iPlayer Radio What's New?
On Now : Any Questions?
Greg Dyke, Dan Hannan MEP, Baroness Kramer, Justine Picardie
Image for The Suit

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio

The Suit

Episode 6 of 6

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 10 September 2012

Amanda Vickery explores the history of masculinity through six different archetypes of the ideal man, archetypes which still have an echo today. This week: The Suit.

Professor Vickery ends her series in the 1950s, with a post-war generation of men trying to make it into positions of power in the British establishment. This is the era of Madmen, but with a very different British setting. She goes to the House of Lords to meet Peter Hennessy, who talks about how as a grammar school boy you had to learn to be a "social amphibian", imitating other more powerful and privileged men. Hennessy and his chums were "already betweeded" at 21. How did your looks, manners and language reveal that you naturally deserved your "Room at the Top"?

The programme was also given permission to record in the Foreign Office with Foreign Office historian James Ellison, who has studied the application files of young men trying to get jobs there. We include funny and revealing extracts from those application forms, and a very revealing exchange of views about whether to accept a candidate guilty of a sexual misdemeanour. Historian Martin Francis talks about how wartime heroism helped create an ideal of masculinity even after the war was over, and about what it was like to try to get on as a gay man.

Sources include Foreign Office files; management manuals for men from the late 50s; BBC archive programmes; contemporary films, music and advertisements.

Amanda Vickery is Professor of Early Modern History at Queen Mary, University of London. She has made several series in creative collaboration with producer Elizabeth Burke, the most recent of which was Voices from the Old Bailey.

Producer: Elizabeth Burke.
A Loftus production for BBC Radio 4.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss