The eclipse of 'elegant economy': post-war changes in attitudes to personal finance in Britain
In Britain, almost all survivors of the Second Word War found themselves in a stronger and more secure financial position than at its outbreak. Simultaneously they were confronted by a host of intrusive controls, rationing, shortages and ubiquitous reminders of conflict. Pride in victory was immense, yet there were few perceivable signs of reward for sacrifice. The resultant widespread disorientation belied pecuniary fortune and gave rise to many formidable dilemmas demanding financial decisions. The solution of a majority was thrift and avoidance of money spending, which cleared the conscience and provided peace of mind. A substantial minority, often equally disorientated, followed their natural inclinations to spend freely and benefit from or enjoy their new-found resources. The latter discovered themselves not only severely restricted by bare-shelved shops and emergency legislation but by social censure of conspicuous consumption. The remaining options open to them most commonly involved expenditure on the intangible and the inconspicuous. Between 1945 and 1957, as austerity waned and greater opportunities returned for beneficial employment of private funds, attitudes appeared to evolve from despair into confidence. But austerity culture, embedded in the national mindset,took much longer to dispel than is popularly supposed and arguably has never been fully eradicated. The impact on British life of this gradual change is here highlighted by comparing and contrasting the relevant history of prior and subsequent periods. This thesis focuses on theoretical, political and practical influences on all forms of employment of private means without differentiating between the material and ethereal, including saving and investment as forms of consumption. Reinterpreting Britain's transformation from austerity to affluence from the perspective of personal finance demonstratest hat it is an essential but hitherto ignored factor which adds significantly to the understanding of social history.
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