Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire
Jeudi 17 février 2022 à 17h
Maison de la recherche
28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e, salle D421
Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (University College London), ‘No More Walls. Homelessness in London after 1945’
This paper aims to sketch out changing state policy on “homelessness” and the changing ecology of homelessness in postwar London, as well as saying something about how this impacted on the experiences of Londoners who found themselves without a home in the three decades after 1945.
The Second World War intensified the emotional weight invested in “home” in British culture; it created mass homelessness in London (and in other cities), but it also ushered in the “people’s peace”, the final sweeping away of the Poor Law, and the beginning of a major push by Labour and Tory governments to build council and private housing. In the three decades after 1945, patterns of homelessness in London were shaped by those developments, as well as slum clearance, new commonwealth migration, racialized council-house allocation policies, full employment and the slow arrival of “affluence”. In this period, street-sleeping was reduced to very low levels in London – though the actual levels were contested – and, more slowly, homelessness and inadequate housing for families were reduced – though never eradicated. Remnants of the Poor Law remained, however, not least in the reception centres which dealt with homeless individuals and families, which were set up in old Poor Law buildings. Remnants of the pre-war way of thinking about homelessness also persisted, in the way policy was gendered, and in the way ‘vagrants’ – those without a ‘settled way of life’ – were thought about. The overview of the infrastructure for and policy about homeless people thus shows that older, moralised ways of approaching the issue persisted in the welfare state.
Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite est historienne, spécialiste de la Grande-Bretagne au XXe siècle. Elle est notamment l’auteure de Class, politics, and the decline of deference in England, 1968-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2018), et elle mène, avec Natalie Thomlinson,, un projet d’histoire orale sur les femmes dans la grève des mineurs de 1984-1985.