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English Literature

Context

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1912 to 1945

This was the period of the Russian Revolution, two appalling world wars, the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb.

This table describes what society was like in 1912 and in 1945

An Inspector Calls is set in 1912An Inspector Calls was written in 1945.Images
The First World War would start in two years. Birling's optimistic view that there would not be a war is completely wrong.The Second World War ended in Europe on 8 May 1945. People were recovering from nearly six years of warfare, danger and uncertainty.

War graves

There were strong distinctions between the upper and lower classes.Class distinctions had been greatly reduced as a result of two world wars.

Upper and lower classes

Women were subservient to men. All a well off women could do was get married; a poor woman was seen as cheap labour.As a result of the wars, women had earned a more valued place in society.

Housewife

The ruling classes saw no need to change the status quo.There was a great desire for social change. Immediately after The Second World War, Clement Attlee's Labour Party won a landslide victory over Winston Churchill and the Conservatives.

Clement Attlee

Priestley deliberately set his play in 1912 because the date represented an era when all was very different from the time he was writing. In 1912, rigid class and gender boundaries seemed to ensure that nothing would change. Yet by 1945, most of those class and gender divisions had been breached. Priestley wanted to make the most of these changes. Through this play, he encourages people to seize the opportunity the end of the war had given them to build a better, more caring society.

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