1950s

An Age of Rebellion for British Youths…

In the 1950s, the Americanization of Britain flourished. America was glorified in the cinema and in advertising for material goods, it was presented as a land of opportunity and freedom, something people desperately searched for in the economic hardship after World War Two. In the University, Swansea students began to travel to the USA to continue their studies over summer, this was encouraged in the student press. The introduction of rock ‘n’ roll in Swansea University was aided by the likes of the iconic Elvis Presley with his shameless dance routines and crude lyrics. Although previous music forms were still used at the university balls such as jazz and blues, the rock ‘n’ roll revolution was already under a head of steam and was taking off across Britain. Student behaviour was also seen as more rebellious than it had been in previous years as the notion of the ‘violent’ Teddy Boy influenced how people perceived youths and students. There was much discussion on restraining or controlling the students, yet this was juxtaposed in the Student Union Minutes with proposals for more informal dress in Col life and the idea of a bar on campus.

17th October 1950-Beards were becoming fashionable as a way for male youths to express themselves physically. ‘New numerous tentative growths were appearing in Swansea’. Students were more interested in fashion than they had been previously, they became a target market for advertising  and important source of spending for the recovering economy. Wages grew and as did the amount of disposable income students’ had, they relied less heavily on their parents’ incomes and so could be freer and support themselves more.

1952-The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, visited Swansea University. At the time he had been Chancellor of the University of Wales and was greeted by many students all happy to see this authoritative figure. A special edition of Crefft newspaper was released spanning the events of the whole day and showing the delight from the students whom he visited.

Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

11th October 1956-There was a vote in the Student Union committee meeting asking them of their opinions on the abolition of capital punishment. The outcome of the vote was 58 for and 55 against. This  is one insight into the political mindedness of Swansea University students at that time.

13th October 1958-Mr John Kingdom asked why a male could not take a male partner to the dance, Mr Brian Jones explained that this was not permitted by police. Although Swansea University did accept gay couples in the university and in society, it was still seen as illegal in the eyes of the law. However, times were changing  and with the freer atmosphere of the 1950s, new laws were being introduced for greater equality in society. This more liberal attitude is shown in the advert of Neath Ales from Dawn 1955.

Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

*** 

I found the 1950s an extremely interesting era to discuss which is why I focussed most of my studies on this decade. The idea that youths were becoming rebellious throughout the 1950s was one which I began to question. Although it appeared that their youth culture was changing, it was seemingly because of the new opportunities opening up allowing them to express themselves with fewer restrictions from the war. The information for the 1950s was quite widespread in the archives, sources ranged from the student newspapers labelled Crefft, Dawn, & Bleep to the Student Union Minutes Book from their meetings in 1950-1961. This module has enabled me to discover more local attitudes towards youth culture in the 1950s in Wales which has been extremely eye-opening and interesting. I would urge anyone who would like to know more and analyse original primary sources, to have a look at the whole collection of archival sources as it is all very interesting and easily accessible to read.

[Kate Godding]

One response to “1950s

  1. Tom

    This seems like a really interesting project you have all put together, very impressive, keep the news stories coming!

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