Call Us: US - +1 845 478 5244 | UK - +44 20 7193 7850 | AUS - +61 2 8005 4826

United Kingdom during the First World War

1920s “consumer boom”[edit]

In spite of the serious problems that plagued heavy industry, the 1920s marked an era of unprecedented growth for the British consumer industry, until then a minor player in the national economy. While not creating a fully-fledged “consumer culture” as in the United States during the same decade, it had an important effect over British society, primarily on the middle classes which gained access to commodities previously reserved for the upper crust, primarily automobiles, ownership rising tenfold during the interwar period (from around 500,000 in 1919 to approximately over 3 million in 1929 and 5 million in 1939). Sales of electric appliances boomed thanks to the rise of consumer-oriented credit and loans. Higher wages and shorter working hours also led to the rise of recreation: Gramophone records, radio (or “the wireless” as it was referred), magazines and cinema became part of everyday life much like sports, primarily football and cricket.

Tourism grew rapidly in the interwar years because of the rapidly rising number of motorized middle-class and lower-middle-class holidaymakers, as well as an influx of American tourists. Seaside resorts like BlackpoolBrighton and Skegness were particularly popular. However, those tourist sites that catered to the very wealthy (which now began holidaying abroad) or were located in depressed areas, all experienced a decline in profits, especially during the Great Depression.[190]

Electricity, gas, plumbing and telephone services became common as well during the decade, even in some working class households. However, those living in the most remote and poorest parts of Britain saw little change in their living standards, with many Britons still living in terraced homes with outdoor toilets as late as the 1960s.