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Myth of Unity?
Food Rationing and the British Class
System in Grantham and London during
the Second World War.
There’ll Always be An England
Red, white and blue; what does it mean to you?
Surely you're proud, shout it aloud,
"Britons, awake!"
The Empire too, we can depend on you.
Freedom remains. These are the chains
Nothing can break.
There'll always be an England,
And England shall be free
Myth vs. Reality
• Did the ware create social
• Did the war bridge the classes
and shake-up other pre-war
• Could the black market have
been a popularized myth?
• Was “fair shares for all”
simply propaganda?
Case Study (1)-Grantham
• A market-town in Lincolnshire.
• War years:
– influx of munitions workers and service
• Center for armament production.
• Headquarters of the No. 5 group of Royal
Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command
Case Study (2)- East End London
• The “dodgy” area.
• Home of London's docks.
• Large contributor to London’s industrial
• Continuous target during the blitz.
Recent Opinions
• Clive Ponting: 1940: Myth and Reality
– Darkest hour instead of its finest hour.
– “Spirit of Dunkirk” and the blitz are shrouded in political propaganda.
• Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska: Austerity in Britain:
Rationing, Controls, and Consumption
– dispels the myth of the home front based on clashing party
– mechanics of rationing, its effects on moral, health and welfare
• Angus Calder: The People’s War: Britain 1939-1945
– Intensifies the lack of social unity and consensus
– irony in the governments propaganda
– Unofficially, ration began in 1936
with the establishment of the Food
(Defence Plans) Department
– Ration books
– At the height of war (1 week’s
ration) 1d 2 d of meat, 4 oz bacon
or ham, 3 pints of milk, 2 oz
butter, 2 oz jam, 3 oz sugar, 1 oz
cheese, plus 16 points per month
for tinned or dried foods.
Kinks in the System
• Subsidies (Special ration
• Inequalities of
– Restaurants
– Flat-Rate System
• Government Response
– governmentsubsidized institutions
• British Restaurants
• Work Canteens
• School Dinners
Black Market
• all breaches of the emergency
legislation including sale above
the maximum price,
• imposing a condition of sale,
sale of ration goods without
• trade in coupons and supply of
controlled good in breach of the
• false declaration, and illicit
slaughter of animals or supply
of agricultural produce.
Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska (151-152)
Responses to Black Market
• Preventative fines and new legislation
• “The Black Market was a bit like “free love” in the
1960s—everyone had heard of it but it was often nowhere
to be found.” -- Mike Brown and Carol Harris (93)
• Spirit of “we are in this together.”
– “most people, 99.9 percent, of people were honest and abided by
rules.” –Fred Barnes
– “my mother never bought food on the black market and was
scornful of those who did.” –Rose Bakker
• Gallup Poll: January 1942
• prior to rationing instances of buying in bulk from wealthier people
existed to excess
– “There was no immediate rationing of food stuffs but many better-off
customers started buying huge amounts of groceries, especially canned
foods such as corned beef and other means, peas …You name it, they
bought it” (O’Neill, 121)
• Wartime Social Survey
– “Attitudes to food rationing, 1942-1943,”
• Community fighting
– “On several occasions, my father brought a strange soldier or sailor into
our home… Mum would share what food we had with them and send
them off … so they could go and look for their family.” (O’Neill, 218)

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