. In the mid-sixties, Hepburn began to wear more “Mod” styles with bright colors and minidresses working their way into her wardrobe. In the 1966 film How to Steal a Million, she sported white-rimmed sunglasses à la Space Age styles and a stylish bob hairstyle accented by dark eyeliner to give her the popular doe-eyed look of the period (Fig. 16).

Though she would remain admired for her fashion for the rest of her life, by 1969, when the fashion world had started to turn to Eastern influences and longer skirts, Hepburn married Andrea Dotti in a pink minidress (Fig. 19). Looking happy, she represented the part of the population, including couture designers like Givenchy, who had not yet embraced the new style.

Fig. 14 - Jurow-Shepherd. Breakfast at Tiffany's Promotional Image, 1961. Laura Loveday. Source: Flickr

Fig. 15 - Directed and produced by Stanley Donen cinematography by Charles Lang. A screenshot from the film Charade, 1963. Source: Wikimedia

Fig. 16 - World Wide Productions. Audrey Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, "How to Steal a Million", 1966. Classic Film. Source: Flickr

Fig. 17 - Jurow-Shepherd. Breakfast at Tiffany's Promotional Image, 1961. Christina Saint Marche. Source: Flickr

Fig. 18 - Bob Willoughby. Audrey Hepburn in a Givenchy suit, "Paris When it Sizzles", 1962. Laura Loveday. Source: Flickr

Fig. 19 - Unknown. Audrey Hepburn and Dr. Andrea Dotti, 1969. Kate Gabrielle. Source: Flickr


Government and press Edit

In the early 1960s, the British news media were dominated by several high-profile spying stories: the breaking of the Portland spy ring in 1961, the capture and sentencing of George Blake in the same year and, in 1962, the case of John Vassall, a homosexual Admiralty clerk who had been blackmailed into spying by the Soviets. [3] Vassall was subsequently sentenced to 28 years in prison. After suggestions in the press that Vassall had been shielded by his political masters, the responsible minister, Thomas Galbraith, resigned from the government pending inquiries. Galbraith was later exonerated by the Radcliffe inquiry, which sent two newspaper journalists to prison for refusing to reveal their sources for sensational and uncorroborated stories about Vassall's private life. [4] The imprisonment severely damaged relations between the press and the Conservative government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan [5] columnist Paul Johnson of the New Statesman warned: "[A]ny Tory minister or MP . who gets involved in a scandal during the next year or so must expect—I regret to say—the full treatment". [6] [n 1]

Profumo Edit

John Profumo was born in 1915, of Italian descent. He first entered Parliament in 1940 as the Conservative member for Kettering, while serving with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry, and combined his political and military duties through the Second World War. Profumo lost his seat in the 1945 general election, but was elected in 1950 for Stratford-on-Avon. From 1951 he held junior ministerial office in successive Conservative administrations. In 1960, Macmillan promoted Profumo to Secretary of State for War, a senior post outside the cabinet. [8] After his marriage in 1954 to Valerie Hobson, one of Britain's leading film actresses, Profumo may have conducted casual affairs, using late-night parliamentary sittings as his cover. [9] His tenure as war minister coincided with a period of transition in the armed forces, involving the end of conscription and the development of a wholly professional army. Profumo's performance was watched with a critical eye by his opposition counterpart George Wigg, a former regular soldier. [10] [11]

Keeler, Rice-Davies, and Astor Edit

Christine Keeler, born in 1942, left school at 15 with no qualifications and took a series of short-lived jobs in shops, offices and cafés. She aspired to be a model, and at 16 had a photograph published in Tit-Bits magazine. [12] In August 1959, Keeler found work as a topless showgirl at Murray's Cabaret Club in Beak Street, Soho. This long-established club attracted a distinguished clientele who, Keeler wrote, "could look but could not touch". [13] [14] Shortly after starting at Murray's, Keeler was introduced to a client, the society osteopath Stephen Ward. Captivated by Ward's charm, she agreed to move into his flat, in a relationship she has described as "like brother and sister"—affectionate but not sexual. [15] She left Ward after a few months to become the mistress of the property dealer Peter Rachman, [16] [n 2] and later shared lodgings with Mandy Rice-Davies, a fellow Murray's dancer two and a half years her junior. The two girls left Murray's and attempted without success to pursue careers as freelance models. [18] [19] Keeler also lived for short periods with various boyfriends, but regularly returned to Ward, who had acquired a house in Wimpole Mews, Marylebone. [20] [21] There she met many of Ward's friends, among them Lord Astor, a long-time patient who was also a political ally of Profumo. [8] [22] She often spent weekends at a riverside cottage that Ward rented on Astor's country estate, Cliveden, in Buckinghamshire. [23]

Ward and Ivanov Edit

Ward, born in Hertfordshire in 1912, qualified as an osteopath in the United States. After the Second World War he began practising in Cavendish Square, London, [24] where he rapidly established a reputation and attracted many distinguished patients. These connections, together with his personal charm, brought him considerable social success. In his spare time Ward attended art classes at the Slade school, [24] and developed a profitable sideline in portrait sketches. In 1960 he was commissioned by The Illustrated London News to provide a series of portraits of national and international figures. These included members of the Royal Family, among them Prince Philip and Princess Margaret. [25]

Ward hoped to visit the Soviet Union to draw portraits of Russian leaders. To help him, one of his patients, the Daily Telegraph editor Sir Colin Coote, arranged an introduction to Captain Yevgeny Ivanov (anglicised as "Eugene"), listed as a naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy. [26] British Intelligence (MI5) knew from the double agent Oleg Penkovsky that Ivanov was an intelligence officer in the Soviet GRU. [27] Ward and Ivanov became firm friends. Ivanov frequently visited Ward at Wimpole Mews, where he met Keeler and Rice-Davies, and sometimes joined Ward's weekend parties at Cliveden. [21] MI5 considered Ivanov a potential defector, and sought Ward's help to this end, providing him with a case officer known as "Woods". [28] [29] Ward was later used by the Foreign Office as a backchannel, through Ivanov, to the Soviet Union, [30] and was involved in unofficial diplomacy at the time of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. [31] His closeness to Ivanov raised concerns about his loyalty according to Lord Denning's September 1963 report, Ivanov often asked Ward questions about British foreign policy, and Ward did his best to provide answers. [21]

Cliveden, July 1961 Edit

During the weekend of 8–9 July 1961, Keeler was among several guests of Ward at the Spring Cottage at Cliveden. [32] That same weekend, at the main house, Profumo and his wife Valerie were among the large gathering from the worlds of politics and the arts which Astor was hosting in honour of Ayub Khan, the president of Pakistan. On the Saturday evening, Ward's and Astor's parties mingled at the Cliveden swimming pool, which Ward and his guests had permission to use. [33] Keeler, who had been swimming naked, was introduced to Profumo while trying to cover herself with a skimpy towel. She was, Profumo informed his son many years later, "a very pretty girl and very sweet". [34] Keeler did not know, initially, who Profumo was, but was impressed that he was the husband of a famous film star and was prepared to have "a bit of fun" with him. [35]

The next afternoon the two parties reconvened at the pool, joined by Ivanov, who had arrived that morning. There followed what Lord Denning described as "a light-hearted and frolicsome bathing party, where everyone was in bathing costumes and nothing indecent took place at all". [36] Profumo was greatly attracted to Keeler, [37] and promised to be in touch with her. Ward asked Ivanov to accompany Keeler back to London where, according to Keeler, they had sex. Some commentators doubt this—Keeler was generally outspoken about her sexual relationships, yet said nothing openly about sex with Ivanov until she informed a newspaper eighteen months later. [38] [39]

On 12 July 1961, Ward reported on the weekend's events to MI5. [40] He told Woods that Ivanov and Profumo had met and that the latter had shown considerable interest in Keeler. Ward also stated that he had been asked by Ivanov for information about the future arming of West Germany with nuclear weapons. This request for military information did not greatly disturb MI5, who expected a GRU officer to ask such questions. Profumo's interest in Keeler was an unwelcome complication in MI5's plans to use her in a honey trap operation against Ivanov, to help secure his defection. Woods therefore referred the issue to MI5's director-general, Sir Roger Hollis. [39]

Affair Edit

A few days after the Cliveden weekend, Profumo contacted Keeler. The affair that ensued was brief some commentators have suggested that it ended after a few weeks, while others believe that it continued, with decreasing fervour, until December 1961. [39] [41] [42] The relationship was characterised by Keeler as an unromantic relationship without expectations, a "screw of convenience", [43] although she also states that Profumo hoped for a longer-term commitment and that he offered to set her up in a flat. [44] More than twenty years later, Profumo described Keeler in conversation with his son as someone who "seem[ed] to like sexual intercourse", but who was "completely uneducated", with no conversation beyond make-up, hair and gramophone records. [45]

From Profumo's "Darling" letter to Keeler, 9 August 1961 [39]

The couple usually met at Wimpole Mews, when Ward was absent, although once, when Hobson was away, Profumo took Keeler to his home at Chester Terrace in Regent's Park. [39] On one occasion he borrowed a Bentley from his ministerial colleague John Hare and took Keeler for a drive around London, and another time the couple had a drink with Viscount Ward, the former Secretary of State for Air. During their time together, Profumo gave Keeler a few small presents, and once, a sum of £20 as a gift for her mother. [41] Keeler maintains that although Stephen Ward asked her to obtain information from Profumo about the deployment of nuclear weapons, she did not do so. [46] Profumo was equally adamant that no such discussions took place. [47]

On 9 August, Profumo was interviewed informally by Sir Norman Brook, the Cabinet Secretary, [42] who had been advised by Hollis of Profumo's involvement with the Ward circle. Brook warned the minister of the dangers of mixing with Ward's group, since MI5 were at this stage unsure of Ward's dependability. It is possible that Brook asked Profumo to help MI5 in its efforts to secure Ivanov's defection—a request which Profumo declined. [41] Although Brook did not indicate knowledge of Profumo's relationship with Keeler, Profumo may have suspected that he knew. That same day, Profumo wrote Keeler a letter, beginning "Darling . ", cancelling an assignation they had made for the following day. Some commentators have assumed that this letter ended the association [39] Keeler insisted that the affair ended later, after her persistent refusals to stop living with Ward. [48] [n 3]

Gordon and Edgecombe Edit

In October 1961 Keeler accompanied Ward to Notting Hill, then a run-down district of London replete with West Indian music clubs and cannabis dealers. [41] [50] At the Rio Café they encountered Aloysius "Lucky" Gordon, a Jamaican jazz singer with a history of violence and petty crime. He and Keeler embarked on an affair which, in her own accounts, was marked by equal measures of violence and tenderness on his part. [51] Gordon became very possessive towards Keeler, jealous of her other social contacts. He began confronting her friends, and often telephoned her at unsocial hours. In November Keeler left Wimpole Mews and moved to a flat in Dolphin Square, overlooking the Thames at Pimlico, where she entertained friends. When Gordon continued to harass Keeler he was arrested by the police and charged with assault. Keeler later agreed to drop the charge. [52] [53]

In July 1962 the first inklings of a possible Profumo-Keeler-Ivanov triangle had been hinted, in coded terms, in the gossip column of the society magazine Queen. Under the heading, "Sentences I'd like to hear the end of" appeared the wording: ". called in MI5 because every time the chauffeur-driven Zils drew up at her front door, out of her back door into a chauffeur-driven Humber slipped. " [54] Keeler was then in New York City with Rice-Davies, in an abortive attempt to launch their modelling careers there. [55] [n 4] On her return, to counter Gordon's threats, Keeler formed a relationship with Johnny Edgecombe, an ex-merchant seaman from Antigua, with whom she lived for a while in Brentford, just west of London. [57] Edgecombe became similarly possessive himself after he and Gordon clashed violently on 27 October 1962, when Edgecombe slashed his rival with a knife. [58] Keeler broke up with Edgecombe shortly afterwards because of his domineering behaviour. [57]

On 14 December 1962 Keeler and Rice-Davies were together at 17 Wimpole Mews when Edgecombe arrived, demanding to see Keeler. When he was not allowed in, he fired several shots at the front door. Shortly afterwards, Edgecombe was arrested and charged with attempted murder and other offences. [59] In brief press accounts, Keeler was described as "a free-lance model" and "Miss Marilyn Davies" as "an actress". [60] In the wake of the incident, Keeler began to talk indiscreetly about Ward, Profumo, Ivanov and the Edgecombe shooting. Among those to whom she told her story was John Lewis, a former Labour MP whom she had met by chance in a night club. Lewis, a long-standing enemy of Ward, passed the information to Wigg, his one-time parliamentary colleague, who began his own investigation. [61]

Mounting pressures Edit

On 22 January 1963 the Soviet government, sensing a possible scandal, recalled Ivanov. [62] Aware of increasing public interest, Keeler attempted to sell her story to the national newspapers. [63] The Radcliffe tribunal's ongoing inquiry into press behaviour during the Vassall case was making newspapers nervous, [64] and only two showed interest in Keeler's story: the Sunday Pictorial and the News of the World. As the latter would not join an auction, Keeler accepted the Pictorial ' s offer of a £200 down payment and a further £800 when the story was published. [65] The Pictorial retained a copy of the "Darling" letter. Meanwhile, the News of the World alerted Ward and Astor—whose names had been mentioned by Keeler—and they in turn informed Profumo. [63] When Profumo's lawyers tried to persuade Keeler not to publish, the compensation she demanded was so large that they considered charges of extortion. [66] Ward informed the Pictorial that Keeler's story was largely false, and that he and others would sue if it was printed, whereupon the paper withdrew its offer, although Keeler kept the £200. [63]

Keeler then gave details of her affair with Profumo to a police officer, who did not pass on this information to MI5 or the legal authorities. [66] [67] By this time, many of Profumo's political colleagues had heard rumours of his entanglement, and of the existence of a potentially incriminating letter. Nevertheless, his denials were accepted by the government's principal law officers and the Conservative Chief Whip, although with some private scepticism. [68] Macmillan, mindful of the injustice done to Galbraith on the basis of rumours, was determined to support his minister and took no action. [67] [n 5]

Edgecombe's trial began on 14 March but Keeler, one of the Crown's key witnesses, was missing. She had, without informing the court, gone to Spain, although at this stage her whereabouts were unknown. Keeler's unexplained absence caused a press sensation. [71] Every newspaper knew the rumours linking Keeler with Profumo, but refrained from reporting any direct connection in the wake of the Radcliffe inquiry they were, in Wigg's later words, "willing to wound but afraid to strike". [72] They could only hint, by front-page juxtapositions of stories and photographs, that Profumo might be connected to Keeler's disappearance. [73] Despite Keeler's absence the judge proceeded with the case Edgecombe was found guilty on a lesser charge of possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, and sentenced to seven years' imprisonment. [71] A few days after the trial, on 21 March, the satirical magazine Private Eye printed the most detailed summary so far of the rumours, with the main characters lightly disguised: "Mr James Montesi", "Miss Gaye Funloving", "Dr Spook" and "Vladimir Bolokhov". [72]

Personal statement Edit

The newly elected leader of the opposition Labour Party, Harold Wilson, was initially advised by his colleagues to have nothing to do with Wigg's private dossier on the Profumo rumours. [74] On 21 March, with the press furore over the "missing witness" at its height, the party changed its stance. During a House of Commons debate, Wigg used parliamentary privilege to ask the Home Secretary to categorically deny the truth of rumours connecting "a minister" to Keeler, Rice-Davies and the Edgecombe shooting. [75] He did not name Profumo, who was not in the House. [76] Later in the debate Barbara Castle, the Labour MP for Blackburn, referred to the "missing witness" and hinted at a possible perversion of justice. [76] [77] The Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, refused to comment, adding that Wigg and Castle should "seek other means of making these insinuations if they are prepared to substantiate them". [78]

At the conclusion of the debate the government's law officers and Chief Whip met, and decided that Profumo should assert his innocence in a personal statement to the House. Such statements are, by long-standing tradition, made on the particular honour of the member and are accepted by the House without question. [79] In the early hours of 22 March Profumo and his lawyers met with ministers and together agreed an appropriate wording. Later that morning Profumo made his statement to a crowded House. He acknowledged friendships with Keeler and Ward, the former of whom, he said, he had last seen in December 1961. He had met "a Mr Ivanov" twice, also in 1961. He stated: "There was no impropriety whatsoever in my acquaintanceship with Miss Keeler", and added: "I shall not hesitate to issue writs for libel and slander if scandalous allegations are made or repeated outside the House." [80] That afternoon, Profumo was photographed at Sandown Park Racecourse in the company of the Queen Mother. [81]

Christine Keeler, press interview 25 March 1963. [81]

While officially the matter was considered closed, [81] many individual MPs had doubts, although none openly expressed disbelief at this stage. Wigg later said that he left the House that morning "with black rage in my heart because I knew what the facts were. I knew the truth." [82] Most newspapers were editorially non-committal only The Guardian, under the headline "Mr Profumo clears the air", stated openly that the statement should be taken at its face value. [83] [84] Within a few days press attention was distracted by the re-emergence of Keeler in Madrid. She expressed astonishment at the fuss her absence had caused, adding that her friendship with Profumo and his wife was entirely innocent and that she had many friends in important positions. [81] Keeler claimed that she had not deliberately missed the Edgecombe trial but had been confused about the date. She was required to forfeit her recognizance of £40, but no other action was taken against her. [85]

Investigation and resignation Edit

Shortly after Profumo's Commons statement, Ward appeared on Independent Television News, where he endorsed Profumo's version and dismissed all rumours and insinuations as "baseless". [86] Ward's own activities had become a matter of official concern, and on 1 April 1963 the Metropolitan Police began to investigate his affairs. They interviewed 140 of Ward's friends, associates and patients, maintained a 24-hour watch on his home, and tapped his telephone—this last action requiring direct authorisation from Brooke. [87] Among those who gave statements was Keeler, who contradicted her earlier assurances and confirmed her sexual relationship with Profumo, providing corroborative details of the interior of the Chester Terrace house. [88] The police put pressure on reluctant witnesses Rice-Davies was remanded to Holloway Prison for a driving licence offence and held there for eight days until she agreed to testify against Ward. [87] [89] Meanwhile, Profumo was awarded costs and £50 damages against the British distributors of an Italian magazine that had printed a story hinting at his guilt. He donated the proceeds to an army charity. [90] This did not deter Private Eye from including "Sextus Profano" in their parody of Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. [91] [92]

On 18 April 1963 Keeler was attacked at the home of a friend. She accused Gordon, who was arrested and held. According to Knightley and Kennedy's account, the police offered to drop the charges if Gordon would testify against Ward, but he refused. [93] The effects of the police inquiry were proving ruinous to Ward, whose practice was collapsing rapidly. On 7 May he met Macmillan's private secretary, Timothy Bligh, to ask that the police inquiry into his affairs be halted. He added that he had been covering for Profumo, whose Commons statement was substantially false. Bligh took notes but failed to take action. [94] [95] On 19 May Ward wrote to Brooke, with essentially the same request as that to Bligh, to be told that the Home Secretary had no power to interfere with the police inquiry. [96] Ward then gave details to the press, but no paper would print the story. He also wrote to Wilson, who showed the letter to Macmillan. Although privately disdainful of Wilson's motives, after discussions with Hollis the prime minister was sufficiently concerned about Ward's general activities to ask the Lord Chancellor, Lord Dilhorne, to inquire into possible security breaches. [94]

On 31 May 1963 at the start of the parliamentary Whitsun recess, Profumo and his wife flew to Venice for a short holiday. At their hotel they received a message asking Profumo to return as soon as possible. Believing that his bluff had been called, Profumo then told his wife the truth, and they decided to return immediately. They found that Macmillan was on holiday in Scotland. On Tuesday 4 June, Profumo confessed the truth to Bligh, confirming that he had lied, and resigned from the government and from Parliament. Bligh informed Macmillan of these events by telephone. The resignation was announced on 5 June, when the formal exchange of letters between Profumo and Macmillan was published. [97] [98] [n 6] The Times called Profumo's lies "a great tragedy for the probity of public life in Britain" [99] and the Daily Mirror hinted that not all the truth had been told, and referred to "skeletons in many cupboards". [100]

Retribution Edit

Gordon's trial for the attack on Keeler began on the day Profumo's resignation was made public. He maintained that his innocence would be established by two witnesses who, the police told the court, could not be found. On 7 June, principally on the evidence of Keeler, Gordon was found guilty and sentenced to three years' imprisonment. [101] The following day, Ward was arrested and charged with immorality offences. [102] On 9 June, freed from Profumo's libel threats, the News of the World published "The Confessions of Christine", an account which helped to fashion the public image of Ward as a sexual predator and probable tool of the Soviets. [103] The Sunday Mirror (formerly the Sunday Pictorial) printed Profumo's "Darling" letter. [104]

Nigel Birch, House of Commons, 17 June 1963 [105]

In advance of the House of Commons debate on Profumo's resignation, due 17 June, David Watt in The Spectator defined Macmillan's position as "an intolerable dilemma from which he can only escape by being proved either ludicrously naïve or incompetent or deceitful—or all three". [106] Meanwhile, the press speculated about possible Cabinet resignations, and several ministers felt it necessary to demonstrate their loyalty to the prime minister. [107] In a BBC interview on 13 June Lord Hailsham, holder of several ministerial offices, denounced Profumo in a manner which, according to The Observer, "had to be seen to be believed". [108] [n 7] Hailsham insisted that "a great party is not to be brought down because of a squalid affair between a woman of easy virtue and a proven liar". [111]

In the debate, Wilson concentrated almost exclusively on the extent to which Macmillan and his colleagues had been dilatory in not identifying a clear security risk arising from Profumo's association with Ward and his circle. [112] Macmillan responded that he should not be held culpable for believing a colleague who had repeatedly asserted his innocence. He mentioned the false allegations against Galbraith, and the failure of the security services to share their detailed information with him. [113] In the general debate the sexual aspects of the scandal were fully discussed Nigel Birch, the Conservative MP for West Flintshire, referred to Keeler as a "professional prostitute" and asked rhetorically: "What are whores about?" [114] Keeler was otherwise branded a "tart" and a "poor little slut". [n 8] Ward was vilified throughout as a likely Soviet agent one Conservative referred to "the treason of Dr Ward". [103] Most Conservatives, whatever their reservations, were supportive of Macmillan, with only Birch suggesting that he should consider retirement. [114] In the subsequent vote on the government's handling of the affair, 27 Conservatives abstained, reducing the government's majority to 69. Most newspapers considered the extent of the defection significant, and several forecast that Macmillan would soon resign. [116] [117]

After the parliamentary debate, newspapers published further sensational stories, hinting at widespread immorality within Britain's governing class. A story emanating from Rice-Davies concerned a naked masked man, who acted as a waiter at sex parties rumours suggested that he was a cabinet minister, or possibly a member of the Royal Family. [118] Malcolm Muggeridge in the Sunday Mirror wrote of "The Slow, Sure Death of the Upper Classes". [119] [120] [n 9] On 21 June Macmillan instructed Lord Denning, the Master of the Rolls, to investigate and report on the growing range of rumours. [121] Ward's committal proceedings began a week later, at Marylebone magistrates' court, where the Crown's evidence was fully reported in the press. [122] Ward was committed for trial on charges of "living off the earnings of prostitution" and "procuration of girl under twenty-one", and released on bail. [123]

With the Ward case now sub judice, the press pursued related stories. The People reported that Scotland Yard had begun an inquiry, in parallel with Denning's, into "homosexual practices as well as sexual laxity" among civil servants, military officers and MPs. [124] On 24 June the Daily Mirror, under a banner heading "Prince Philip and the Profumo Scandal", dismissed what it termed the "foul rumour" that the prince had been involved in the affair, without disclosing the nature of the rumour. [125] [126]

Ward's trial began at the Old Bailey on 28 July. He was charged with living off the earnings of Keeler, Rice-Davies and two other prostitutes, and with procuring women under 21 to have sex with other persons. [127] The thrust of the prosecution's case related to Keeler and Rice-Davies, and turned on whether the small contributions to household expenses or loan repayments they had given to Ward while living with him amounted to his living off their prostitution. Ward's approximate income at the time, from his practice and from his portraiture, had been around £5,500 a year, a substantial sum at that time. [128] In his speeches and examination of witnesses, the prosecuting counsel Mervyn Griffith-Jones portrayed Ward as representing "the very depths of lechery and depravity". [129] The judge, Sir Archie Marshall, was equally hostile, drawing particular attention to the fact that none of Ward's supposed society friends had been prepared to speak up for him. [130] Towards the end of the trial, news came that Gordon's conviction for assault had been overturned Marshall did not disclose to the jury that Gordon's witnesses had turned up and testified that Keeler, a key prosecution witness against Ward, had given false evidence at Gordon's trial. [131]

After listening to Marshall's damning summing-up, on the evening of 30 July Ward took an overdose of sleeping tablets and was taken to hospital. On the next day, he was found guilty in absentia on the charges relating to Keeler and Rice-Davies, and acquitted on the other counts. Sentence was postponed until Ward was fit to appear, but on 3 August he died without regaining consciousness. [132] [n 10]

Lord Denning's report was awaited with great anticipation by the public. [n 11] Published on 26 September 1963, it concluded that there had been no security leaks in the Profumo affair and that the security services and government ministers had acted appropriately. [136] Profumo had been guilty of an "indiscretion", but no one could doubt his loyalty. [137] Denning also found no evidence to link members of the government with associated scandals such as the "man in the mask". [138] He laid most of the blame for the affair on Ward, an "utterly immoral" man whose diplomatic activities were "misconceived and misdirected". [139] Although The Spectator considered that the report marked the end of the affair, [140] many commentators were disappointed with its content. Young found many questions unanswered and some of the reasoning defective, [141] while Davenport-Hines, writing long after the event, condemns the report as disgraceful, slipshod and prurient. [142]

After the Denning Report, in defiance of general expectations that he would resign shortly, Macmillan announced his intention to stay on. [143] On the eve of the Conservative Party's annual conference in October 1963 he fell ill his condition was less serious than he imagined, and his life was not in danger but, convinced he had cancer, he resigned abruptly. [144] Macmillan's successor as prime minister was Lord Home, who renounced his peerage and served as Sir Alec Douglas-Home. [145] In the October 1964 general election the Conservative Party was narrowly defeated, and Wilson became prime minister. [146] A later commentator opined that the Profumo affair had destroyed the old, aristocratic Conservative Party: "It wouldn't be too much to say that the Profumo scandal was the necessary prelude to the new Toryism, based on meritocracy, which would eventually emerge under Margaret Thatcher". [147] The Economist suggested that the scandal had effected a fundamental and permanent change in relations between politicians and press. [92] Davenport-Hines posits a longer-term consequence of the affair—the gradual ending of traditional notions of deference: "Authority, however disinterested, well-qualified and experienced, was [after June 1963] increasingly greeted with suspicion rather than trust". [148]

After expressing his "deep remorse" to the prime minister, to his constituents and to the Conservative Party, [149] Profumo disappeared from public view. In April 1964 he began working as a volunteer at the Toynbee Hall settlement, a charitable organisation based in Spitalfields which supports the most deprived residents in the East End of London. Profumo continued his association with the settlement for the remainder of his life, at first in a menial capacity, then as administrator, fund-raiser, council member, chairman and finally president. [150] Profumo's charitable work was recognised when he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1975. [151] He was later described by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a national hero, and was a guest at her 80th birthday celebrations in 2005. [150] His marriage to Valerie Hobson lasted until her death on 13 November 1998, aged 81 [152] Profumo died, aged 91, on 9 March 2006. [8]

In December 1963 Keeler pleaded guilty to committing perjury at Gordon's June trial, and she was sentenced to nine months' imprisonment, of which she served four and a half months. [153] After two brief marriages in 1965–66 to James Levermore and in 1971–72 to Anthony Platt that produced a child each, the eldest of whom was largely raised by Keeler's mother Julie, Keeler largely lived alone from the mid-1990s until her death. Most of the considerable amount of money that she made from newspaper stories was dissipated by legal fees during the 1970s, she said, "I was not living, I was surviving". [154] She published several inconsistent accounts of her life, in which Ward has been variously represented as a "gentleman", her truest love, [155] a Soviet spy, and a traitor ranking alongside Kim Philby, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. [156] Keeler also claimed that Profumo impregnated her and that she subsequently underwent a painful abortion. [157] [158] Her portrait, by Ward, was acquired by the National Portrait Gallery in 1984. [159] Christine Keeler died on 4 December 2017, aged 75. Rice-Davies enjoyed a more successful post-scandal career, as nightclub owner, businesswoman, minor actress and novelist. [146] She was married three times, in what she described as her "slow descent into respectability". [160] Of adverse press publicity she observed: "Like royalty, I simply do not complain". [161] Mandy Rice-Davies died on 18 December 2014, aged 70.

Ward's role on behalf of MI5 was confirmed in 1982, when The Sunday Times located his former contact "Woods". [162] Although Denning always asserted that Ward's trial and conviction were fair and proper, [163] most commentators believe that it was deeply flawed—an "historical injustice" according to Davenport-Hines, who argues that the trial was an act of political revenge. [24] One High Court judge said privately that he would have stopped the trial before it reached the jury. [164] The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson has campaigned for the case to be reopened on several grounds, including the premature scheduling of the trial, lack of evidence to support the main charges, and various misdirections by the trial judge in his summing up. Above all, the judge failed to advise the jury of the evidence revealed in the Gordon appeal that Keeler, the prosecution's chief witness against Ward, had committed perjury at the Gordon trial. [165] In January 2014 Ward's case was being considered by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which has the power to investigate suspected miscarriages of justice and refer cases to the Court of Appeal. [166] [167]

After his recall in January 1963, Ivanov disappeared for several decades. [168] In 1992 his memoirs, The Naked Spy, were serialised in The Sunday Times. When this account was challenged by Profumo's lawyers, the publishers removed offending material. [169] In August 2015 The Independent newspaper published a preview of a forthcoming history of Soviet intelligence activities, by Jonathan Haslam. This book suggests that the relationship between Ivanov and Profumo was closer than the latter admitted. It is alleged that Ivanov visited Profumo's home, and that such was the slackness of security arrangements that the Russian was able to photograph sensitive documents left lying about in the minister's study. [170] [171]

Keeler describes a 1993 meeting with Ivanov in Moscow she also records that he died the following year, aged 68. [172] Astor was deeply upset at finding himself under police investigation, and by the social ostracism that followed the Ward trial. [173] After his death in 1966, Cliveden was sold. It became first the property of Stanford University, and later a luxury hotel. [146] Rachman, who had first come to public notice as a sometime-boyfriend of both Keeler and Rice-Davies, was revealed as an unscrupulous slum landlord the word "Rachmanism" entered English dictionaries as the standard term for landlords who exploit or intimidate their tenants. [174]

There have been several dramatised versions of the Profumo affair. The 1989 film Scandal featured Ian McKellen as Profumo and John Hurt as Ward. It was favourably reviewed, but the revival of interest in the affair upset the Profumo family. [175] The focus of Hugh Whitemore's play A Letter of Resignation, first staged at the Comedy Theatre in October 1997, was Macmillan's reactions to Profumo's resignation letter, which he received while on holiday in Scotland. [176] Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Stephen Ward opened at London's Aldwych Theatre on 3 December 2013. Among generally favourable reviews, the Daily Telegraph ' s critic recommended the production as "sharp, funny – and, at times, genuinely touching". [177] Robertson records that the script is "remarkably faithful to the facts". [178]

The scandal is also one of the main topics of the tenth episode (The Mystery Man) of season 2 of The Crown, Netflix.

Britain in 1950

Roland Quinault looks at the state of the islands immediately following the Second World War.

Britain in 1950 was different, in many ways, from Britain today. The most obvious difference was in the physical fabric of the country. In 1950 the legacy of the Second World War was still everywhere to be seen. In the major cities, and particularly in London, there were vacant bomb-sites, unrepaired houses, temporary prefabs and gardens turned into allotments. The countryside was peppered with wartime military bases, many now abandoned, others reactivated in response to the Cold War.

British society was still strongly influenced by war. Most grandfathers had served in the First World War, most fathers in the Second, and most young men were currently called up for two years of National Service. Boys mimicked the militarism of their elders, using army surplus equipment to fight mock battles with the Germans. The armed services occupied a far more prominent role in British life than they do today. There were four times as many servicemen in the early 1950s as there are today. A majority of them were conscripts, who were variously elated, bored or appalled by their experiences. Many servicemen served abroad, especially in Germany or the Empire. 750 soldiers were killed and many more injured or captured during the Korean war of 1950-53.

In 1950 Britain spent 6.6 per cent of its GDP on defence: more than any major country except the Soviet Union. The Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force were second in size and power only to the forces of the United States, and in 1952 Britain became the world’s third nuclear power when it detonated an atomic bomb off the coast of Australia.

Britain was a militarised country, yet until October 1951 it was governed by a Labour party traditionally opposed to militarism. The massive Labour majority at the 1945 general election was largely removed at the 1950 election, but support for Labour remained strong. The party was helped by a high turnout – 84 per cent in 1950 (compared with under 72 per cent in 1997) and strong support from the trade unions. Very low unemployment helped ensure that over half of all male workers and nearly a quarter of all women workers were trade unionists. Yet strikes were illegal until 1951 and the Labour government took tough action to prevent any interference with food supplies or exports. At the 1951 general election, the Tories won a small parliamentary majority, despite the fact that Labour got more votes and its highest ever proportion of the total vote. The Conservative revival was helped by the collapse of the Liberal vote, the heating up of the Cold War (which increased government expenditure) and by growing frustration with the continuation of austerity and controls.

A decade of war and its political and financial legacies had left Britain with a plethora of state regulations and high taxation. Some basic commodities like butter, meat, tea and coal were still rationed and although bread was now freely available, the de-rationing of sweets and chocolates in 1949 had to be abandoned because demand was too great. The continuance of rationing encouraged people to produce their own food in back gardens and allotments – just as they had in the war – or to get food parcels from relatives abroad. There were also severe shortages of most consumer products, which prompted the continuance of the wartime ‘make-do-and-mend’ culture. The standard rate of income tax was nine shillings in the pound – more than twice the rate today. Consequently most Britons had little surplus money and even less to spend it on. The austerity and bureaucracy of British post-war life was brilliantly satirised in George Orwell’s 1949 novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The combination of war damage and a scarcity of manpower and materials created a serious urban housing problem. The Labour government wanted to pull down the slums and move their occupants either to new council flats or out of the cities altogether. The New Towns Act of 1946 led to the expansion of towns around London, like Harlow, to take the capital’s overspill population and to the creation of new industrial centres, like Peterlee in county Durham. But the new towns were still in their infancy in 1950, and local authorities lacked the resources to overcome the housing shortage. Nearly half the population lived in private rented accommodation – often in dingy rooms or bedsits with little privacy, comfort or warmth. Less than a third of all houses were owner occupied – half the proportion in the late twentieth century. The vast majority of buildings were still traditional in character and construction and were built of brick or stone. There were virtually no high rise buildings and concrete was only widely used for military structures. All this changed rapidly in the late 1950s and 1960s.

Britain was the most urbanised and industrialised country in the world and consequently one of the most polluted. The reliance on coal for both residential heating and energy generation resulted in chronic atmospheric pollution which was harmful both to people and to buildings. The London smog of 1952 lasted five days and killed more than 4,000 people from heart and lung diseases. In industrial areas, factories polluted not only the air but also the waterways, while mines and spoil tips scarred the landscape. The degraded industrial environment of the postwar era was illustrated in L.S. Lowry’s paintings of urban Lancashire.

Environmental pollution was the price Britain paid for its industrial success. In 1950 the United Kingdom accounted for a quarter of world trade in manufactures – a higher proportion than before the Second World War and far greater than today. This was facilitated by both the temporary dislocation of Britain’s continental rivals and the government’s policy of prioritising export production for currency reasons. Britain was the foremost world producer of ships and the leading European producer of coal, steel, cars and textiles. Science-based industries like electronics and engineering were growing rapidly, as were oil and chemical refining. Britain led the field in civilian aviation with the first jet liner (the Comet) and other more successful aircraft. Rolls Royce was a worldwide symbol of excellence in aero and motor engines. Even the long ailing textile industry was revived by the introduction of synthetic fibres like nylon. In 1950, Leicester – centre of the hosiery trade – was the most prosperous city, per capita , in Europe.

The Labour government intervened in the running of the economy to an unprecedented extent. It nationalised the coal mines, the railways, the inland waterways, gas and electricity, the airways, the Bank of England and the iron and steel industry. By the early 1950s, state owned industries employed over two million people – most of them in coal or rail. Coal was still the main source of heating and energy and provided most of the fuel and much of the freight for the railways. Coal production was hindered by a shortage of miners and investment, but was twice the level of the mid-1980s and far greater than today.

Although the great majority of British people lived and worked in urban or industrial areas, most of the land mass of Britain was still predominantly rural and agricultural in character. Farming was largely mixed – both arable and pastoral – and avoided intensive cultivation methods. Birds and other kinds of wildlife were far more common than today because there were far more hedgerows and far less use of chemicals. Farmers’ incomes were boosted by the 1947 Agriculture Act which provided subsidies for cereal production and livestock. Tractors had largely replaced horses, but most farmers still employed poorly paid agricultural labourers, many of whom lived in tied cottages. The picturesque character of the countryside – so admired by contemporary guidebooks – often reflected the poverty of its residents. Many rural homes lacked modern facilities like water sanitation, and electricity, while few had telephones. The isolation of country life encouraged hostility to incomers and mental depression which sometimes resulted in violence. Rural areas were also at risk from bad weather. In 1952 river flooding at Lynmouth led to many deaths and in 1953 a combination of storms and a high tide inundated the coast of Essex and East Anglia leaving hundreds of people dead in the worst peacetime disaster in modern Britain.

The population, which totalled about 50 million in 1950, was overwhelmingly indigenous. The 1951 census showed that only 3 per cent of the population had been born overseas and the great majority of the immigrants were white and European. The largest immigrant group – over half a million – were the Irish, who made a major contribution to both the post-war rebuilding of Britain and the staffing of the National Health Service. Other immigrants had come to Britain as refugees from the Nazis and the Second World War – including over 160,000 Poles and Jews from central Europe. There was also an influx from Italy and Cyprus. The first post-war immigrants from Jamaica had arrived in Britain, on board the Empire Windrush in 1948, but there were still fewer than 140,000 blacks and Asians in Britain in 1951. They were sometimes derided as ‘wogs’ and – like many white immigrants – suffered discrimination in employment and housing, but were generally tolerated because of the scarcity of labour and their sporting prowess. In 1950, the West Indies cricket team won a Test series in England for the first time and, in so doing, popularised calypso music in Britain.

Britain’s position as the head of a multi-racial Empire and Commonwealth influenced the government’s immigration policy. The 1948 British Nationality Act confirmed unrestricted entry to Commonwealth citizens – a far cry from the more restrictive policy adopted in the later twentieth century. The Empire was still of great political, military and economic importance. Although India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon had recently been granted independence, in Africa, South-East Asia and the West Indies it was still intact, as was much of Britain’s informal empire in the Middle East. Ties with the Empire were cemented by trade, large-scale emigration from Britain to the ‘white’ dominions and also by the monarchy. Princess Elizabeth was in Kenya when she succeeded to the throne in 1952 and her coronation had a strongly imperial flavour. Dented by the 1936 abdication crisis, the monarchy had recovered its prestige thanks to its patriotic wartime role and the dutiful conduct of the royal family. The sudden death of George VI in 1952 induced genuine national mourning and large crowds attended his lying-in-state.

Britain, like its empire, was multi-racial and multi-cultural, for differences of nationality, locality, class and gender had prevented the emergence of a homogenised national identity and culture. Both in Scotland and in Wales, vocal minorities demanded greater autonomy from England. In 1950 Scots Nationalists removed ‘the stone of destiny’ – a symbol of Scottish sovereignty – from Westminster Abbey, while a campaign for a Welsh Parliament attracted considerable support. Yet in both Scotland and Wales nationalism had a very limited appeal, partly because it was undermined by centrifugal economic forces and regional tensions. The English-speaking industrial population of south Wales had little in common with the Welsh-speaking ruralists of the west and north, while the industrial and partly Catholic proletariat of Glasgow felt no kinship with the Edinburgh or Presbyterian elites.

In England, the Second World War had revived a sense of Englishness which was reflected, for example, in Nikolaus Pevsner’s lectures on ‘The Englishness of English Art’ and the series of books on English heritage published by Collins. But many writers feared that traditional English culture was being rapidly undermined. Evelyn Waugh lamented the decline of the aristocratic country house, while John Betjeman mourned the loss of regional individuality in the face of modernisation and mechanisation. Yet there remained strong regional divisions within England, most notably between north and south. Northerners had not only their own way of speaking, but also their own sense of humour, neither of which were often heard on the BBC, which, from its headquarters in London, propagated the standard southern version of received pronunciation.

Class divisions were clearly reflected in how people dressed, as well as how they spoke. Working men wore caps and clothes appropriate for manual labour, while middle-class men were distinguished by their white collars, suits and hats. There was a similar, but less rigid, division between working women who wore scarves on their heads and middle- class women who wore hats. Class divisions were also apparent in the educational system and not just in the divide between state schools (which taught the great majority) and private schools (which catered for a wealthy minority). The 1944 Education Act had created a binary system of secondary education at ‘eleven plus’. Most children went to secondary modern schools which they left, at the age of fifteen, with few or no qualifications. Those who went to grammar schools stayed on a little longer and got qualifications, but few went on to higher education. Only a small proportion of young people went to university and most were middle-class males who had often been privately educated.

In 1950 far fewer women were in paid employment than today. Women were generally not expected to have proper careers, but to seek short-term employment before they married and had children. After the war, many young women gave up paid work and raised a family at home. They benefited from some labour-saving electrical appliances like washing machines and vacuum cleaners, but still spent much of their time on domestic chores like cooking, washing and cleaning. Scrubbing and polishing were de rigueur and entailed much physical energy. Open fires were still the standard form of residential heating and required regular attention. Few homes had a refrigerator, so fresh products were regularly obtained from local shops or market stalls.

Most shops were family businesses and traditional in character. The butcher, for example, wore a straw hat and a striped apron, used a thick wooden chopping block and sprinkled sawdust on the floor. The local shopping parade usually included a butcher, a baker, a grocer, a greengrocer, a confectioner and an ironmonger, so there was little necessity to go further afield for everyday purchases. High street chains, like Sainsbury’s, were increasingly popular because they provided good quality and low prices, but self-service supermarkets in the American style were only just beginning to be introduced.

The health of the nation was much better in 1950 than it had been before. Full employment ensured that people were better fed than in the 1930s, while the young actually benefited from the lack of fat during the war. The creation of the free National Health Service, in 1946, improved the quality of medical care, especially for the elderly, women and the poor, but the cost of the new system soon led to the introduction of charges for dentistry and prescriptions. The improvement in national health also owed much to the introduction of antibiotics which gradually eradicated many diseases, like tuberculosis, which had been major killers. However, the incidence of poliomyelitis increased until 1951 and many children were disabled by it before a vaccine was developed. There was also a rapid increase in cancer, strokes and especially heart disease: the three major killers of Britons in the later twentieth century. The achievement of Britain’s postwar ‘Welfare State’ should not be exaggerated. By 1950 Britain’s combined expenditure on health care and social security was lower than that of war devastated West Germany and it soon slipped behind that of most western European countries.

Public attitudes towards sex and marriage still remained strongly conservative. Abortions were illegal, so back street practioners flourished. Illegitmacy rates were far lower than today, partly because there was still a social stigma attached to single mothers and their offspring. Consequently unwanted babies were often given away for adoption or sent to institutions, either in Britain or in the Empire. The divorce rate had increased sharply in the 1940s – because of the war and a relaxation of the law – but in 1950 it was still less than a fifth of that today. Divorce was still not acceptable in many circles including royalty, the ‘respectable’ middle classes and those who could not afford such an expensive luxury. Sexual relations were generally much more covert than today and there was virtually no formal sex education either for children or for adults. Nevertheless the attraction of sex was clearly apparent both in advertising (especially for films, books and clothes) and on the streets where prostitutes openly solicited for business until the 1959 Street Offences Act. Those whose sexual behaviour deviated from the heterosexual norm had to adopt a low profile for fear of legal prosecution or social persecution.

The recreations of the British people in 1950 were generally more simple and more localised than they are today. Many older or poorer people were content to chat with their neighbours, walk the dog or have a pint at the local. Pubs had much more limited opening times than today, especially on Sundays, when shops were also shut and there were no commercial sporting fixtures. Sunday was still essentially Victorian in character – a day for a large family dinner, quiet relaxation and religious worship. Church attendance, though lower than before the war, remained high, particularly with Catholics, the young and the elderly. On Saturday nights unmarried young adults often patronised the local dance hall or cinema, but few went further afield for entertainment. Popular music was pre-‘rock and roll’, but was already dominated by American styles and performers. Popular fashion, however, was less influenced by America and the ‘Teddy boys’ were a distinctively British phenomenon. Young women welcomed the long full skirts of the ‘New Look’ as a reaction to wartime austerity and loved the new nylon stockings, which were very hard to obtain. Many children and teenagers belonged to voluntary associations like the Scouts and Guides, the Boys Brigade and church groups. They provided practical skills, a code of morality and inexpensive outings and holidays.

Primary schools had to cope with the post-war ‘baby boom’ – and classes of nearly fifty were common in urban areas. Nevertheless most children quickly acquired a basic proficiency in the ‘three Rs’ with the aid of traditional teaching methods and simple aids like reading cards and ‘Beacon books’. Most schools had been built in the late Victorian period and had changed little since then. Out of school, children played in the streets, rather than in their overcrowded homes. They liked simple games like hopscotch, marbles and conkers, as well as football and cricket. Children also loved boiled sweets, chocolate, liquorice and sherbert – which they washed down with sweet soft drinks like ‘Tizer, the appetizer’. Children’s clothes were distinctively different from those of adults: shorts for boys and short skirts or tunics for girls. On their feet they wore short or long socks with shoes, sandals or canvas plimsolls. Most children walked to school and, like their parents, used public transport for longer journeys.

1950 was a golden age for public transport. On the roads, one out of every three vehicles was a bus or lorry. In the cities, worn out trams were being replaced by electric trolleybuses and petrol buses, which provided cheap and frequent services. Motor freight was increasing, but house-to-house deliveries of milk and coal and refuse collections by the ‘rag-and-bone man’ were still made by horse-and-cart. Consequently horse dung and water troughs were still common sights. Car sales were boosted by the end of petrol rationing in 1950, but there was still only one car per sixteen people. Few families could afford a car, so a motorbike with a sidecar was a popular and cheaper alternative. Bicycles were widely used, both for short journeys to work or shop and for long distance recreation. Most people used trains for long journeys. The railway network reached to almost every part of the country for most branch lines were still in operation. Nationalisation of the railways in 1947 had ended internal competition, but the three class fare system was preserved along with exclusive luxury trains on prestige routes. The railways still fascinated children who loved trainspotting, playing with Hornby model train sets and reading the Reverend Awdry’s railway engine stories. The annual family holiday was generally taken by rail – even on rails in the case of camping coaches.

Holidays with pay were now supported by legislation and about half the population spent a holiday by the sea. The early 1950s were the mass-market heyday of the English seaside resort – before the development of the cheap package holiday to the Continent. Most people stayed in small guest houses, or in holidaycamps and caravan parks. Traditional pier attractions like the peep-shows and live shows remained popular, as did seaside fare like shellfish, rock and candyfloss. But the beaches were the great attraction and those of popular resorts like Brighton would be covered, on summer bank holidays, with a closely packed mass of bodies and deck chairs. Sea swimming was also popular, partly because there was considered to be less risk of infection than in the overcrowded swimming pools. The well-off middle classes preferred to holiday abroad and over a million Britons did so in 1950, despite currency restrictions and a recent devaluation of the pound.

The British media in 1950 were still dominated by the press. The national newspapers – all published around Fleet Street – were dominated by autocratic press barons and restrictive print unions. The leading popular paper, the Daily Mirror , had a circulation four times that of the leading quality paper, the Daily Telegraph , but the largest sales were achieved by the popular Sunday papers, like the News of the World , which trawled the divorce courts for salacious stories. Newspapers were a far more important source of news than they are today, because news reports by the BBC were subject to various restrictions. For most people, the BBC meant its domestic radio services, which mixed the pre-war Reithian concept of respectable public service broadcasting with new, more subversive, forms of entertainment. These included new drama (like Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas), adventure thrillers (such as Dick Barton Special Agent ) and comedy (notably The Goon Show ). The Light Programme featured popular music and the Third Programme classical music, but new records could only be heard on foreign stations like Radio Luxembourg. The BBC had resumed television broadcasts after the war, but the audience was still small because the receivers were expensive and unreliable, while the programmes were made in studios and could not be copied.

Visual entertainment for the masses was principally provided by films. In 1950 there were nearly 5,000 cinemas in Britain which attracted an audience four times larger than that in the 1970s. The early 1950s was a golden age for British films, with directors like David Lean and Carol Reed and producers like Michael Balcon, whose Ealing comedies brilliantly reflected the social character and physical environment of post-war Britain. The era was also a golden age for children’s comics, both humorous British strips like Beano and Dandy and American comics with action heroes like Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel. Two new distinguished British comics were Eagle , which catered for middle-class boys and the growing taste for Science Fiction and its sister publication, Girl , which provided more traditional fare about boarding schools and ballet dancing. Children’s book literature was also largely traditional in character, with pre-war classics like Winnie-the-Pooh and Billy Bunter retaining their popularity. The most prolific and successful children’s writer of the period was Enid Blyton, whose most popular character, Noddy, first appeared in 1949.

The national mood and character was epitomised by the 1951 Festival of Britain, sponsored by the Labour government as a symbol of Britain’s post-war revival, which celebrated national achievements from science, manufacturing and housing, to the arts and recreation. Yet, as Dylan Thomas noted, people liked the festival not because it was nationalistic or educational, but because it was ‘magical and parochial’, with whimsical touches like Emmett’s nonsense machines. The Dome of Discovery inspired, fifty years later, the Millennium Dome, which was supported by a Labour government that included Peter Mandelson, whose grandfather, Herbert Morrison, had championed the 1951 festival.

Many people today regard post-war Britain, nostalgically, as the golden age of the Welfare State. Opinion poll evidence does suggest that in 1950 Britons were generally happier perhaps because they had more security and less stress in their personal and professional lives. Nevertheless they were, on average, much less well off than today and many lived in mean and straightened circumstances. Those who were better off were already adopting the material trappings and social trends which characterise British society now. In 1950 Britons generally accepted their lot, but – just like us – they wanted the future to be even better.

For Further Reading:

Jeremy Black, Modern British History since 1900 (Macmillan, 2000) Terry Gourvish and Alan O'Day (eds.), Britain since 1945 (Macmillan, 1991) Arthur Marwick, British Society since 1945 (3rd edition, Penguin, 1996) David Gladstone, The Twentieth Century Welfare State (Macmillan, 1999) Ross McKibbin, Classes and cultures: England 1918-51 (Oxford, 1998) Paul Johnson (ed.) Twentieth Century Britain: Economic Social and Cultural Change (Longman, 1994) Mary Banham and Bevis Hillier (eds.), A Tonic To The Nation, The Festival of Britain 1951 (Thames & Hudson, 1976).

Roland Quinault is Reader in modern British history at the University of North London.

1960s Britain - History

One of the things that I would like to do is offer a bit of timeline history on the glorious decade of the sixties. It's funny how I can remember certain events and when I became aware of them. That distinct awareness deceives me into believing that I have a referential timeline as to when things were invented, or introduced. For example, I can recall being remotely aware of zip codes in the late sixties, when in fact they were introduced much earlier.

Here, history presents itself to our scrutinous eyes as we re-live world events that so makes up the chemistry and essence of our very Boomer being. The history is interesting, wierd, and fun. Most important however, is that we lived through it all, and were able to see some of the most significant, beautiful, tragic, and fascinating happenings of all time. These events, served up on a platter of memory, belong solely to us, the forever spawning "Generation X", the "Baby Boomers", the ambassadors of a new and exciting decade.

This timeline is intended to be a fun reminder of just what happened when we were young and rocking this great planet of ours. So, with that all said and done, shall we go back in time? Let's do.

The 60's Timeline: a brief overview of events

  • Murderer/Writer Caryl Chessman is executed.
  • Sprite is introduced by Coca-Cola.
  • In Greensboro, North Carolina, four black students begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they are allowed to stay at the counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the Southern United States, and 6 months later the original 4 protesters are served lunch at the same counter.
  • Joanne Woodward receives the first star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • After a two-year stint, Elvis Presley returns from Germany.
  • President Dwight Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law.
  • The Beatles begin a forty-eight night engagement at the Indra Club in Hamburg, West Germany.
  • Cold War trivia: Nikita Khrushchev pounds his shoe on a table at a United Nations General Assembly meeting, protesting discussion of Soviet Union policy toward Eastern Europe.
  • The Polaris missile is test-launched.
  • "The Flintstones" who were often compared to "The Honeymooners" air on television.
  • France tests its first A Bomb in the Sahara desert.

  • President Kennedy advises all "prudent families" to have a bomb shelter.
  • The DNA genetic code is broken.
  • The IBM Selectric typewriter is introduced.
  • The United States launches its first test of the Minuteman I intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • Construction of the Berlin Wall begins, restricting movement between East Berlin and West Berlin and forming a clear boundary between West Germany and East Germany, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
  • The Vietnam War officially begins, as the first American helicopters arrive in Saigon along with 400 U.S. personnel.
  • "Barbie" gets a boyfriend when the "Ken" doll is introduced.
  • Russians send the first man into space.
  • John F. Kennedy becomes the 35th President of the United States.
  • President of the United States John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps.
  • The longrunning soap opera General Hospital debuted on ABC.
  • Baseball player Roger Maris of the New York Yankees hits his 61st home run in the last game of the season, against the Boston Red Sox, beating the 34-year-old record held by Babe Ruth.
  • Adolf Eichmann is pronounced guilty of crimes against humanity by a panel of 3 Israeli judges.

  • The Beatles' first record, "My Bonnie" with Tony Sheridan, is released by Polydor.
  • Adolf Eichmann is hanged in Israel.
  • The Rolling Stones make their debut at London's Marquee Club, Number 165 Oxford Street,
  • John Lennon secretly marries Cynthia Powell.
  • Dr. No, the first James Bond film, premiers in UK theaters.
  • October 12 - The infamous Columbus Day Storm strikes the U. S. Pacific Northwest with wind
  • gusts up to 170 mph (270 km/h) 46 dead, 11 billion board feet of timber is
  • blown down, with $230 million U.S. in damages.
  • October 14 - Cuban Missile Crisis begins: A U-2 flight over Cuba takes photos of Soviet
  • nuclear weapons being installed. A stand-off then ensues the next day between the United
  • States and the Soviet Union, threatening the world with nuclear war.
  • October 22 - In a televised address, U.S. President John F. Kennedy announces to the nation the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
  • October 28 - Cuban Missile Crisis: Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that he has ordered the removal of Soviet missile bases in Cuba.
  • The term "Personal computer" is first mentioned by the media.
  • The films "American Graffiti" and "Animal House" are set in 1962.
  • American Broadcasting Company (ABC) begins color telecast for 3.5 hours a week.
  • Diet Rite is the first sugar-free soda introduced.
  • Pull tabs on cans are introduced.

  • President Kennedy is assasinated. Stores and businesses shut down for the entire weekend and Monday, in tribute.
  • Congress enacts "equal pay for equal work" legislature for women.
  • Two thirds of the world's automobiles are in the United States.
  • Film goddess Marilyn Monroe is found dead of an apparent overdose. It becomes the most controversial death on record.
  • The Whisky a Go Go night club in Los Angeles, California, the first disco in the United States, is opened.
  • A large cloud that some say resembles the face of Jesus is seen on Sunset Mountain, Arizona.
  • In Camden, Tennessee, Country superstar Patsy Cline (Virginia Patterson Hensley) is killed in a plane crash along with fellow performers Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Cline's manager and pilot Randy Hughes while returning from a benefit performance in Kansas City, KS for country radio disc jockey "Cactus" Jack Call.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. issues his "Letter from Birmingham Jail".
  • The Coca-Cola Company debuts its first diet drink, TaB cola.
  • Dr. No, the first James Bond film, was shown in US theaters.
  • In Saigon, Buddhist monk Thich Quong Doc commits self-immolation to protest the oppression of Buddhists by the Ngo Dinh Diem administration.
  • ZIP Codes are introduced in the U.S.
  • The first episode of the BBC television series Doctor Who is broadcast in the United Kingdom.
  • I Want to Hold Your Hand and I Saw Her Standing There are released in the U.S., marking the beginning of full-scale Beatlemania.

  • Ford Motors introduces the "Mustang".
  • Studebaker-Packard introduce seat belts as standard equipment.
  • Plans to build the New York World Trade Center are announced.
  • The Beatles vault to the #1 spot on the U.S. singles charts for the first time, with "I Want to Hold Your Hand," forever changing the way rock-and-roll music sounds.The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, marking their first live performance on American television. Seen by an estimated 73 million viewers, the appearance becomes the catalyst for the mid-1960s "British Invasion" of American popular music.
  • Malcolm X, suspended from the Nation of Islam, says in New York City that he is forming a black nationalist party.
  • The Beatles hold the top 5 positions in the Billboard Top 40 singles in America, an unprecedented achievement. Due mostly to the explosive growth, fragmentation, and marketing of popular music since, this is certain to never happen again. The top songs in America as listed on April 4, in order, are: "Can't Buy Me Love," "Twist and Shout," "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," and "Please Please Me."
  • From Russia With Love was shown in US theaters.
  • Country singer Jim Reeves (40) is killed when his private plane crashes in thunderstorm near Nashville Tennessee.
  • 3.5 billion dollars worth of vending machine sales.

  • Medicare bill passes.
  • 34 people die in Watts ghetto riot.
  • 190,000 troops are in Vietnam.
  • 32,000 people make 54-mile "freedom march" from Selma to Montgomery.
  • Malcolm X is assassinated on the first day of National Brotherhood Week, at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City, allegedly by Black Muslims.
  • In Cold Blood killers Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, convicted of murdering 4 members of the Herbert Clutter family of Holcomb, Kansas, are executed by hanging at the Kansas State
  • Bob Dylan elicits controversy among folk purists by "going electric" at the Newport Folk Festival.
  • Jefferson Airplane debuts at the Matrix in San Francisco, California and begins to appear there regularly.
  • The Beatles performed the first stadium concert in the history of rock, playing at Shea Stadium in New York.
  • At the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, 66 ex-SS personnel receive life sentences, 15 others smaller ones.
  • Rock musician Bob Dylan releases his influential album Highway 61 Revisited, featuring the song "Like a Rolling Stone."
  • The soap opera Days of our Lives debuts on NBC.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first Peanuts television special, debuts on CBS.

  • Taster's Choice freeze dried coffee is introduced.
  • The fourth of four lost H Bombs is found off the Spanish coast.
  • U.S. troop strength in Vietnam is 400,000. U.S. deaths: 6,358. Enemy deaths: 77,115.
  • The first Acid Test is conducted at the Fillmore, San Francisco.
  • The Beatles: In an interview published in The London Evening Standard, John Lennon comments, "We're more popular than Jesus now," eventually sparking a controversy in the United States.
  • United States president Lyndon Johnson signs the 1966 Uniform Time Act act dealing with Daylight Saving Time.
  • The Church of Satan is formed by Anton Szandor LaVey in San Francisco.
  • The final new episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show airs.
  • Bob Dylan breaks his neck and nearly dies in a motorcycle accident near Woodstock, New York. He isn't seen in public for over a year.
  • The Beatles play their very last concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California.
  • Star Trek, the classic science fiction television series, debuts with its first episode, titled "The Man Trap."
  • Grace Slick performs live for the first time with Jefferson Airplane.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, narrated by Boris Karloff, is shown for the first time on CBS. It will become an annual Christmas tradition, and the best-loved film ever based on a Dr. Seuss book.

  • Rolling Stone Magazine is founded.
  • Communist China announces the H Bomb.
  • Dr. Christian Barnard performs the first heart transplant.
  • Albert DeSalvo, the "Boston Strangler", is convicted of numerous crimes and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Human Be-In takes place in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco event sets the stage for the Summer of Love.
  • The Doors' first album is released.
  • In Houston, Texas, boxer Muhammad Ali refuses military service.
  • Jimmy Hoffa begins his 8-year sentence for attempting to bribe a jury.
  • Elvis Presley and Priscilla Beaulieu are married in Las Vegas.
  • The album Are You Experienced is released by The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the United Kingdom.
  • Pink Floyd releases their debut album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn."
  • Jim Morrison and The Doors defy CBS censors on The Ed Sullivan Show, when Morrison sings the word "higher" from their #1 hit Light My Fire, despite having been asked not to.
  • Love Is a Many Splendored Thing debuts on U.S. daytime television and is the first soap opera to deal with an interracial relationship. CBS censors find it too controversial and ask for it to be stopped, causing show creator Irna Phillips to quit.
  • Walt Disney's full-length animated feature The Jungle Book, the last animated film personally supervised by Disney, is released and becomes an enormous box office and critical success. On a double bill with the film is the (now) much less well-known True-Life Adventure, Charlie the Lonesome Cougar.
  • LSD declared an illegal by the United States government.

  • Richard Nixon is elected President.
  • The 1st class postage stamp raises to 6 cents.
  • Robert Kennedy is assasinated in California. Sirhan Sirhan is apprehended on the spot.
  • Johnny Cash records "Live at Folsom Prison".
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities for several days afterward.
  • The musical Hair officially opens on Broadway.
  • The soap opera One Life to Live premieres on ABC. The show featured Tommy Lee Jones and Lawrence Fishburne.
  • Saddam Hussein becomes Vice Chairman of the Revolutionary Council in Iraq after a coup d'état.
  • The White Album is released by The Beatles.
  • The film Oliver!, based on the hit London and Broadway musical, opens in the U.S. after being released first in England. It will go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.
  • The Zodiac Killer is believed to have shot Betty Lou Jensen and David Faraday on Lake Herman Road, Benicia, San Francisco Bay, California.

  • Neil Armstrong walks on the moon.
  • 624 pairs of panty hose are produced.
  • After 147 years, the last issue of The Saturday Evening Post is published.
  • The Woodstock Music and Art Fair is held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre farm near Bethel, N.Y. August 15th- 18th. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 500,000 concert-goers
  • At the Academy Awards ceremony for films released in 1968, a tie between Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand results in the 2 sharing the Best Actress Oscar Hepburn also becomes the only actress to win 3 Best Actress Oscars. The film version of Oliver! wins Best Picture.
  • The film Easy Rider premieres.
  • Project Apollo: The Eagle lands on the lunar surface. The world watches in awe as Neil Armstrong takes his historic first steps on the Moon and erects first flagpoles in outer space to fly the American flag
  • Members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder Sharon Tate, (who was 8 months pregnant), and her friends Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Jay Sebring at Tate and husband Roman Polanski's home in Los Angeles, California. Steven Parent, leaving from a visit to the Polanskis' caretaker, is also killed. More than 100 stab wounds are found on the victims, except for Parent, who had been shot almost as soon as the Manson Family entered the property.
  • The Manson Family kills Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, wealthy businesspeople who live in another section of Los Angeles.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus airs its first episode on the BBC.
  • The pilot episode of The Brady Bunch, starring Robert Reed and Florence Henderson, airs on United States TV.
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • The Children's Television Workshop's educational television program Sesame Street is premiered in the United States.
  • John Lennon returns his OBE to protest the British government's support of the U.S. war in Vietnam.
  • The Manson family "hippie cult" is charged with the Tate-LaBianca murders.
  • The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. Hosted by the Rolling Stones, it is an attempt at a "Woodstock West" and is best known for the uproar of violence that occurred. It is viewed by many as the "end of the sixties."

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Women&rsquos daywear in 1960s clothing styles

Of course, the 1960s were famed as the birthday of the mini skirt. Although some miniskirts could be very very short, micro minis were quite rare and in general anything more than an inch above the knee was classed as a mini skirt.

1960 Mary Quant green, purple and white jersey minidress

There is some contention as to whether Mary Quant actually invented the garment, as she is widely credited to have done, but she certainly made great mini skirts, often as part of a matching skirt suit in bold patterns. The clothes were more youth oriented but there was still a lot of precise tailoring, evidenced in well made skirt suits and shift dresses. The difference was often in brighter colours, bolder patterns and larger or novelty buttons. Although the 1960s were the beginning of &ldquofast fashion&rdquo, clothes were not that cheap and usually well made.

Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of one the most wildly popular clothing brands of the decade, Biba, reminisced about creating a &ldquopile it high and sell it cheap&rdquo culture, but many young working women I know from that generation who were for example junior reporters have told me they could never have afforded an outfit from Mary Quant or Biba. Foale and Tuffin were another company making cute suits and mini dresses for the younger crowd.

The fabrics for most of these sixties designs of shift dresses and A Line skirts was quite thick and stiff, enabling a simple cut to hold its shape.

Paco Rabanne aluminium tunic, 1967

The Space Age in 1960s Fashion

Paco Rabanne, Pierre Cardin and Andre Correge were three designers of fashion in the 1960s who aimed for the avant-garde inspired by the space race, with Paco Rabanne in particular making dresses that were eye-catching but impractical. He made mini dresses made of discs of clear perspex or metal which were joined together with metal hoops. They looked great but apparently the discs could easily nip your nipples, or cut you with their sharp edges, be unpleasantly cold or just be so heavy overall that it was like dragging a suit of armour around with you.

Chainlink outfit designed by Paco Rabanne, late 1960s

Which was a shame because Paco Rabanne was the costume designer for the space comedy Barbarella, and there&rsquos no doubt that many women would have liked to dress just like the titular heroine of the film, played by Jane Fonda who looked ravishing in every scene.

&ldquoCardin&rsquos contribution to modern living may be practical but it&rsquos rather a shock&rdquo commented one magazine reviewing the designer&rsquos works. The short knitted dresses worn with warm tights were easy to move around in, even though the helmets that went with them might have hindered freedom of movement a bit. And I&rsquom not sure how easy a wool and perspex dress is to bung in the washing machine.

The Big Ones of 68 paper dress by Universal Studios, American, 1968

Campbells soup paper dress, 1967

1960s paper dresses

Easier to deal with, perhaps, were the disposable paper dresses. Cut to a very simple two-dimensional shift dress pattern, these dresses which were in fact made from tough cellulose with strong seams, and didn&rsquot rip or dissolve in the rain. They often carried promotional prints, like the very well-known Campbell&rsquos soup can version, yours for only two soup labels.

Silver and white were the preferred colours for futuristic 1960s fashion, just like a spacesuit. In actual practical terms, the development of the spacesuit produced lightweight and weatherproof fabric Goretex, which is still in use today.

Knitted Sweater dress, 1967

The 1960s fashion Doll Look

Another look in fashion from the 60s was the return to innocence with short ruffled dresses in white and pastel colours, reminiscent of very small girls&rsquo dresses, and childish Mary Jane shoes. These were modelled by extra skinny, flat chested women with enormous eyes, such as the famous Twiggy. Another memorable model from the 1960s was Verushka. Her look and character were completely different from the doll-like Twiggy. Mysterious and sophisticated, the panther-like Verushka often appeared in photoshoots naked but for body paint of her own design.

She wasn&rsquot the only woman to appear in public in either body paint or simply totally naked. The first Woodstock Festival was in 1969 in the USA, and there was the Isle of Wight Festival from 1968-1970. The hippies favoured the odd bout of toplessness or nakedness for festivals and parties or settled for bare feet and floaty clothes, like long skirts and cheesecloth blouses if the weather was inclement. They teamed these with clothing taken from other cultures such as Native American suede and fringing or Indian beads, as a gesture of solidarity with that culture.

Emilio Pucci bright coloured, patterned silk dress in pink, black and green, 1965

Couture style in 1960s fashion

Totally the opposite, and literally a far more buttoned up appearance was the then First Lady, Jackie Kennedy (also known as Jackie O). She was very ladylike, and wore suits and simple yet elegant shift dresses in block colours. She paired these with carefully coiffed hair, matching hats, button earrings and white gloves. She was a huge style influence for many in the fashion in the 1960s.

For those who preferred their colours loud and clashing, Emilio Pucci provided the rich jet set with swirling patterns on silk blouses and relaxed trousers, a design signature that has changed very little right up to the present day.

Yves Saint Laurent contributed quite a lot to the fashion landscape of 1960s fashion too &ndash as well as his arguably more famous evening wear he designed the safari suit for women and the &ldquoLittle Lord Fauntleroy&rdquo look too, a romantic look replete with silk velvet knickerbockers and lacy collars.

Mods and Rockers riding through Hastings, on the south coast UK, 1964

Street style in the fashions of the 1960s

Street style in 1960s fashion on the whole stayed away from silk and velvet, unless it was the tattered hippy version. Instead a tough new &ldquoModern&rdquo look emerged. The Mods was predominantly a male fashion look but there was a female version too, with heavy fringes and quite plain jumpers and pencil skirts just as there was a female version of the Mods arch enemies, the Rockers. Female rockers wore an adapted version of the biker fashions of their boyfriends, with leather jackets, jeans, and tough looking boots.

Cream silk jersey evening gown with silver beading and sequin embroidery by Norman Hartnell, 1960

1960s Evening wear

Another style influence on 1960s fashion was beautiful film star Audrey Hepburn. Her simple style of clothing had been widely copied since the 1950s, and now she appeared in the 1961 hit &ldquoBreakfast at Tiffany&rsquos&rdquo. For this she was dressed by the couturier Hubert de Givenchy. Her simple little black dress was hugely copied and she continued her association with the couturier, begun in the early 1950s, right through the Sixties, being dressed by him for further films and for appearances and events too. He had even made a perfume for her, called L&rsquoInterdit, said to be her favourite fragrance and one she wore constantly, along with thousands of other women on its release.

Couturiers like Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Jean Patou experimented with cut in 1960s fashion, creating clothing that didn&rsquot follow an hourglass figure (or attempt to create one). Instead, Balmain innovated with cleverly cut cocoon dresses, trapeze lines and balloon dresses.

But for couture evening wear, the youth craze was a little bit slower to catch on. For the first half of the decade, dresses were still created with an older client in mind, and traditional designers like Nina Ricci made elegant, full length creations.

Saint Laurent Rive Gauche smoking evening suit

Yves Saint Laurent founded his couture house in 1962. His most famous contribution to evening wear in the decade was &ldquoLe Smoking&rdquo, the sexy re-interpretation of a man&rsquos evening suit for women. He also designed the Mondrian inspired heavy silk shift dress in a stark grid formation, with one yellow and one red patch on a white background divided by heavy black lines. This was a dress that was easy to copy for the masses.

Weddings in 1960s womens fashion

The most fashionable wedding dresses in 1960s fashion followed the prevailing trends for short skirts and fun colours, although cream or white and lots of silk and lace with traditional veils predominated.

1960s sportswear in fashion

1960s sportswear took advantage of the advance in man-made fabrics and knit fabrics by using jersey with lycra in stretch ski pants and t-shirts. The US runner Wilmer Rudolph won gold in the 1960 Olympic games in Rome in the tiniest terry cloth shorts and short-sleeved t-shirt, clothes which were completely acceptable on the sports field for women by then.

Swimsuits for 1960s fashion were made from nylon with lycra in for a better fit and drying time than ever before, and could be strapless or not but often featured internal structure and moulded bra sections. The leg line was very low, and skirted models were popular. High waisted two pieces were occasionally seen, and swimsuits came with belts and ruffles, in a variety of bright colours and jazzy patterns.

Photo of Elizabeth Taylor from the film Cleopatra, 1963

Perfume and make up in 1960s womens fashion

The big-eyed look was popular in 1960s fashion and many women achieved it by using layers of false eyelashes, and painting on eyeliner in both black and white as well as sometimes painting on the lashes themselves. Lips were painted pink. Grace Coddington, the now legendary stylist of Vogue USA who was a model at the time remembered how there were no makeup artists, and models had to drag around their own make up kit as well as accessories they might need. They invented their own make up looks, fiercely guarding their own signature style.

Elizabeth Taylor in 1963&rsquos Cleopatra influenced this highly graphic eye, and her bold blue shadow was also widely copied without the more daring graphic eyeliner.

The natural look was popular with hippies, and some women for the first time in their lives wore no make up at all.

Perfumes: London was the epicentre of cool and lots of products were named after it. Tuvache&rsquos Oh! de London was one, a bright, sparkling scent. In contrast was the heavy, oriental scent Chamade from Guerlain, and named after the cool Left Bank of Paris was YSL&rsquos Rive Gauche.

Underwear in 1960s womens fashion

The ideal body of 1960s fashion was a skinny adolescent one, so nothing that emphasised the breasts was required. In fact, the most popular bra was the No-Bra Bra, which rather sleazily boasted that it &lsquosupports yet gives you the natural nude look of a firm, young, bra-less bosom&rsquo. Because clothing was becoming shorter and closer fitting, underwear had to be quite subtle. Nothing bulky would fit and seams and ridges, from boning for example, had to be minimised.

You didn&rsquot want anything that would hang below the hem of your skirt either, so knickers became briefer, bras softer and less structured, and tummy girdles, which were still worn, made of smoothing lycra material which had a better stretch and advertised a greater freedom of movement. Tights began to be worn instead of the cumbersome suspenders and stocking arrangement, and light nylon or silk slips worn on top of it all to further smooth the line. An alternative was the nude coloured bodystocking made from stretchy nylon.

Nylon was really coming to the fore in underwear by the 1960s, as it was light, easy to wash and dry, and held colour and bright prints very well.

Studio photo of Sophie van Kleef, Dutch top model in the sixties, with a yellow fake fur hat. 1960

Halo Shampoo ad with Paul Anka, 1960

Hats and accessories in the 1960s

For the ladylike look, a structured handbag in co-ordinating colours to your court shoes was a given &ndash a neat pillbox hat was too. The jewellery was a neat brooch to the lapel or classic pearls. Both they and the girls who liked to look fragile and doll-like had collections of big, clip on costume earrings.

The space age designers equipped their models with visors, helmets and balaclavas. Their footwear was knee-length &ldquoGo-Go&rdquo boots and as accessories, instead of jewellery to clutter the look the designers favoured largely impractical sunglasses with slits or dots instead of lenses to see out of.

Handbags were small and fun and were made of similar space age materials, with silver vinyl bodies and square perspex handles, for example. Jolly little beaded bags with big plastic beads added an accent to a costume and novelty raffia, pearlised or glitter bags were pat of the throwaway aesthetic.

Hippies liked bare feet or Indian sandals, long leather boots for the winter and strings of wooden beads or Indian glass beads along with cowboy hats. Their bags were handmade from patchwork or macrame.

Jacqueline Kennedy in Venezuela, 1961

Hairstyles in the 1960s

Jackie O&rsquos hair was an iconic long bob with curled ends and lots of volume, held in place with tons of hairspray. Volume in hair was massively (get it?) popular in the 1960s, leading to the towering beehive styles of legend. But as a contrast, celebrity hairdresser Vidal Sassoon stepped forward and created something completely different &ndash sharp, geometric styles that you could run your hands through and which would just naturally fall back into place.

Hippies preferred to grow their hair very long, and part it in the middle, often leaving it unwashed or unstyled. A heavy fringe was also popular.

You Really Got Me: The 1960s British Music Invasion

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The rise of the 1960s American counter-culture owes much to the British. Throughout this turbulent and eventful decade, British music groups and cultural icons migrated in waves to the United States, bringing with them new ideas and influences that would help create the defining culture of the age. Music in the 1960s is inextricably associated with the cultural and political developments of the era, including the emergence of psychedelic drug use, the political anti-war and anti-capitalist movements, and the way in which particular bands defined revolutionary anthems for the civil rights movement.


  • January 1964 – The Beatles release their first single in the United States
  • August 1964 – A Hard Day’s Night is released in the United States
  • May 1965 – 9/10 singles in US charts came from British & Commonwealth artists
  • May 1965 – The Rolling Stones head US charts with (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

The music of the 1960s represented the identity and ideologies associated with the baby boomer generation, including the emergence of new aesthetics in art, fashion and popular culture, left-wing ideology, and sexual liberation. At the heart of this cultural revolution was the amalgamation of influences and styles from the United Kingdom with the musical genres and styles of the United States.

The British Invasion was not simply the migration of a fully formed British ‘style’ across the Atlantic: rather, it was a cultural phenomenon, born of both British and American influence, and formed in the crucible of 1960s American politics.

The 1960s: The Rise of the Baby Boomers

The Kinks, (L-R) Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Peter Quaife, and Mick Avory, wait on the set of a television show, ready to perform, 1968. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The defining feature of the 1960s and the factor that shaped the rise of the counterculture that surrounded the British invasion was the generation gap between the inter-war generation and the so-called baby boomers. The term ‘generation gap’ originated in the 1950s and was used to describe the radically different aspirations and socio-economic characteristics that separated the baby-boomers from their parents. For the inter-war generation, the 1950s represented a period of material comfort that they had never previously experienced. This generation grew up in the wake of the Depression and spent their early adulthood in the Second World War. As a result, their aspirations were conditioned by the lack of material comfort and political uncertainty that governed their lives, and they sought to actively profit from the newfound comfort and stability of the post-war period. The post-war boom resulted in a cultural focus on the family and the domestic sphere, particularly for women, who had taken on diverse working roles during the war, and were now encouraged to return to the domestic sphere and dedicate themselves to the family. The rise of the suburbs in this period was a product of this cultural trend.

However, the experiences of the subsequent generation termed the ‘baby-boomers,’ were radically different from those of their parents. The baby-boomers were raised in this suburban domestic idyll, which had been created from the aspirations of their parents, but proved to be politically and socially stifling. The counter-culture of the baby-boomer generation was, in part, a reaction to the materialism and consumerism that dominated 1950s society, and a yearning to be liberated from the social constraints imposed by their parents. The baby-boomers viewed their parents as politically complacent and stuck in a narrow-minded domesticated environment that prevented them from challenging social injustice. In addition to this, the baby-boomers had grown up without the shadow of conscription, in relative material comfort, and therefore had the opportunity to engage in a variety of leisure activities in their youth, creating the notion of ‘teenage’ years as a new space in which youth identities could be forged. This meant that they had time to engage in leisure activities, foster a new culture and were materially comfortable enough to challenge their parents’ worldview. This was the generation that needed an anthem: music that would operate as a rallying cry, and enable them to express ideas and frustrations that had been constrained by the domesticated, suburban idyll of the post-war period.

The British are Coming! The Music of the 1960s

American society at the beginning of the 1960s was, therefore, primed and ready for a new musical movement. At the same time, a radically new sound, based on a British interpretation of American rock and roll and blues, was developed, mainly in the north of England. At the head of this new ‘Merseybeat’ trend were the Beatles, who, after gaining considerable success at home, smashed on to the American stage in 1964. In January 1964, the Beatles released their single I Wanna Hold Your Hand in the US, and followed it up with a tour in February 1964. Beatlemania soon took root across the United States, and the unique, fresh style of their music resonated with baby boomers in all parts of the country.

The music of the 1960s represented a cultural revolution due to the radical change in the types of rhythm, melody, instrumentation and lyrical content of popular music, in contrast to the dominant sounds of the 1950s. In the 1960s, rock began to emerge on the international music scene, making a significant impact and transforming conventional musical styles. Rock music produced a new musical aesthetic and gave the baby boomer generation a distinctive musical identity, as these new forms of music were marketed directly at younger generations and were not typically consumed by older members of British and American society. In particular, in this period the influence of British rock bands was extremely significant, particularly in the emerging rock scene in the United States. British bands such as The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and the Hollies adapted traditional American styles such as blues and soul, and incorporated them into their music, creating a distinctive and original sound.

The rise to international fame of the Beatles gave added publicity and musical expression to the psychedelic movement, particularly with the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour. Music was extremely important in fuelling the counter-culture movement, by creating anthems that were used to unify various movements and create an iconic call to arms. The extent of the Beatles’ fame meant that they were by far the most dominant popular expression of the counter-culture movement, and to a certain extent, they ensured its transition into the mainstream and the absorption of some aspects of counter-culture and anti-establishment discourse within dominant forms of popular culture.

Significantly, the Beatles also opened the way for more British artists to break out on to the American music scene. The Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Kinks all found considerable success in the United States and set the tone for the decade. Female artists such as Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, and Lulu also managed to break into the American market. In particular, the impact of psychedelic rock bands such as Pink Floyd had a huge influence on the development of American sounds of the 1960s. Artists such as The Who also provided rock anthems for a generation that were used to galvanize the movement further.

Music and Politics: 1960s Counter Culture

The importance of these musical trends was that they produced a new musical identity for the young baby boomer generation that formed an accompaniment to the broader subversive cultural movement that was breaking out throughout the United States and Europe. In the 1960s, the revolt of the baby boomers against their parents and the domestic ideal associated with suburban life was the dominant driver of cultural production, as young people sought to produce radically new cultural identities, articulated in opposition to those represented by their parents. As the decade wore on, the impact of progressive rock bands such as Pink Floyd added innovative layers to this new identity, reflecting the cultural associations of the hippie movement, consumption of psychedelic drugs, sexual liberation and the breakdown of traditional societal norms. Bands such as The Who, Pink Floyd, and The Beatles all produced music with psychedelic elements, often incorporating musical influences from diverse cultures such as India or Latin America, which was a product of new encounters with esoteric spirituality and philosophy. The broader cultural trends of the 1960s found expression in popular music, which was heavily influenced by broader cultural developments, and also served as an important carrier for the popularisation of these new ideas.

Music in the 1960s also took on an important political role. The folk revival was particularly significant in the anti-war movement and became a dominant form of expression for student activists and protesters. The hippie culture and aesthetic, together with the increased emphasis on lyrical content, made folk music a particularly good vehicle for political expression. This may be observed in the work of singer-songwriters such as Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, and Pete Seeger, all of whom were profoundly influenced by British folk singers and songwriters such as Ewan McColl, who used music as a way to comment on the political developments and upheavals of the period. Although the iconic folk anthems of the political movements of the latter part of the decade were dominated by American and Canadian artists, the musicians of the British Invasion had established the foundations for their creative innovations.


The British Invasion had a lasting and profound effect on the music of the 1960s, both within the United States and internationally. The impact of British bands and musicians on American culture lent credibility to Britain as a cultural powerhouse, where the music industry had been traditionally dominated by the United States. This provided an avenue for subsequent British acts to establish a base in the United States, albeit with mixed degrees of success in the decades that followed.

Much of the debate surrounding the British Invasion focuses on the extent to which the rock music stars of the 1960s were actually that different from their American counterparts. Indeed, it is clear that many of the acts arising from the Merseybeat scene, and other movements of 1960s Britain took inspiration from American genres and movements, including rock and roll, Motown, and American folk. This approach, however, oversimplifies the nature and significance of the British Invasion as a cultural phenomenon: rather than seeing it as a wholesale ‘invasion’, it should perhaps be regarded as a synthesis of British and American influences and styles, formed in a process of cross-Atlantic dialogue, and popularised in the United States.

The British invasion represented a defining moment in 1960s counter culture and gave voice to a generation of Americans seeking new forms of expression. The iconic images, styles, and sounds of the 1960s were defined by this cultural profusion that found its niche in the collision of British and American styles.


A rising population. More than a decade and a half of steady economic growth. Ample supplies of cheap credit. A sharp fall in the number of homes being built. These were the ingredients that contributed to Britain's third big housing bubble of the post-war period. The average house price more than doubled from £100,000 in 2000 to just under £225,000 in 2007, before the financial crash brought the boom to an end. Housebuilding fell during the recession to its lowest peacetime level since the early 1930s.

Watch the video: Swinging Britain in the 60s: A Psychedelic Dream 1967. British Pathé (August 2022).