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INVENTING THE ‘TRADITIONAL WORKING CLASS’: A RE-ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEW NOTES FROM YOUNG AND WILLMOTT'S FAMILY AND KINSHIP IN EAST LONDON*

  • JON LAWRENCE (a1)

Abstract

This article examines surviving notes from interviews conducted by Michael Young and Peter Willmott in the London Borough of Bethnal Green and the Essex ‘overspill’ estate of ‘Greenleigh’ (Debden) in the mid-1950s to ask how far they support the central arguments about kinship, community, and place advanced in their classic 1957 book Family and kinship in East London. These interviews are used to suggest that Young and Willmott's powerful a priori models about ‘community’ and working-class kinship, and their strong political investment in the idea of a decentralized social democracy based on self-servicing, working-class communities, led them to discount testimony which ran counter to their assumptions as ‘aberrant’ or ‘exceptional’. Though it is difficult to draw strong conclusions from thirty-seven interviews, it is suggested that the snippets of personal testimony that survive in Michael Young's papers reinforce the arguments of historians who seek to question cataclysmic accounts of the consequences of working-class suburbanization in the mid-twentieth century. Culture and lifestyle changed much less with the move out to suburban Essex than Family and kinship would suggest, partly because Bethnal Green's family and neighbourhood networks were considerably less cohesive than they claimed.

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Corresponding author

St Andrew's Street, Cambridge, CB2 3ARjml55@cam.ac.uk

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*

The author wishes to thank Churchill Archive Centre and Mr Toby Young for permission to quote from the Michael Young papers, Sophie Bridges for help locating the Bethnal Green files, and Lise Butler, Alex Campsie, Mark Clapson, David Cowan, Jane Elliott, Nev Kirk, Joe Lawrence, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, the participants at the ‘History after Hobsbawm’ conference at Birkbeck/IHR, and the anonymous referees for helpful criticism of earlier versions of this article. This research was made possible by the generous support of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship.

Footnotes

References

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1 Michael Young and Peter Willmott, Family and kinship in East London (London, 1957).

2 Topalov, Christian, ‘“Traditional working-class neighborhoods”: an inquiry into the emergence of a sociological model in the 1950s and 1960s’, Osiris, 18 (2003), pp. 212–33; Michael Young and Peter Willmott, Family and kinship in East London (rev. edn, London, 1990), p. xi (new introduction).

3 Notably, Stephen Reynolds, A poor man's house (London, 1908); Stephen Reynolds and Tom and Bob Woolley, Seems so! A working-class view of politics (London, 1911); Florence Bell, At the works: a study of a manufacturing town (1907; London, 1985). More generally, see McKibbin, R. I., ‘Social class and social observation in Edwardian England’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 28 (1978), pp. 175–99.

4 Asa Briggs, Michael Young: social entrepreneur (Basingstoke, 2001), p. 121; Thane, Pat, ‘Michael Young and welfare’, Contemporary British History, 19 (2005), pp. 293–9. On the genesis and implementation of ‘overspill’ policies, see Helen Meller, Towns, plans and society in modern Britain (Cambridge, 1997); Mark Clapson, Invincible green suburbs, brave new towns: social change and urban dispersal in postwar England (Manchester, 1998), chs. 2–3; J. B. Cullingworth, Restraining urban growth: the problem of overspill (London, 1960).

5 Briggs, Michael Young, pp. 107–10, 128–34; Peter Willmott, ‘The Institute of Community Studies’, in Martin Bulmer, ed., Essays on the history of British sociological research (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 137–50. Also Jennifer Platt, Social research in Bethnal Green: an evaluation of the work of the Institute of Community Studies (London, 1971), which includes a sustained methodological critique of Family and kinship, pp. 43–54.

6 Richard Hoggart, The uses of literacy: aspects of working-class life with special reference to publications and entertainments (London, 1957); Selina Todd, The people: the rise and fall of the working class, 1910–2010 (London, 2014), pp. 236–46.

7 Nick Tiratsoo and Mark Clapson, ‘The Ford Foundation and social planning in Britain: the case of the Institute of Community Studies and Family and kinship in East London’, in Giuliana Gemelli, ed., American foundations and large-scale research (Bologna, 2001), pp. 201–17, at p. 202.

8 Foreword to Graham Crow and Graham Allan, Community life: an introduction to local social relations (Hemel Hempstead, 1994), p. xi.

9 Mike Savage, Identities and social change in Britain since 1940: the politics of method (Oxford, 2010), p. 166; Crow and Allan, Community life, p. 24.

10 Jerry White, London in the twentieth century (2001; London, 2008), p. 157; Platt, Social research in Bethnal Green, pp. 141–2.

11 J. B. Cullingworth, Problems of an urban society, ii:The social content of planning (London, 1972), p. 174; Nicholas Deakin and Clare Ungerson, Leaving London: planned mobility and the inner city (London, 1977), pp. 6–8.

12 Ann Oakley, Father and daughter: patriarchy, gender and social science (Bristol, 2014), p. 58; also Carolyn Steedman, Landscape for a good woman: a story of two lives (London, 1986), p. 19.

13 Elizabeth Wilson, Only halfway to paradise: women in post-war Britain, 1945–1968 (London, 1980), pp. 64–5.

14 A. H. Halsey, ‘Michael Dunlop Young’, in the New Oxford dictionary of national biography; Briggs, Michael Young, ch. 3. Alex Campsie, ‘Mass-Observation, left intellectuals and the politics of everyday life’, English Historical Review (forthcoming (Feb. 2016)), explores the broader intellectual context of this pluralist socialism in the 1940s.

15 Michael Young, Small man, big world: a discussion of socialist democracy, Labour Party towards Tomorrow series, No. 4 (London, 1948); see also his wartime pamphlet ‘London under bombing’, Planning (PEP Broadsheet), 169, 17 Feb. 1941.

16 Michael Young, For richer, for poorer: essays on family, community and socialism (report presented to the Labour Party Policy Committee, Nov. 1952), pp. 19–42, Young papers, Yung 2/1/1, Churchill Archive Centre, Cambridge (CAC); Briggs, Michael Young, p. 92. See Butler, Lise, ‘Michael Young, the Institute of Community Studies and the politics of kinship’, Twentieth-Century British History, 26 (2015), pp. 203–24.

17 Michael Young, ‘Peter Willmott’, in the New Oxford dictionary of national biography; Guardian, 19 Apr. 2000; Briggs, Michael Young, pp. 107–12.

18 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 155.

19 Ibid., pp. 12–15; also Savage, Identities and social change, pp. 157–9.

20 Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton, eds., An affluent society? Britain's post-war ‘golden age’ revisited (Aldershot, 2004); Stuart Middleton, ‘“Affluence” and the left in Britain, c. 1958–1974’, English Historical Review, 129 (2014), pp. 107–38; Lawrence, Jon, ‘Class, “affluence” and the study of everyday life in Britain, c. 1930–1964’, Cultural and Social History, 10 (2013), pp. 273–99.

21 Josephine Klein, Samples from English cultures, i (London, 1965), ch. 4; John H. Goldthorpe, David Lockwood, Frank Bechhofer, and Jennifer Platt, The affluent worker (3 vols., Cambridge, 1968–9). See also Ross McKibbin, Classes and cultures, England 1918–1951 (Oxford, 1998), ch. 5, for whom Klein is an important influence, and Ronald Frankenberg, Communities in Britain: social life in town and country (London, 1966), ch. 7, where Bethnal Green is presented as the epitome of an urban ‘community’.

22 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. xvi.

23 Young, Small man, big world. See Butler, ‘Michael Young’; Thane, ‘Michael Young and welfare’; also Campsie, ‘Mass-Observation’.

24 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. xi–xii; a point later conceded in Willmott, ‘The Institute of Community Studies’, which makes clear how strongly policy-focused and purposive their work was from the outset.

25 Margaret Stacey, Tradition and change: a study of Banbury (Oxford, 1960), p. 128. See also her general critique of the concept of community’ in ‘The myth of community studies’, British Journal of Sociology, 20 (1969), pp. 134–47.

26 Platt, Social research in Bethnal Green, pp. 43–54, 101–11 (quoted material at pp. 52–3).

27 Jocelyn Cornwell, Hard-earned lives: accounts of health and illness from east London (London, 1984), pp. 40–54.

28 Robert Roberts, The classic slum: Salford life in the first quarter of the century (Manchester, 1971); Joanna Bourke, Working-class cultures in Britain, 1890–1960: gender, class and ethnicity (London, 1994); Carolyn Steedman, ‘State-sponsored autobiography’, in Becky Conekin, Frank Mort, and Chris Waters, eds., Moments of modernity: reconstructing Britain, 1945–1964 (London, 1999); Chris Waters, ‘Autobiography, nostalgia and the changing practices of working-class selfhood’, in George K. Behlmer and Fred M. Leventhal, eds., Singular continuities: tradition, nostalgia, and identity in modern British culture (Stanford, CA, 2000), pp. 178–95; Brooke, Stephen, ‘Gender and working-class identity in Britain during the 1950s’, Journal of Social History, 34 (2001) pp. 773–96.

29 Roberts, Classic slum, p. xi.

30 Eric Hobsbawm, ‘The formation of British working-class culture’, in his Worlds of labour: further studies in the history of labour (London, 1984), pp. 185–9; Elizabeth Roberts, Women and families: an oral history, 1940–1970 (Oxford, 1995); Robert Colls, ‘When we lived in communities: working-class culture and its critics’, in Robert Colls and Richard Rodger, eds., Cities of ideas: civil society and urban governance in Britain, 1800–2000: essays in honour of David Reeder (Aldershot, 2005), pp. 283–307; Offer, Avner, ‘British manual workers: from producers to consumers’, Contemporary British History, Special Issue: ‘Contesting affluence’, 22 (2008), pp. 537–71.

31 See Ben Jones, The working class in mid-twentieth-century England: community, identity and social memory (Manchester, 2012); Brooke, Stephen, ‘Revisiting Southam Street: class, generation, gender and race in the photography of Roger Mayne’, Journal of British Studies, 53 (2014), pp. 453–96; Ramsden, Stefan, ‘Remaking working-class community: sociability, belonging and “affluence” in a small town, 1930–1980’, Contemporary British History, 29 (2015), pp. 126; Saunders, Jack, ‘The untraditional worker: class re-formation in Britain, 1945–1965’, Twentieth-Century British History, 26 (2015), pp. 225–48; Todd, The people; Todd, Selina, ‘Phoenix rising: working-class life and urban reconstruction, c. 1945–1967’, Journal of British Studies, 54 (2015), pp. 679702.

32 On the issues thrown up by such re-analysis, see Hammersley, Martyn, ‘Qualitative data archiving: some reflections on its prospects and problems’, Sociology, 31 (1997), pp. 131–42, and Savage, Mike, ‘Revisiting classic qualitative studies’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6 (2005) (urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501312).

33 Bethnal Green Cases BG26 to BG49 inclusive, plus one interview from Aug. 1955 (BG37(b)), CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, ‘Bethnal Green papers’ (uncatalogued deposit, 2010). The interview transcripts from Debden are catalogued as ‘Debden Survey, 1953–55’, YUNG 1/5/1/1 and YUNG 1/5/1/2, CAC; one family declined to be re-interviewed in 1955 so there are eleven cases from the book's main sample of forty-one households, or 27 per cent, Family and kinship, p. 98.

34 These files were filmed and respondents’ reported speech and Young's comments were transcribed (the quality of the originals precluded use of OCR transcription). Coding was undertaken using the QSR NVivo9 qualitative software package. On the circumstances of their survival, see Michael Young interviewed by Paul Thompson, 3 July 2001, ‘Pioneers of qualitative research’, SN 6226, Interview 032, UKDA, Essex, p. 4.

35 The authors claimed that a new random sample of forty-five couples (the ‘Marriage Sample’) was used in Family and kinship, pp. 40 and 167, but a number of quotations from these original 1953 interviews appear in the book, though with different pseudonyms to those used in Young's Ph.D., e.g. Cases BG26 (Harvey/Banks), at p. 37; BG26 (Harvey/Firth), at p. 89 (i.e. a second pseudonym for the same case); and BG35 (Morton/Shipway), at p. 33, CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577. One interview is simply re-dated from 1 July 1953 to 1 July 1955, but this appears to be an exercise in anonymizing for publication: Case BG36 (original pseudonym Mountain, revised to Smith; throughout this article all surnames used are Young's pseudonyms, not respondents’ real names).

36 Michael Young, ‘A study of the extended family in East London’ (Ph.D. thesis, London, 1955, LSE Library, R X27, 72), p. 218; Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 91.

37 Young, ‘A study’, p. 21.

38 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 81.

39 Ibid., p. 85.

40 Ibid., p. 85, although they did acknowledge that close proximity could exacerbate disputes between neighbours: ‘Feuds may be all the more bitter for being contained in such a small place’ (ibid., p. 92).

41 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG41 (Quail), and BG49 (Whiteside), p. 2.

42 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG31 (Instone), Oct. 1953, p. 3.

43 On class and performance of the self in survey interviews, see Lawrence, Jon, ‘Social-science encounters and the negotiation of difference in early 1960s England’, History Workshop Journal, 77 (2014), pp. 215–39.

44 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG45 (Sarson). Mr Sarson was from Bethnal Green, though his wife was an ‘outsider’ from Plaistow. Contrast the account of social harmony in Shils, Edward and Young, Michael, ‘The meaning of the coronation’, Sociological Review, n.s., 1 (1953), pp. 6381.

45 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG32 (Kimber), pp. 4–5, Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 121.

46 Young, For richer, for poorer.

47 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG37b (Jefferys, 1955), p. 1, and BG39 (Porter), p. 1.

48 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG27 (Heal), BG30 (Holmes), BG31 (Instone), and BG33 (Lambert).

49 E.g. CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D25 (Maggs), 3 Oct. 1953 visit, p. 1; CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, CAC, Case D27 (Painswick), 28 Mar. 1953 visit, p. 1; Case D28 (Prince), 9 June 1953 visit, p. 1; Case D34 (Ruck), 10 July 1953 visit, p. 1; Case D36 (Sandeman), 11 June 1953 visit, p. 1.

50 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG40 (Quested) and BG34 (Lampson).

51 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 121–40, quotation at p. 122.

52 E. Wight Bakke, The unemployed man: a social study (London, 1933), pp. 153–6; Leo Kuper, ed., Living in towns: selected research papers in urban sociology (London, 1953), esp. pp. 42–82; University of Liverpool, Neighbourhood and community: an enquiry into social relationships on housing estates in Liverpool and Sheffield (Liverpool, 1954); Geoffrey Gorer, Exploring English character (London, 1955), pp. 52–63. See also Dennis Chapman, The home and social status (London, 1955), pp. 68–70, 156–60, which offers a nuanced account of neighbouring emphasizing local diversity. Only Kuper and Chapman went unreferenced in Family and kinship. For subsequent accounts which explore the complexity of ‘good’ neighbouring in working-class districts, see Martin Bulmer, ed., Neighbours: the work of Philip Abrams (Cambridge, 1986); Melanie Tebbutt, Women's talk? A social history of ‘gossip’ in working-class neighbourhoods, 1880–1960 (Aldershot, 1995); McKibbin, Classes and cultures, pp. 181–3; Langhamer, Claire, ‘The meanings of home in postwar Britain’, Journal of Contemporary History, 40 (2005), pp. 341–62, at pp. 351–3.

53 Young presented his findings to Firth's seminar in November 1954, ‘Mr Young's Anthropological Study of Bethnal Green – Discussion’, LSE Library, London, Firth papers, FIRTH 3/1/16. Firth's own study of Bermondsey is also cited in Family and kinship, pp. xxv, 163, 203, and 223. On the formative influence of Firth's group at the LSE, see Willmott, ‘The Institute of Community Studies’, p. 147.

54 Raymond Firth and Judith Djamour, ‘Kinship in south borough’, in Raymond Firth, ed., Two studies of kinship in London (London, 1956), p. 34. Also ‘Problem: study of kinship connections and terminology in a primarily working-class community in London’ (research note), n.d., LSE, FIRTH 3/1/13 (2); Robert M. MacIver, Community: a sociological study: being an attempt to set out the nature and fundamental laws of social life (London, 1917).

55 Cornwell, Hard-earned lives, pp. 44, 47, and 49–53.

56 Firth and Djamour, ‘South borough’, p. 44.

57 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG49 (Whiteside), p. 2.

58 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG30 (Holmes) and BG31 (Instone).

59 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG38 (Nulli), p. 1; also Case BG31 (Instone).

60 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG42 (Rushton).

61 Though see Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 155, where they acknowledge that ‘When kinship relations go wrong, they can become intolerable’.

62 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 143–4, 153–4.

63 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG44 (Sartain), p. 4.

64 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG26 (Harvey), 32 (Kimber), and 37b (Jefferys, 1955).

65 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG26 (Harvey), p. 7; BG31 (Instone), p. 1; BG37a (Marsden, 1953), p. 2.

66 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG46 (Threader), p. 1; also Case BG34 (Lampson), p. 2, where he shows similar surprise when a woman clearly assumes he will concur that ‘You don't bother with your in-laws much, do you?’ Her expectation of shared values is itself striking.

67 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG46 (Threader), p. 1, and BG27 (Heal), p. 2. On the influence of Bowlby on Young and the foundation of the ICS, see Butler, ‘Michael Young’, pp. 207, 215–17.

68 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG33 (Lambert), p. 1.

69 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG49 (Whiteside), 10 Sept. 1953, p. 1.

70 Steedman, Landscape for a good woman, p. 19; see also her introduction to Kathleen Woodward, Jipping Street (London, 1983).

71 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 89; CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG26 (Harvey).

72 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG43 (Silverman), p. 1.

73 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG28 (Hadrian), p. 1.

74 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG32 (Kimber), p. 2; Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 87–9.

75 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG41 (Quail), p. 1.

76 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG42 (Rushton), p. 2; also Case BG44 (Sartain), pp. 2–3.

77 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG29 (Hinton); BG38 (Nulli); BG39 (Porter), BG40 (Quested); BG42 (Rushton).

78 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG37b (Jefferys, 1955), p. 2.

79 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG36 (Mountain), p. 7.

80 Though in a number of cases, people did not know the difference between the Borough and County housing lists, and so did not realize that they were not automatically on the list for an out-of-town house as well as a local flat, CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Cases BG33 (Lambert), p. 1; BG41 (Quail), p. 1; BG49 (Whiteside), 1st interview 1953, p. 1.

81 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG45 (Sarson), p. 1. For poignant accounts of the elderly left behind in Victorian working-class neighbourhoods, see Peter Townsend, The family life of old people (London, 1957), ch. 13 (Bethnal Green), and Jeremy Seabrook, The unprivileged: a hundred years of family life and tradition in a working-class street (1967; Penguin edn, London, 1973), ch. 11 (Northampton).

82 CAC, Young papers, Acc. 1577, Case BG26 (Harvey), p. 7.

83 The LCC gave him access to Debden tenants’ files – 129 had moved from Bethnal Green and had two children under 15, he chose fifty to interview at random for his PhD thesis, Young, ‘A Study’, Appendix 1, p. 242.

84 The surviving cases are: D10, D14–15, D24–5, D27–9, and D34–7, i.e. four short consecutive runs and one lone case.

85 One couple had moved there in 1948, three in 1949, six in 1950, and two in 1951. Though he did not say so, Young may have deliberately chosen couples who had had time to settle into life at Debden, or the list he was given by the London County Council (LCC) may have been out of date.

86 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D28 (Prince), 15 Oct. 1955, p. 1; Case D35 (Rawson), 25 Oct. 1955, p. 2; Case D37 (Usher), 1 Nov. 1955 visit, p. 1. On reading such testimony, see Dolly Smith Wilson, ‘A new look at the affluent worker: the good working mother in post-war Britain’, Twentieth-Century British History, 17 (2006), pp. 206–29.

87 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D25 (Maggs), 3 Oct. 1953, p. 3; CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D28 (Prince), 15 Oct. 1955, p. 1; Case D36 (Sandeman), 11 June 1953, p. 2, and 21 Sept. 1955 p. 4.

88 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 101.

89 Ibid.

90 One man, a disabled ex-serviceman, had a mobility car, and in 1953 another had access to a firm's van at weekends, CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D14 (Damson), and CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D37 (Usher).

91 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D10 (Barnes), Oct. 1953 visit, p. 1. Contemporary studies noted that distance need not be a barrier to kinship ties: Colin Rosser and Christopher Harris, The family and social change: a study of family and kinship in a South Wales town (London, 1965), pp. 221–5, 234–5, 292–5; Cullingworth, J. B., ‘Social implications of overspill: the Worsley social survey’, Sociological Review, n.s., 8 (1960), pp. 7796.

92 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D14 (Damson), 1953 visit, p. 3.

93 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D35 (Rawson), 2 Nov. 1955 visit, p. 1.

94 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D35 (Rawson), 3 July 1953, p. 3; see also Case D36, (Sandeman), 11 June 1953, p. 1.

95 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 121; CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D28 (Prince), 15 Oct. 1955 visit. Excision in original – Prince said: ‘They could talk to you a bit more I think.’ He was a haulage worker home early from work, unlike his parents.

96 Ibid. When Young had interviewed his parents in 1953, George had been equally unequivocal, saying he preferred life in Debden because of the clean air and the chance to garden, CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D28 (Prince), 9 June 1953.

97 Ibid., 22 Sept. 1955.

98 Ibid., 22 Oct. 1955.

99 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 124.

100 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D24 (Minton), 26 Oct. 1955 visit, p. 2.

101 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D24 (Minton), 16 Apr. 1953 visit, p. 6.

102 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 127 and 135.

103 Ibid., p. 121.

104 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 199, asked: ‘Do you think other people on the estate are friendly?’ Interview transcripts from 1953 often carry the sub-heading ‘Neighbour Relations’ but the material is purely qualitative, and does not relate specifically to the issue of perceived friendliness.

105 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D28 (Prince), 9 June 1953 visit, p. 1.

106 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D25 (Maggs), 3 Oct. 1953, p. 4.

107 Ibid., p. 2; Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 110.

108 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/, Case D34 (Ruck), 1955 visit, pp. 1–2. She complained that ‘When I lost my husband they were all round – for about five minutes.’

109 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D14 (Damson), 1953 summary note.

110 Ibid., 1953 visit, p. 1 (names changed to pseudonyms).

111 Ibid. On the relationship between life-cycle and closeness of neighbourly relations, see Margaret Stacey et al., Power, persistence and change: a second study of Banbury (London, 1975), p. 94; Clapson, Invincible green suburbs, pp. 110–11.

112 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D14 (Damson), 1955 visit, p. 1.

113 Ibid., 1953 visit, p. 2.

114 Ibid., 1955 visit, p. 1; Ramsden, ‘Remaking working-class community’, p. 16, discusses the growth of home-centred socializing in post-war Britain.

115 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 127 and also 134–6.

116 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D10 (Barnes), 1953 summary note and report, pp. 1–3.

117 Ibid., 1953 visit, p. 2.

118 Ibid., 1955 visit, p. 1, and survey, p. 5. On visible symbols of ‘respectability’ in working-class London streets, including the whitened step, see Bakke, Unemployed man, pp. 156–7.

119 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 117.

120 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D24 (Minton), 16 Apr. 1953 visit, pp. 3 and 6.

121 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D34 (Ruck), 10 July 1953 visit, p. 1.

122 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, pp. 133–5.

123 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/2, Case D35 (Rawson), 3 July 1953 visit, p. 3. This family actively sought isolation. When Mrs Rawson was in hospital for two weeks in 1955 the family did not mention it to their neighbours because they knew they would offer to help out, ibid., 1 Nov. 1955 visit, p. 2.

124 CAC, YUNG 1/5/1/1, Case D25 (Maggs), 3 Oct. 1953 visit, p. 4.

125 Tiratsoo and Clapson, ‘Ford Foundation’, pp. 210–11; Peter Willmott and Michael Young, ‘Families on the Move’ (script), May 1958, CCA, Sasha Moorsom Young papers, YONG 3/1/4, CCA (thanks to Lise Butler for this reference).

126 LSE, FIRTH, 3/1/8, ‘An inquiry into contemporary kinship’ (working paper), p. 7.

127 LSE, FIRTH 3/1/11, ‘Bermondsey kin study group meeting’, 28 Nov. 1947.

128 Young and Willmott, Family and kinship, p. 163; Firth and Djamour, ‘South borough’, p. 41.

129 Michael Young interview, pp. 2–4 and 11; Willmott, ‘The Institute of Community Studies’, p. 141.

130 Butler, ‘Michael Young’. See also Platt, Social research in Bethnal Green, pp. 1–6, 31–2, 40, 139–42.

131 Butler, ‘Michael Young’; see also Young, Michael, ‘The role of the extended family in a disaster’, Human Relations, 7 (1954), pp. 383–91, and The planners and the planned: the family’, Journal of the Town Planning Institute, 40 (1954), pp. 134–42 (a powerful plea for social policy to do more to preserve the extended family).

* The author wishes to thank Churchill Archive Centre and Mr Toby Young for permission to quote from the Michael Young papers, Sophie Bridges for help locating the Bethnal Green files, and Lise Butler, Alex Campsie, Mark Clapson, David Cowan, Jane Elliott, Nev Kirk, Joe Lawrence, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite, the participants at the ‘History after Hobsbawm’ conference at Birkbeck/IHR, and the anonymous referees for helpful criticism of earlier versions of this article. This research was made possible by the generous support of a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship.

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