We Danced All Night, By Martin Pugh

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The Independent Culture

Subtitled "A Social History of Britain between the Wars", this book is a fascinating reminder of how life was different in every department, well within living memory. Seldom can a country have changed so much in so short a time as did Britain in the 20th century. Martin Pugh has chapters on food, health, housing, crime, sex and leisure – and in every case one is startled by the differences in outlook.

This was a time when fresh fruit was considered unhealthy, "especially for children", tea was marketed for its laxative qualities, and women were brought up in such ignorance about sex that one pregnant woman was shocked to learn from a doctor that "the baby would come out where it went in". But despite the differences, one sees here the beginnings of modern Britain. For instance, in the trends towards home ownership, smaller families and foreign holidays. (One million Britons took their holiday abroad in 1930.)

A scholarly work, with all of the appropriate apparatus of notes, bibliography and index, We Danced All Night is also a highly readable account of a foreign country where they really did do things differently.

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