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1.1. Aims of the unit.
1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. During the World War II (1939-1945).
2.2. After the World War II (1945-onwards).
2.2.1. The United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Wales. The 1940s. The 1950s and 1960s. The 1970s and 1980s. The 1990s and early twenty-first century.
2.2.2. Ireland. Before the 1940s. The 1940s. The 1950s and 1960s. .The 1970s and 1980s. The 1990s and early twenty-first century.


3.1. Main literary forms: main authors.
3.1.1. Poetry.
3.1.2. Drama.
3.1.3. Prose.





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 58, aims to provide a useful introduction to the political, social and
economic development in the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1945 up to the present day, and
we shall also examine their presence in the European Union. With this background in mind we
aim at reviewing the literary background of the time and, therefore, the life, works and style of
the most representative authors in this period. Actually, we shall analyse how these authors
reflected the prevailing ideologies of the day in the literature of the time which, following Speck
(1998), is an account of literary activity in which social, economic, cultural and political
allegiances are placed very much to the fore.

This is reflected in the organization of the unit, which is divided into five main chapters, namely
devoted to establish the link between the literary activity and the main social, economic and
political changes which took place after the WWII up to the present-day situation in the United
Kingdom and Ireland. It is worth noting that we do not try to establish a clear-cut division of
time (1950s, 1960s, 1970s) or powers (political, social, economic) in our study as, sometimes,
events are linked to each other so closely that we cannot draw a sharp line between them. Yet,
we try to offer an overall view of the development of these two countries in terms of time (since
we examine their history through decades) and powers (since political, social and economic
events are interconnected).

Chapter 2 namely offers a historical background for the political, social and economic
development in the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1945 and their presence in the European
Union so as to provide an overall view of the context in which the most representative authors
lived and produced their works. In doing so, we shall divide our presentation in two main
sections regarding the main events occurred during and after the World War II (1941-1945) up
to the present-day in political, social and economic terms: (1) during the World War II (1939-
1945), and (2) after the World War II both in (a) the United Kingdom in (i) the 1940s, (ii) the
1950s and 1960s, (iii) the 1970s and 1980s, and finally (iv) the 1990s and early twenty-first
century; and similarly, in (b) Ireland regarding the period (i) before the 1940s, (ii) in the 1940s,
(iii) the 1950s and 1960s, (iv) the 1970s and 1980s, and finally (v) the 1990s and early twenty-
first century.

In Chapter 3, with this historical overview in mind, we shall provide a literary background of
the period which ranges from 1945 to the present day with the aim of going further into the

XXth and XXIst-century literature and, therefore, into the most representative authors and their
masterpieces within the three main literary forms: poetry, drama and prose. Therefore, we shall
approach 1) the three main literary forms in terms of main literary features of the period and
most representative authors. Thus we shall review within (a) poetry, Dylan Thomas (1914-
1955), Hugh DcDiarmid (1892-1978), writing about Lowland Scots dialects, Patrick Kavanagh
(1905-1967) on Ireland, Philip Larkin (1922-1985), Ted Hughes (1930-1999), Geoffrey Hill
(1932-), Tony Harrison (1937-), and Seamus Heanye (1939-); regarding (b) drama, we shall
approach the most representative figures in this field, thus Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), Samuel
Becket (1906-1989), John James Osborne (1929-1994), and Harold Pinter (1930-); and finally,
within (c) prose we shall concentrate on William Golding (1911-1993), as representing the evil
of society and mans most primitive insticts; Graham Greene (1904-), as the imaginative
exploration of characters; George Orwell (1903-1950) as the typical product of the inter-war
and WWII years; and J.R.R. Tolkien, as the most representative figure of the XXIst century
with his science fiction terms of main features and most representative authors.

In Chapter 4 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching

regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 5 will offer a
conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 6 will include all the
bibliographical references used to develop this account of Great Britain literature in the
twentieth century.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to Great Britain in the inter-War years and during the World War II
so as to examine the life, works and style of the most representative authors in this period is
based on Thoorens, Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y Amrica del Norte. Gran
Bretaa y Estados Unidos de Amrica (1969); Palmer, Historia Contempornea (1980); and
Cook & pastn, European Political Facts of the Twentieth Century (2001), which is a
fundamental reference tool for Europe including leading political figures, statistics, and major

The literary background includes the works of Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of
English Literature (1987); Albert, A History of English Literature (1990); Magnusson &
Goring, Cambridge Biographical Dictionary (1990); Drabble, The Oxford Companion to
English Literature (1995); Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature (1996);
Speck, Literature and Society in Eighteenth -Century England: Ideology Politics and Culture

(1998); and Armitage & Crawford, The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since
1945 (1998). Other sources include Enciclopedia Larousse 2000 (2000) and the Encyclopedia of
World Literature in the 20th Century (1999).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative

competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most
complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the
guidelines in B.O.E. (2004) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; the Council of Europe, Modern
Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference
(1998); and van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001). Other sources include Enciclopedia Larousse
2000, Editorial Planeta.



Chapter 2 namely offers a historical background for the political, social and economic
development in the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1945 and their presence in the European
Union so as to provide an overall view of the context in which the most representative authors
lived and produced their works. It must be borne in mind that WWII had terrible consequences
for the United Kingdom at all levels and this country, once the most powerful empire in the
world, had to face a new international situation in which the balance of power had been totally

So, we shall go further into details after presenting the outline of this chapter, which is divided
in two main sections regarding the main events occurred during and after the World War II
(1941-1945) up to the present-day in political, social and economic terms: (1) during the World
War II (1939-1945), and (2) after the World War II both in (a) the United Kingdom and (b)
Ireland regarding the period (i) before the 1940s, (ii) the 1940s, (iii) the 1950s and 1960s, (iv)
the 1970s and 1980s, where we approach Great Britains presence in the EU; and finally (v) the
1990s and early twenty-first century.

2.1. During the World War II (1939-1945).

The WWII was the outcome of Hitlers plans to dominate Europe. Actually, when Britain
declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939 (two days after Hitlers armies had invaded
Poland), France and Stalin also took advantage of the situation to attack Finland; Britain then
prepared for total war, British beaches were mined; tank traps and other obstacles to invading
forces appeared everywhere; air raid shelters were dug in back gardens and London subway
stations prepared for their influx of nightly sleepers. Yet, Hitlers legions occupied Denmark
and then brushed aside a Franco-British force sent to help Norway, and soon German forces
controlled France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway and Romania,
leaving Britain alone in the West to face the Nazi hordes.

Hence in May 1940, Norway faced the German attack and, after a long, bloody war, it
eventually emerged victorious. In Britain, the old and retired (playing the role of plane spotters,
air-raid wardens and night watchmen) and namely single women (the so-called Womens Land
Army working as radar operators, mechanics, truck drivers and pilots in non-combat roles) had
a major role in armed services. Then, when France signed an armistice (June, 1940), Mussolini
entered the war and supported Germany, believing that Britain was doomed and that he could
pick up rich spoils in Africa. When France fell, the British army was forced to evacuate the
continent at Dunkirk, but trained millions of new soldiers to defend its Empire. In the meantime,
Soviet troops entered the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to incorporate them into
the USSR.

The Royal Navy destroyed the French fleet anchored at Oran in North Africa after France
formed a Vichy government under Marshal Petain. In the Atlantic, German U-boats were
destroying thousands of allied shipping, but Britain waited patiently for the situation to change.
Actually, Hitler expected Britain to come to terms, but Churchills rejected it. As a result, Hitler
planned to destroy the Royal Air Force on an invasion of England since the English coast was
only a few minutes away from conquered France. In fact, the Battle of Britain began in July 10,
1940, with an attack of German bombers on England, and all that stood between the German
armies and the planned invasion of Britain was the Fighter Command of the Royal Air Force.

Hitler attacked London by air, concentrating mainly on airfields and radar installations, but the
German pilots lost their way and missed their intended targets. Then, when British planes
bombed Berlin to retaliate for bombs dropped on London, Hitler was determined to take
revenge but he miscalculated the resilience of the Royal Air Force. So, on ordering the
Luftwaffe to destroy London, he made a grave error. The British Air Force used a secret new
weapon: the Radar, which gave them a decided advantage over incoming German airplanes.

So, the RAF fought on in what was a war of attrition in the air. Eventually, after many losses
Hitler postponed the invasion of Britain on September 17, 1940 and turned his attention to
Russia. In June 1941, Hitler delayed his assault on Russia since he feared a British attack
against his flank from Greece. Next, in September 1940, German boats sank 160,000 tons of
British shipping after a total blockade of the British Isles. Yet, British merchant ships were set
out into the Atlantic to bring supplies from America as if nothing had happened. Then, their
courage in carrying on business as usual relayed to the United States by radio commentators and
had a profound effect upon American opinion, especially upon the President.

This is the reason why President Roosevelt came to the aid of the beleaguered island nation
despite that fact that America was neutral in the war and still at peace with Europe. Then he
ordered his fleet to sink German submarines on sight and in November, British ships destroyed
the Italian fleet at Taranto, which helped the Royal Navy manage to keep control of the
Mediterranean throughout the war. Yet, on December 7, 1941 Japan, which had concluded a
pact with the Axis powers in order to fulfil her designs on the Pacific three months before,
attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and, almost at once, Roosevelt directed
organization of the Nations manpower and resources for global war.

Four days later (December 11) Germanys and Italys declarations of war against the United
States brought the nation irrevocably into the war. Japanese forces then captured the British
possessions of Malaya, Burma, Hong Kong and Singapore, the great symbol of the British
Empire, and then advanced practically unopposed to the borders of India in the West and
Australia in the South. Roosevelt then became the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
and felt that the future peace of the world would depend upon relations between the United
States and Russia. So, he devoted much thought to the planning of a United Nations, in which,
he hoped, international difficulties could be settled.

He moved to create a great alliance against the Axis powers through The Declaration of the
United Nations on January 1, 1942, in which all nations fighting the Axis agreed not to make a
separate peace and pledged themselves to a peacekeeping organization (now the United
Nations) on victory. The United States and its allies invaded North Africa in November 1942
and Sicily and Italy in 1943. The D-Day landings on the Normandy beaches in France on June
6, 1944, were followed by the allied invasion of Germany six months later. By April 1945
victory in Europe was certain and on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. The War in Europe
came to an end on May 8, 1945, but the War in the Pacific ended four months later, on August
14, 1945, when Japan surrendered after the American Airforce dropped atomic bombs on
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

2.2. After the World War II (1945-onwards).

Generally speaking, the post-war years brought about a general feeling for change. British
population was resentful of unemployment, asked for the nations post-war restructuring, and
did not trust the Conservative government any more since they failed to tackle the enormous
political, social and economic problems. Thus, at a political level, the end of the Second World
War brought a new Labour government and the desire for independence on behalf of almost all
of Britains colonies (India and Pakistan) though most retained ties with Britain through the
Commonwealth; at a social level, countless thousands of returning soldiers and sailors wanted a
turn-around in the status quo and the government promoted the expansion of the welfare state
including the establishment of a National Health Service.

Moreover, despite the fact that Britains political and economic history has been somewhat
mixed in the latter half of the twentieth century, in some areas, the country and its population
have continued to lead the world. Actually, the 1960s witnessed modern Britain through the
eyes of a more permissive society, increased consumer confidence, radical political protest and
a blossoming of popular music which spread across the world; at economic levels, Britains
economic position relative to many other industrialised countries continued to decline, although
external trade remained extremely important to the country (signified by the entering of the
European Community in 1973).

2.2.1. The United Kingdom: England, Scotland and Wales. The 1940s.

Actually, although Great Britain emerged from the Second World War deeply in debt to the
Americans, with rebuilding after the war and aspirations for social reform to be funded, it still
remained a power with her Imperial interests. As a result, Winston Churchill found himself as a
member of the opposition when the election of 1945 returned the Labour Party to power with a
huge majority under the figure of Clement Attlee (ruling 1945-51). The new government began
the reconstruction of the nation, one of the greatest changes in Britains long history. In fact, the
Labour Government struggled heroically to solve problems by improving standards of living,
moving to a mixed economy, closing the trade gap, maintaining its armed forces in sufficient
strength to meet a new threat from Communist Russia, and keeping of its overseas bases. Also,

the Government had put forward proposals for postwar social security, such as taking on an
emergency welfare responsibility which provided milk for babies; orange juice and cod-liver oil
for children.

For instance, regarding social changes, the Labour Government put the Beverage Plan into full
operation, that is, the creation of a Welfare State which included the creation of a National
School Lunch Act (June, 1946) and the National Health Service (1948) to prove free medical
treatment for all, to maternity and child welfare services, and nationwide care available for the
injured and seriously ill. Also, another change was to take the central control of the economy,
that is, the control of industry and public utilities, the nationalization of the Bank of England
(1946), the coal industry, electricity and gas, air transport, along with road, rail and waterways.
This control was achieved, but under terribly adverse economic conditions since another crisis
occurred in 1947.

Actually, the strong financial measures which were imposed to meet the enormous war debt
caused undue hardship became worse when the worst winters on record (monstrous gales and
floods wiped out farms and destroyed agricultural products). As a result, fuel shortage severely
curtailed exports, food was still severely rationed, and in 1948 even bread and potatoes were
rationed by the Bread Unit. Yet, in 1947, the United States introduced the Marshall Plan to help
the European Economy recover and, in fact, it was a relief for Great Britain who started to
export goods. During those days there was a revival of the spirit encouraged by the introduction
of the Land-Rover to world markets (1948), the promotion of the private sector, especially the
building of hydro-electric schemes in the undeveloped areas of Scotland and Wales, and
business with the USA in ferrying supplies (the famous Airlift). By 1950, the period of
rationing began to fade out, though not until 1954 was meat rationing abolished. The 1950s and 1960s.

In 1951, the Conservative Party was returned to power with a small majority. under the figure of
the aging Winston Churchill between 1951 and 1955, and later on by Anthony Eden (1955-
1957), Harold MacMillan (1957-1963), and Alec Douglas-Home (1963-1964). Under this
government, economic prospects changed and payments deficit had become a surplus since
Britains pre-war industrial strength was severely weakened. The Nation and the
Commonwealth mourned the death of King George VI, who along with his queen Elizabeth, had

done much to bring back dignity and honor to the monarchy. Yet there was a mood of optimism
that received an another upturn with the coronation of the young queen Elizabeth 1 (1952).

Coinciding with the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, politically speaking, British forces
formed part of the Commonwealth Division deployed alongside American forces in Korea to try
to stop Communist North Korea taking over the South; and also, Britains first atomic bomb
was tested, joining then to the US and the USSR as a nuclear power. In social terms, a four-day
London smog (December, 1952) had deadly effects on population (it raised the citys death
toll to three times its normal level) due to the great amoung of coal smoke from thousands of
chimneys. As a result, London passed its Clean Air Act (October, 1955) to ban the burning of
untreated coal to prevent a recurrence of the killer smog.

By 1954, Britain was engaged in the ambitious plan to rebuild its war-damaged cities. So, the
Conservative Government embarked on a huge housing program to replace the bomb damage,
homelessness and dereliction in British cities, and also on Britains first fluoridation of
community drinking water (November, 1955). In fact, the later 50s and early 60s resulted in a
boom time for Britain with increasing prosperity, new technology, rising wages and a
manageable economy, for instance, the full-scale use of nucle ar fuel to produce electricity
(August, 1956), the era in transatla ntic passenger service (October, 1957) , when two De
Havilland Comet lV's completed the journey from Britain to the US in under six hours.

Yet, the late 50s are also known because of a significant turning point in post-war British
foreign policy, the Suez Crisis (1956). It refers to the British decision to join with France and
Israel in a military intervention to attempt to prevent General Nasser from nationalising the Suez
Canal. Nasser was promoting Arab nationalism throughout the Middle East and had become an
increasing source of irritation to the British and the French. So, on 31 October 1956, there was
an Anglo-French assault upon Egypt, which provoked a furious response from the USA.
President Eisenhower condemned the attack, which forced the British government to withdraw
and, also, angered the French.

This event would further reveal Britains growing dependence on the support of the United
States when the Treaty of Rome (1957) was signed by six European countries (France, the
Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). This treaty

At this point it is worth remembering the successory line. George V (1910-36) was succeed by his eldest
son, Edward VIII (1936) who was forced to abdicate in favour of his brother, George VI (1936-52)
because he wished to marry the twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson. Therefore, to avoid a
constitutional crisis, his eldest daughter Elizabeth (1952-present), became Queen in 1952. In fact, in Great
Britian the Crown remains at the centre of the British constitution and government and the monarch
remains as the head of state, the head of the executive, judiciary and legislature, as well as the
Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the supreme governor of the Church of England.

established the so-called European Economic Community (EEC) or the Common Market, which
sought to abolish tariffs and trade restrictions between member countries. The dilemma for
Britain lay in the fact that it retained considerable extra-European trading links and a strong
relationship with the United States, so it stayed out mainly to protect its relationship with
Commonwealth countries (its sources of cheap food). It must be borne in mind that Britain had
declined to attend the Council of Europe (May, 1949) the same year that NATO was organized,
and also stayed out of the European Coal and Steel Community established by Germany and
France in 1950.

In response, in 1959, Britain set up a rival organization, the European Free Trade Association
(EFTA), which consisted of seven members, including the Scandinavian countries and
Switzerland. Yet, Harold Macmillan decided that Britains best interests lay in joining the EEC,
but after two attempts to join the EEC in 1963 and 1967 (McDowall, 1995:173) , both
applications were vetoed by French President Charles de Gaulle, since he was suspicious of the
close cooperation between Britain and the USA. Yet, after becoming a member in 1973,
Britains attitude towards the European Community continued to be unenthusiastic (1995:174).

In 1965, the most famous piece of clothes appeared: the miniskirt of Mary Quant, Chelsea
became an international conglomerate of fashion, cosmetics, fabrics and other consumer items.
In the meantime, groups such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones made British music popular
all over the world and brought in much needed income. Also, Britains health services reduced
infant mortality rates, but unfortunately a disaster in South Wales (a mountain of mine waste
poured down on an infant school in 1966) brought up the question of the despoiled landscape of
South Wales mining valleys and led to much-overdue government efforts at reclamation and re-
greening of those.

Therefore, the 1960s are remembered as an age of economic affluence and continued full
employment, where the standard of living improved steadily throughout the decade, as the
global economy enjoyed boom conditions. In general, entry into Europe was a process the
country had long been preparing for since the end of World War II. In fact, between 1945 and
1968, over 500 million people in former British dependencies became self-governing, most
becoming members of the British Commonwealth.

The list included India, Pakistan, Burma, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), the West Indies (which formed a
federation in January, 1957), Ghana, the Gold Coast, Singapore and Cyprus. These countries
were followed by Uganda, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Tanganyika (1962), Kenya (1963),
Malta (1964) the Gambia and the Maldives (1965); Botswana, Lesotho, and Guyana (1966);
Mauritius and Swaziland (1968). Nations that left the Commonwealth were Eire (the Irish

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Republic 1949), South Africa (1961) and Palestine (where the new state of Israel had been
formed in 1948).

During the late 1960s, the change from the thirteen-year-Conservative period to the six-year-
Labour one under Harold Wilson (1964-1970) made the British economy, however, continue to
decline in relative terms (especially heavy industry) and, by the end of this period, there was
widespread pessimism about Britains stagnant economic performance. It extremely ironic that
one of her most loyal allies in the war, her former colony of Australia, was partly responsible
for the great decline in Britains steel industry since it expanded into the Japanese steel industry,
making her an industrial superpower. As a result, Britain was forced to devalue the pound in an
attempt to check inflation and improve the trade deficit by the end of the decade (1967). .The 1970s and 1980s.

Then following the election of a Conservative government in 1970, Prime Minister Edward
Heath (1970-1974) re-opened negotiations with the EEC despite the French opposition to
Britains integration in the Common Market, and, in 1973, Britain became a member of the
Community, along with the Irish Republic and Denmark (Laurosse, 2000; vol. 7:2614). Later
on, the drive for deeper integration continued under John Majors service and in 1993 the
Parliament eventually passed the Maastricht Treaty. This treaty resulted in the transformation of
the EEC to the European Union (EU) and promoted closer economic and political union through
the establishment of a European currency and central bank, and harmonisation of defence,
foreign and social policies.

During these two decades, Britain was ruled alternatively by the Conservative and Labour Party,
thus by the Conservative Edward Heath (1970-74), the Labour Harold Wilson (1974-76) and
James Callaghan (1976-79), and the Conservative Margaret Thatcher (1979-1990), best known
as the Iron Maid. Following McDowall (1995:174), although trade with Europe greatly
increased, most British continued to feel they had not had any economic benefit from Europe.
This feeling was strengthened by the way in which Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher argued
for a better financial deal for Britain in the Communitys affairs. The way in which she fought
won her some admiration in Britain, but also anger in many parts of Europe.

She welcomed closer co-operation in theEuropean Community but only if this did not mean
any lessening of sovereignty. Many Europeans saw this as a contradiction. Unless member
states were willing to surrender some control over their own affairs, they argued, there could be
little chance of achieving greater European unity. It is not surprising therefore that Britains

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European partners wondered whether Britain was still unable to take part seriously any Pan-
European system. De Gaulle believed that Britain could not make up its mind whether its first
loyalty, now that its empire was rapidly disappearing, was to Europe or to the United States.

Other European countries would not have felt so uneasy about the close ties between the
United States and Britain if they themselves had not disagreed with the United States
concerning the Soviet Union and other foreign policy matters. Ever since 1945 the United States
and the political right in Britain were more openly hostile to the Soviet Union. The Europeans
and the British political left were, on the whole, just as suspicious of Soviet intentions, but were
more anxious to improve relations. However, even under Labour governments, Britain remained
between the European and American positions.

It was natural, therefore, that under Thatcher, who was more firmly to the right than any
Conservative Prime Minister since the war, British foreign policy was more closely linked to
that of the United States, particularly with regard to the Soviet Union. This was most clearly
shown when, after the Russians invaded Afghanistan, Britain joined the United States in
boycotting the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Britain sided with the United States in other foreign
policy matters too, which alarmed its European partners. In 1986, for example, it allowed US
aircraft to use British airfields from which to attack the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The period was, in fact, one of increasing unrest and discontent, as the economy continued to
decline, and inflation seemed, at times, to be spiralling out of control. Yet, during the 1970s
Britains economy improved since great expansion of the oil fields took place to such extent that
in 1979, the countrys oil production exceeded its imports for the first time. Also, Britains ports
adapted to the new container vessels, spelling the end for such great traditional ports as
Liverpool, Glasgow and East London.

It must be born in mind that over the summer of 1968, a civil rights movement established itself
in Northern Ireland which led to the deployment of British troops on peacekeeping duties
(1969), escalation of violence and widespread rioting (1971), and what is known as Bloody
Sunday (1972). Eventually, the Northern Ireland Government resigned after prime minister
Edward Heath announced the commencement of direct rule from Westminster, and in 1973, at
the Sunningdale Conference, representatives from Britain, the Irish Republic and Northern
Ireland agreed that the constitutional status of the North should only be changed with the
consent of the majority of the people. Yet, it was not until 1985 that further developments were

At home, by the end of the summer of 1976, the economy had become so weakened that the
Labour Government was forced to seek a loan from the Internatio nal Monetary Fund. This was

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accompanied by harsh conditions which included deep cuts in public spending. By August
1977, unemployment levels had surpassed 1,600,000 and Labour unrest reached a peak in the
so-called Winter of Discontent in 1978-79 with the continuous confrontation between unions
and government. Actually, a number of key trade unions went on strike, in particular, the
London dock workers who prevented goods from being exported. In March, 1979 Prime
Minister Callaghan lost a vote of confidence by one vote in the House of Commons and
Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher became the nations first woman Prime Minister (1979-
1990) in May, best known as the Iron Lady.

Her promises to cut income taxes, scale down social services and reduce the role of the state in
daily life had wide appeal and gave her a large majority. During her period in office, her style of
leadership and the policies she promoted came to be known as Thatcherism. Thatcher then
encompassed her policies of strengthening the powers of central government (trades unions and
local government) and the active promotion of individualism and private enterprise. Hence she
systematically undermined trade union power, especially during the 1984-85 coal miners strike,
and control of local government power, which was eroded by the abolition of certain
metropolitan councils (the Greater London Council in 1986) and the introduction of the
controversial community charge (or Poll Tax in 1989).

Thatcherism is usually identified with a strong tendency towards nationalism which was
particularly evident during the 1982 Falklands Conflict. The British dependency of the Falkland
Islands in the South Atlantic had been a subject of dispute between the UK and Argentina since
Britain occupied the territory in the early nineteenth century. In April 1982, Argentina invaded
and occupied the Falkland Islands and, although the British Foreign Office was caught by
surprise, the UK quickly despatched a task force to the South Atlantic to re-establish British
control. Argentinas invasion was condemned by the United Nations Security Council, which
passed a resolution for Argentina to withdraw. Eventually, Britain re-established her control
over the islands, but Argentina continues to lay claim to them.

Mrs. Thatche r continued her policies of tight economic control, the privatization of industry and
dismantling of the Welfare State. Her government also privatised previously nationalised
industries such as British Gas, British Telecom, the Water Authorities, British Airways and the
electricity industry since the government hoped to promote consumer culture and individualism
and to create a new class of British shareholders. The 1980s indeed, despite riots in the
deprived areas of some of Englands biggest cities, and continued IRA terrorist attacks, were a
decade of prosperity, except for many immigrants from the West Indies and some African
states, who were at the bottom of the social scale.

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Yet, the general feeling of optimism started to disappear due to two events: first, when the Iron
Lady imposed the Poll Tax (1989), an attempt to reform local government and finance by
replacing household rates, which caused unrest and street demonstrations; and second, her
decision to send British land and sea forces into the Gulf to participate in the United Nations
multi-national task against the government of Iraq. The government was then mainly split by the
question of integration into Europe, with some prominent members disagreeing with the
purchase of the Westland Helicopter by Americans rather then Europeans. Other such issues,
heightened by what Sir Geoffrey Howe (deputy leader of her own party) called her anti-
European paranoia, brought a challenge to Thatchers leadership, and in November, 1990, the
Thatcher Era came to an end.

So, for many, Thatcher fell from power in 1990 as a result of cabinet splits over the issue of
Europe, London Poll Tax Riots and her autocratic style as Prime Minister. The economy
experienced a boom in the late 1980s but was followed, after she left office, by a severe
economic recession and high unemployment. For most, it was apparent that Britain was
beginning to come to terms with the loss of much of its heavy industry and the increasing
reliance on finance, communications, oil, insurance, tour ism, accounting and other service

Actually, during the 1970s and 1980s Britain retained their lead in the development of many
promising development in science and culture. Thus, in the 1970s the huge sales of Beatles and
Rolling Stones records, the computed axial tomography scanner (1974), diagnostic medicine in
immunology, (essential for organ transplants), the birth of the worlds first test tube baby,
Louis Brown, on 25 July 1978); the Anglo-French collaborative supersonic aeroplane Concorde;
electronic technology; and commercial radio; similarly, the 1980s saw a Papal visit (1982);
Sunday football for the first time; a popular fitness craze with major events such as the London
Marathon proving successful; the completion of the Thames Barrier; the beginning of the
Channel Tunnel; the spread of personal computers; and satellite television.

Britain was also busy adapting the new micro-chip technology to replace traditional industries,
and as a result, the Humber Bridge was completed (1981) as the worlds longest Suspension
Bridge. Also, the British television projected an image of quality throughout the world, and one
of Britains oldest shoe companies, now named Reebok, made impressive gains in the world
market in competition. Yet, the most impressive scientific advance took place in th 1990s,
which saw the birth of the most famous sheep in the world, Dolly, the first mammal produced
from a donor cell taken from an adult rather than from an embryo, and then Polly, a transgenic
animal produced through cloning.

14/ 43 The 1990s and early twenty-first century.

The 1990s and early twenty-first century coincide with a Conservative and Labour Government
under the rule of John Major and Tony Blair, respectively. First of all, we shall deal with John
Major as prime minister (1990-97), who was committed to keep Thatcherism alive and, hence,
his administration is likely to be remembered at least as much for its failures. Yet, he
successfully steered the government through conflict in the Gulf , negotiated an opt-out for
Britain at the later stages of the European Monetary Union (December, 1991), and rejected the
social chapter at the Maastricht Summit meeting of the European Council.

On 16 September 1992 the stock market underwent a crisis known as Black Wednesday, and
Britain was forced to pull out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Next year, he signed
the Downing Street Declaration with the Irish Taoiseach (December 1993), committing Britain
and Ireland to seeking a joint solution to the Northern Irish problem. In addition, the winds of
change were blowing strong since many Conservative M.P.s were in open rebellion over
Europe. They were told to support Majors European policy or bring down the government.

Regarding Britains presence in the European Union, after much diplomatic insight, Britain and
Ireland formally entered the EU in January 1993. On the one hand, Ireland showed enthusiastic
about being a member of Europe since it obtained a great economic benefit whereas Britain still
showed hostility on the fact of being governed by the Common Market. Its geographical
features seemed to be the reason of former hostilities but this shadow disappeared when France
and Britain agreed in building a high-speed rail tunnel to end with isolationism (1986).
Nevertheless, the economic and political relationship with Europe remained a divisive issue in
the government. In fact, important controversies are still evident nowadays, regarding world
trade, agricultural and fishery policy, audiovisual trade barriers, and more recently, the attitude
towards the conflict of Iraq.

At home, leading Tories feared that British industry would be subject to European regulations in
working conditions and labor relations and, therefore, hundreds of Tory candidates were in open
rebellion over Majors fence straddling on Europe. Finally, despite the fact that the economy
was recovering and inflation was low (due to the sale of tens of thousands of public housing at
bargain prices) and the lowest unemployment in Europe, Labour won a landslide victory in
1997. Tony Blair was thus able to inherit an economy free from the dreaded British disease
regarding militant trade unions, over-regulation, and vacillating government policies.

Tony Blair then became prime minister in May 1997 (up to nowadays) and the generally
favourable economic conditions inherited from the previous administration helped to ensure that
the Government did not experience the economic difficulties which had challenged previous

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Labour administrations. As a result of manifesto promises (and subsequent referenda) both
Scotland and Wales were granted forms of administrative and political devolution as the
millennium closed. Yet, the most important events under the Labour Government are the
question of Scotland and Wales assembly independence (1997), the peace negotiations in
Northern Ireland (1998), the question of the House of Lords (1999), the conflict over Kosovo
(1999), and the current conflict of Iraq (2004).

First, the question of Scotland and Wales namely lies on the search for independence, that is,
asking for their own Assembly. On the one hand, Scotland, though very much a minority party
represented by the Scottish National Party (SNP), still suffered from the stigma attached to the
very idea of nationalism during war years. So the SNP begun to build its organizational skills
and work on political strategy; similarly, this intense activity was also carried out in Wales by
members of the Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru). In both cases, discontent in both areas of Britain
led to a feverish proliferation of committees soon at work in Westminster looking at further
measures of devolution for Scotland and Wales.

Tracing back in history, the first published proposals to devolve the Scottish assembly
(November, 1975) were refused, and therefore sovereignty was still retained in Westminster.
Still, prospects for passage looked good, and the Labour Party, fearing loss of support in
Scotland to the SNP, was also deeply divided on the question and the extent of devolution
(1979) and actively campaigned for passage of the devolution bill. Yet, eighteen years later, a
tragic event, Lady Dis death in September 1997 made results be reversed and, four days after
Lady Dianas funeral, the referendum resulted in the decision to give back a Parliament to

This decision gave Scotland an Assembly with tax-levying powers, unlike the much weaker
ones that the Welsh obtained as the result of their own successful referendum. The Scots were
given the broad authority to legislate in a host of sectors, though Westminster has the right to
withhold many powers, for instance, constitutional matters, foreign policy, defense, and national
security, border controls, monetary and fiscal matters, common markets for goods and services,
employment law, and social security. In general, the decision to approve separate assemblies for
Wales and Scotland may prove to be one of the most important events in their long histories
since in the councils of Europe, three equal voices would be heard instead of one, sharing a
unique British heritage where each country is proud of its own distinctiveness as cultural and
political units.

Yet, though the problems of devolution for Wales and Scotland were settled quite amicably, the
Irish question did not follow the same road. From 1998 onwards the Government established
peace negotiations in Northern Ireland, hence the so-called Good Friday agreement (1998),

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which resulted from negotiations between representatives of a broad cross-section of political
groups in Northern Ireland. Note that the constitution of the Irish Republic was to be altered to
renounce its territorial claim to Northern Ireland.

Also, problems in Europe remained for Tony Blair and, in addition, there was the age-old
question of what to do about the House of Lords. Regarding the latter issue, the very idea of
non-elected, hereditary legislators seemed ridiculous in a country that prided itself on its
democratic institutions since the Lords had often obstructed legislation that would have surely
benefited the nation. Their defense of ancient privilege had often blinded them to the realities of
British political life since the time of Oliver Cromwell. Their record on Ireland was appalling,
with their obstruction of Home Rule Bills, but it could be matched by many other areas in which
they had excelled in their obstinacy.

Actually, it was the budget of Lloyd George that really stirred up the attacks on the privileges
enjoyed by the Lords since 1909. The landed aristocracy saw his attempts to tax the rich as the
beginning of the end of all rights of property. Yet all attempts at reform eventually died down
since the Parliament Bill of 1911 was a weak compromise by means of which all the hereditary
peers and bishops would stay in the House, but their powers of delay would be reduced to two
years: it continued to remain a powerful revising chamber. Later on, the advent of the First
World War postponed the move to exclude hereditary peers from the Upper House.

In 1917, the Commons feared that an elected upper chamber would offer a serious challenge to
its own powers. In 1922, Lloyd George became notorious for selling lordships to the highest
bidder and the newcomers proved just as anxious to preserve their newly-gained privileges as
their hereditary colleagues. Another crisis occurred in 1960 when a Labour M.P. (Antony
Edgwood Benn), elevated to the peerage upon the death of his father (who had been appointed
as a Labour peer only twenty years before). However, the younger Benn was refused admission
to the House of Commons when he came to take his usual seat as a peer.

The House of Lords needed some drastic changes. The days of complacency were over. In 1967,
the Labour Party announced its plans to reduce the powers of the Lords and to eliminate its
hereditary basis. Many Labour M.P.s wished to abolish the Upper House altogether, but a
compromise was reached: only minor changes were effected. In the late 1990s, Tony Blair
grapped with the problem of the Lords, a problem that perhaps exemplifies the struggle of
Britain to adjust itself to the modern world by preventing hereditary members from obtaining
their parliamentary rights.

Also, a large-scale conflict in Kosovo (1999) broke out between the Serbian government and
Kosovar Albanians when this autonomous region within Serbia, sought independence. Later on,

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since violence continued, a ceasefire was agreed in October 1998 to allow refugees to find
shelter in Europe. Yet, the Serbian government refused the proposed settlement at a peace
conference held in Paris (19 March 1999) and five days later, NATO forces (which were
formerly devised to be defensive and not offensive) led by Britain and the United States began
air attacks on Serbia.

Finally, the current question of Iraq suggests two main points, first, that this issue is not new,
since it started several years ago; and second, that one thing was clear from this event: that
Britain still had not made up its mind whether its first political loyalty lay across the Atlantic,
or in Europe (McDowall, 1995:174).

2.2.2. Ireland.

This section surveys the history of Ireland and the Irish from 1945 to the present day. The
shaping and reshaping of this islands political, social and economic order shall be approached
in its relation to Britain and its empire, the European continent, and the United States. We will
briefly review the ideologies and tactics of Irish republicanism and unionism, the struggle for
political separation from Britain, the Irish literary renaissance, and its effects on Ireland and
abroad, the influence of religion on Irish identities, the question of Northern Ireland, and the
shape of Irish culture and society into the twenty-first century. Before the 1940s.

Tracing back in history, it must be borne in mind that in the spring of 1921 under the
Government of Ireland Act, and Northern Ireland came into being. Since then both Nationalist
and Sinn Fein MPs refused to attend but George Vs appeal was heard: the IRA, now facing the
regular British Army operating across country had suffered a number of serious reverses; and
Lloyd George, confronted with many other problems at home and abroad was eager to make

The IRA asked for an agreement in July 1921 and, after protracted negotiations at Downing
Street, an Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed on 6th December 1921. Then the 26 counties would
become a Dominion called the Irish Free State. This was an independent dominion of the British
crown with full internal self-government rights which partitioned from Northern Ireland, by
means of which this latter remained part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

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Then a special Constabulary was established between the years 1920 and 1921 to counter the
threat of the IRA. The new force was to be divided into three categories; A Specials, were to be
full-time and paid as regular policemen; B Specials, by far the largest section, to be part-time,
uniformed and unpaid; and C Specials, an unpaid reserve force to be called out only in an
extreme emergency. Also, civil servants were invited to apply but no determined effort was
made to get Catholics to apply.

Moreover, in Belfast, after a meeting of Protestant and Unionist workers on 21 July, Catholics
were driven out of the shipyards and in the ensuing weeks out of many other places of
employment in the city. Ferocious conflict followed and outnumbered Catholics were generally
the losers in this intercommunal warfare. The Dublin parliament ratified the treaty despite the
opposition of De Valera and others and, in just one week there seemed to be no prospect of an
end to the conflict as the War of Independence edged into Ulster.

Other events followed such as riots, campaigns and conflicts between the police and IRA, who
defended Catholic ghettos in Belfast and Derry; the Civil War between 1922 and 1923; the same
year the Irish Free State joins the League of Nations (1923); De Valera enters parliament at the
head of the new Fianna Fail party (1927); the economic crisis between 1929 and 1932, caused
by the First World War, which had brought about traumatic changes in world trading conditions.

For instance, the Northern Irelands helpless effort to sell goods abroad; the Wall Street Crash
of October 1929, which affected Belfast since it depended on export industries and was hard hit
by the contraction of world trade; the reduction of employees due to the unemployment of
insured workforce; an attempt for a Protestant Parliament where Catholics made up around one
third of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, and their representatives were certain always to be
in opposition.

Also, the 1932 riots, a rare occasion when Protestants and Catholics campaigned together, went
on strike and organised protest marches to demand improved assistance; and the Sectarian
conflict between 1932 and 1935, which brought together in solidarity the working-class of
Catholics and Protestants. Also, De Valera became head of government (1932) and, in an
attempt to slow down these economic difficulties, he introduced various measures to eliminate
British influence in the Irish Free State.

In 1937 a new constitution is approved and the Irish Free State is substituted by Eire (Gaelic for
Ireland), which is proclaimed as a sovereign, independent, democratic state. Next year, Douglas
Hyde became first president of Eire (1938), and De Valera continued as prime minister. After
the outbreak of World War II (1939), Eire remained neutral, though many Irish citizens join the
Allied forces. In addition, there was a period of inaction between 1939 and 1940, where cabinet

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meetings were infrequent and brief, and the average age of ministers was high in the eve of the
war. The 1940s.

Broadly speaking, the outcome of the Second World War was the common decline of the
traditional empires and their replacement by a new form of global political division. Also, the
Cold War system was the final form of politically divided globalisation and the radical change
was therefore that during the Cold War, a more or less united West dominated global economy,
culture and politics. For the first time the greater part of the worlds space was incorporated
within a single geopolitical sphere. Centred on the greatest single state, the United States, the
post-1945 West also subsumed the historic European world empires.

Three points about this transformation are important to emphasise. First, it was the state
integration of the West (chiefly the transatlantic alliance of North America and Western Europe
together with Japan) which created the conditions for a single global space. Second, state
integration played an essential role in enabling the rapid growth of economic, cultural and
political globalisation in this space throughout the late twentieth century. Third, the decisive
turning-point in globalisation was therefore the mid-century military-political transition (1945-
47). It was a contingent result of the Second World War and Cold War.

Particularly in Ireland, the Second World War underlined the experiences of the two parts of
Ireland, which were sharply different, and as a result, the south remained neutral and free from
attack, while the north suffered severely during the 1941 Blitz. Attempts by nationalists to get
rid of partition aroused little sympathy in a world made anxious by the Cold War. Meanwhile
welfare reforms greatly improved the quality of life. Moreover, De Valera lost the elections in
1948 and Eire suffered great economic difficulties. The same year John Costello became prime
minister and Dublin parliament passed the Republic of Ireland Bill. Next year, Eire became the
Republic of Ireland (1949) and as a result, Ireland leaves the British Commonwealth. The 1950s and 1960s.

Still in the 1950s and 1960s, following McDowall (1995:175), many people in Northern
Ireland considered that their system was unfair. It was a self-governing province, but its
government was controlled by the Protestants, who feared the Catholics and kept them out of

20/ 43
responsible positions. Many catholics were even unable to vote. Winds of change appeared
when in 1955 Ireland declined to join NATO (because Northern Ireland was part of United
Kingdom) and joined the United Nations.

De Valera reappeared in the political field as prime minister in 1957 by affirming that the unity
of Ireland cannot be achieved by force. This speech led him directly to the presidence of the
Republic of Ireland in 1959. Helped by Brian Faulkner as Minister of Commerce (196369),
and Minister of Development (196971), De Valera succeeded in keeping the balance in the
Republic of Ireland, that is, by ruling a period of peace and conflict.

In March 1963, Terence ONeills elevatio n to the premiership of Northern Ireland, succeeding
Brookeborough, marked the beginning of a new era in local politics. In the spirit of the times
and in tune with the ecumenical movement, ONeill also sought to hold out a hand of
reconciliation to Catholics in Northern Ireland and to the Republic of Ireland. In practice this
meant symbolic visits to Catholic schools and ministerial meetings with his opposite number in
the Republic, Sean Lemass and then Jack Lynch.

ONeill was also progressive in terms of economic planning and adopting a much more
professional approach to politics. However, ONeillism moved too far and too fast for many
unionists, while progress was too limited and too slow for many nationalists. As Northern
Ireland descended into political turmoil and civil strife in 1968, the base of ONeills political
support gradually diminished until he resigned on 28 April 1969.

Actually, the anti-Catholic policies of the Ulster government led to civil rights protests in 1968,
and the marches soon led to counter-marches. Inevitably, violence continued. In 1969, Ulster
people, both Catholics and Protestants, began to gather on the streets and demand a fairer
system. The police could not keep control, and republicans who wanted to unite Ireland turned
this civil rights movement into a nationalist rebellion against British rule. Moreover, in order
to keep law and order, British soldiers were sent to help the police, but many Catholics saw
them as a foreign army with no right to be there. Similarly, this angered Protestants, who saw
the troops as an occupational force.

On the other hand, in the 1960s there were many changes in social terms. For instance, the
feminist movement achieved much in the UK and Ireland; womens voting rights were, by that
time, the same as mens, and antidiscriminatory legislation was introduced; also, though
abortion was le galized in UK, in Ireland it is still illegal; moreover, divorce rates increased in
the UK whereas in Ireland were less pronounced; and within religion, Irela nd kept itself as a
strongly Catholic country whereas the protestant Anglican Church struggled to maintain its
place in modern society.

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In economic terms, the rising of Irelands population since the WWII resulted in an increase of
urban and industrialized cities. Actually, the first stimulus of this process was the Industrial
Development Act (1958), which provided aid for industrial increase. The boom was to be really
noticed in next decade by Irelands entry to the Common Market (1973). The 1970s and 1980s.

As violence continued in the early 1970s, internment without trial began (1971), followed by
widespread rioting, with bomb attacks and shootings by republicans, which the British army
tried to prevent. Thirteen demonstrators were shot dead by British troops on 30 January 1972 on
what would become known as Bloody Sunday. This was followed by the I.R.A. bombing
campaigns in England (London, Warrington, Brighton). As a result, the Northern Ireland
government was removed and was replaced with direct rule from London (McDowall,

In fact, the Northern Ireland Government resigned after prime minister Edward Heath
announced the commencement of direct rule from Westminster. Since then, Britain has been
anxious to find a solution which will please most of the people there, and offer peace to
everyone. In 1973, at the Sunningdale Conference, representatives from Britain, the Irish
Republic and Northern Ireland agreed that the constitutional status of the North should only be
changed with the consent of the majority of the people. Also, in 1973 the Irish Republic started
to become a modern society due to its introduction into the European Economic Community.

Yet, violence in Northern Ireland intensifie d. The I.R.A. was active again int he form of unionist
paramilitary groups and continued its attacks, among which we shall mention the murder of
Lord Mountbatten of Burma, a member of the Royal Family, statesman and war hero in 1979.
There were many more murders since almost every week someone was killed for being a
Protest, a Catholic or a policeman. The Ulster problem, then, resisted all attempts to find a
solution, either peaceful or violent and, therefore, relations between Ireland and Britain were

In the early 1980s Ireland faces severe economic problems, with rising debt and unemployment.
James Prior was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in September 1981, as the
IRA hunger strikes were drawing to a close.Three elections are held in the space of less than
two years as politicians grapple with the difficulties. Prior had political initiatives and he was to
be associated with rolling devolution, that is, a 78-member assembly to discuss the devolution

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and exercise of power. Prior was replaced as Secretary of State by Tom King on 3 September

Yet, it was not until 1985 that further developments were evident, when Britain and Ireland
made a formal agreement at Hillsborough that they would exchange views on Northern Ireland
regularly. In fact, the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed (1985), providing for increased cross
border co-operation and greater consultation between the British and Irish governments. In the
late 1980s John Hume (who was involved in the Civil Rights movement in the late 1960s)
gained again a reputation both in Northern Ireland and abroad as an advocate of the democratic
resolution of conflict. Hume worked within Northern Ireland, the UK and further field to try to
bring an end to the conflict in Northern Ireland. He initiated talks with Gerry Adams in the late
1980s, the beginning of a process that was to see Sinn Fin incorporated into democratic politics
in Northern Ireland. The 1990s and early twenty-first century.

During the 1990s, this agreement was bitterly opposed by Protestant political leaders in the
province. But their failure to put a stop to the Hillsborough Agreement resulted in a growing
challenge from those Protestants who wanted to continue the struggle outside Parliament and
possibly in a military form. The late 1990s saw an increasing number of Catholic population
above all among young people, who would not remember a time when there was peace in the
province (McDowall, 1995:175).

The province was then locked into a circle of violence and revenge, and although Sinn Fein, the
political wing of the Catholic I.R.A. showed himself willing to negotiate, it is still difficult to
see how the bloodshed can be stopped. Many events took place during the 1990s, thus,
following the election of Mary Robinson as the first woman president of Ireland (1990), Eire
signs the Treaty on European Union at Maastricht (1991), by means of which Ireland receives a
guarantee that its strict abortion law will not be affected. In fact, Irish voters approve a
loosening of the abortion law (1992) which guaranteed the access to information, and also to
travel abroad to have an abortion.

In 1993 talks between the Irish and British prime ministers open a possibility to all parties on
future peace in Northern Ireland if violence is renounced. Meanwhile, divorce is legalized in
Ireland under certain circumstances, though the law is opposed by the Roman Catholic church.
Next year (1998), the strength of Blairs electoral mandate gave him the leverage and

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confidence to add momentum to the Northern Ireland peace process, resulting in the Good
Friday Agreement (April 1998). This, however, should be seen in the context of a set of UK-
wide constitutional reforms that saw power devolved to Scotland and Wales as well as Northern
Ireland. Yet, in 2001 Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty proposed by the 15 EU member states
so as to expand to include a dozen applicant countries from eastern Europe.

On 30 April 2001, the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs gave a speech on the future of
Ireland within Europe and the European Union. He said that Ireland had become an example of
the strength of the European idea and European integration since no less than 30 years ago it
was the poorest country in the European Community. He added that Irish products were
successfully exported within the European common market and throughout the world and that
Ireland was at that moment a modern, forward- looking country with a booming economy.
Actually, the impressive rise of Ireland from an agricultural to a modern, knowledge-based
society is a success story of European structural assistance, which made excellent use of the
opportunities the EU offered, for instance, the replacement of the punt by the Euro in 2002 or
the re-election of Fianna Fail's Bertie Ahern as prime minister (taoiseach) in a continuing
coalition on assuming six-month presidency of EU.

Both, Ireland and Europe have profited greatly from each other in Europe and Ireland proved an
important, indispensable partner. Nowadays, the European Union is currently undergoing what
may be the most profound change in its history since it has gone through its biggest
enlargement. It is worth remembering that on 1 May 2004 this year Ireland has hosted
ceremonies to welcome those EUs 10 new member states mentioned as the holder of EU
presidency. Formerly made up by 15 member states, for instance, Germany, Belgium, France,
Italy, Luxembourgh, Low Countries (1958), Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain (1973), Greece
(1981), Spain and Portugal (1986), Austria, Finland and Sweden (1995), the EU has recently
been extended to ten more, thus, Chzeck Republic, Hungary, Polland, Chipre, Bulgaria,
Eslovaquia, Letonia, Lituania and Rumania (2004). So, it has redefined its position in the
increasingly globalised multipolar world of the twenty-first century.

In fact, the practical conditions for enlargement and simultaneously launched the necessary
process of further deepening the EU were the common agreement on the Intergovernmental
Conference 2004 at a summit in Nice. It is the right balance between enlargement and
deepening that has always been the magic formula for successful development in Europe. And
the fact that Nice managed to preserve the balance between these two vital pillars of European
progress despite an extremely difficult negotiating situation, is a success. The decision to
introduce greater flexibility into the concept of enhanced cooperation in the EU is a step ahead

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in a future Union of 27 or more members. In fact, the door will always be open to anyone who
can and wishes to follow.
By becoming part of the European Union, Ireland moved from its location on the geographical
and economic sidelines of Europe towards its political heart. Eastern enlargement is not just a
historical and moral imperative, but also offers great opportunities for the old members, since
central and eastern Europe is now experiencing a boom like no other region in the world.
Irelands success has become a role model for the new candidate countries since her voice is
therefore accorded special weight in Central and Eastern Europe. Europe is a continent with a
history spanning thousands of years, with ancient cultures and languages such as Gaelic.

Our different societies have developed within the context of the European nation-state and, at
the same time, in core fields of common interest, such as external and internal security, the
common currency, the common legal area (the pressure of globalisation) and deepened
integration. Today, the EU is no longer a mere union of states, but more and more a union of
citizens. Yet, within this global perspective, the future of Northern Ireland remains uncertain
even nowadays.

On studying the social and political development of Modern Ireland, as Ireland becomes a
prosperous member of the European Union, it has a responsibility to accept immigrants and
asylum seekers as readily as it has always sent them abroad. As Irish cities become racially and
ethnically diverse, these new residents and their children will become Irish. This implies
broader questions about the nature of colonialism, nationalism, religion, culture, ethnicity,
gender, and Irish identity.


In Chapter 3, with this historical overview in mind, we shall provide a literary background of
the period which ranges from 1945 to the present day with the aim of going further into the
XXth and XXIst-century literature and, therefore, into the most representative authors and their
masterpieces within the three main literary forms: poetry, drama and prose. Yet, the
uncertainty of the War- and post-War years is reflected in the concern of many novelists about
the disintegration of society, and their lack of positive optimism, while the frequency with
which violence and sadism appear as themes is not surprising in a world grown accustomed to

25/ 43
the thought of genocide, global conflict, and nuclear destruction (Albert, 1990:563). Even
nowadays, at the turn of century, globalisation, uncertainty and the question of terrorism are
often reflected in literature as well as the positive development of Europe under the strong ties
of the EU.

Therefore, we shall approach XXth and XXIst-century literature by examining (1) the three
main literary forms in terms of main literary features of the period and most representative
authors. Actually, since there is a great amount of poets since 1945 to nowadays, we shall
namely focus on the most representative ones in terms of themes and main works. Further
details on their lives will be not mentioned unless necessary.

Thus we shall review within (a) poetry, Dylan Thomas (1914-1955), Hugh DcDiarmid (1892-
1978), writing about Lowland Scots dialects, Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967) on Ireland, Philip
Larkin (1922-1985), Ted Hughes (1930-1999), Geoffrey Hill (1932-), Tony Harrison (1937-),
and Seamus Heanye (1939-); regarding (b) drama, we shall approach the most representative
figures in this field, thus Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), Samuel Becket (1906-1989), John James
Osborne (1929-1994), and Harold Pinter (1930-); and finally, within (c) prose we shall
concentrate on William Golding (1911-1993), as representing the evil of society and mans most
primitive insticts; Graham Greene (1904-), as the imaginative exploration of characters; George
Orwell (1903-1950) as the typical product of the inter-war and WWII years; and J.R.R. Tolkien,
as the most representative figure of the XXIst century with his science fiction terms of
main features and most representative authors.

3.1. Main literary forms: main authors.

3.2.1. Poetry.

The period of the War produced much poetry and therefore, common themes were boredom,
frustration of Service life, horror and tragedy, the waste, the appreciation of friendship, a deep
understanding of the English landscape, and the possibility of violent death. Also, contemporary
poetry, in accordance to present events, deals with the importance of union against terrorism,
individuals and the advances of modern society, such as new technologies, average standard of
living, love and death, and modern facilities, among others.

Following Alexander (2000:370), Poetry has become a minority taste. The only true poets who
have approached popularity between John Betjeman and Seamus Heaney have been Larkin,

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Hughes (and, posthumously, his wife Sylvia Plath), and Tony Harrison. Htere have been many
good poets, and a fine anthology could be made of English verse 1955-2000. But the position of
poetry within literature has been weakened, like literature itself, by media competition and
social change in an age of celebrity.

Few people spend an evening reading. Poets who require the highest kinds of attention, such as
Geoffrey Hill, find few readers. Subject matter can generate interest: the Holocaust, Northern
Ireland, the death of one person, minority politics. Other poetry has had to be sold hard to reach
a readership of any size. Few general publications carry any verse; poetry magazines are little
magazines. In a period when novelists have received advances of half a million pounds, none of
the poets name above has lived off the sale s of poems.

Actually, there is a great amount of poets since 1945 to nowadays, but we shall namely focus on
the most representative ones in terms of themes and main works. Further details on their lives
will be not mentioned unless necessary. Thus, we shall focus on Dylan Thomas (1914-1955),
Hugh DcDiarmid (1892-1978), writing about Lowland Scots dialects, Patrick Kavanagh (1905-
1967) on Ireland, Philip Larkin (1922-1985), Ted Hughes (1930-1999), Geoffrey Hill (1932-),
Tony Harrison (1937-), and Seamus Heanye (1939-). On reviewing these authors we shall
namely follow Albert (1990), Armitage & Crawford (1998) and Alexander (2000).

Dylan Thomas (1914-1955) was born in Swansea, Glamorganshire (Wales). He was

educated at Swansea Grammar School and became well-known for his neurotic
personality, obscure poetry and amusing plays and prose. In the 1930s he worked as a
reporter and as a free-lance writer, and Thomas poems first appeared in the Sunday
Referee in a feature column called the Poets Corner, where he won a prize for the
second of seven poems called The Force that through the Grass Fuse Drives the
Flower. By then, he published his first book, a volume of poetry called Eighteen
Poems (1934) as a result of this prize. In the same year he published a prose work,
Notebooks (1934).

This work was followed by Twenty-five Poems (1936), a period of poverty in England
and Wales, and his marriage to Caitlin Macnamara (1937). Then he began to
concentrate on prose, with such works as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog (1940),
The Doctor and the Devils (1953), Quite Early One Morning (1954), A Child's
Christmas in Wales (1954), Under Milkwood (1954), A Prospect of the Sea (1955),
Adventures in the Skin Trade, and Other Stories (1955), Letters to Vernon Watkins

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(1957), The Beach of Fales (1964), Collected Prose (1969), and Early Prose Writings

During the war, he worked with a documentary film unit, and published many short
stories, wrote film scripts, broadcast storie s and talks. Moreover, he did a series of
lecture tours in the United States and wrote Under Milk Wood (1954), the radio play for
voices. In 1949, he began frequent visits to the US, touring colleges to read poetry. In
1950 Thomas first visited America and had reading tours in the United States, which did
much to popularize his poetry.

Thomas was the archetypal Romantic poet of the popular American imagination: he was
flamboyantly theatrical, a heavy drinker, engaged in roaring disputes in public, and read
his work aloud with tremendous depth of feeling. He became a legendary figure, both
for his work and the boisterousness of his life. He was Welsh and his voice brought
many to enjoy poetry through his readings, he also used words not just for the
denotation or connotation meaning, but also for the sound of the word and the meaning
that sound creates. The key to Dylan Thomas is reading him aloud, slowly, hitting every
vowel and consonant, and worrying about what it all means later.

So, during his fourth lecture tour of the United States in 1953, he had a particularly long
drinking bout in New York City after his thirty-ninth birthday. As a result, he collapsed
in his New York hotel and died from alcoholism on November 9th at St Vincents
Hospital, in the same year in which he received the Foyle Prize. Then his body was sent
back to Laugharne, Wales, where his grave is marked by a simple wooden cross.

Hugh DcDiarmid (1892-1978), originally Christopher Murray Grieve revived the

Lowland Scots dialect, Lallans, as an instrument of literature. Although he was writing
long before the War Sangschaws date is 1925- his impact was not felt until much
later. His use of scientific terms, neologisms, and foreign phrases made more difficult
his vociferous insistence that science and Marxism would solve all economic ills, but
his visionary fervour and sense of the comic could produce poetry even amid
absurdities. In Memoriam James Joyce (1955) and A Clyack-Sheaf (1969) show him at
his best; he also edited Northern Numbers, The Voice of Scotland, and The Golden
Treasury of Scottish Poetry. The nationalist movement in verse was also encouraged by
Modern Scottish Poetry (ed. Maurice Lindsay, 1946) and Scottish Verse 1851-1951 (ed.
Desmond Young, 1952) (Albert, 1990).

Patrick Kavanagh (1905-1967) also revived the interest in regio nal poetry. Actually, he
wrote in a colloquial, deceptively nave manner with rural scenes and conditions in

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Ireland. He lightly mocked pretentiousness even his own. Two very different books are
The Great Hunger (1942), making reference to the Irish Great Famine, and Come
Dance with Kitty Stobling (1960), as an attempt to reaffirm Irish social identity.

Philip Larkin (1922-1985), is one of the best known post-war English poets. His
reputation is assured by works such as Collected Poems (1988), which has many of the
best poems of its time. The title of the slim volume that made his name, The Less
Deceived (1955), inverts a phrase from Shakespeare, I was the more deceived. Not to
be deceived was one of Larkins chief aims in a life in which he protected himself. His
father, who had a bust of Adolf Hitler on his matlepiece, was Town Clerk of Coventry,
destroyed by German bombs while young Larking was at Oxford. He hid a wounded
Romantic temperament behind a mask of irony, and became known as an anti-romantic,
thanks to poems of disgust and despair, such as Annus Mirabilis, This Be the Verse,
The Old Fools and Aubade (Alexander, 2000:372).

Among his values, we may mention ordinary collective institutions marriage, seaside
holidays, British trains, Show Saturday, hotels, churches, Remembrance Day,- but he
is outside them all. Larkins own reputation, established early and not fading, was
contested by those who disliked his grouchy anti-modernism, xenophobia and attitudes
to sex. An ironic connoisseur of the boring and the banal, Larking was more modernist,
cultivated and literary than he pretended; his poems are intensely if quietly allusive. He
was an inveterate joker.

Ted Hughes (1930-1999) did not share Larkings interest in human beings, nor his
horrified urbanity. The Hawk in the Rain (1957) contains memorable poems about birds
and fish, such as Hawk Roosting and Pike, based on boyhood experience of fishing
and shooting in his native Yorkshire. He fills these poems with the animals physical
presence, endowing their natural strength with mythic power. These taut muscular
poems are his best. The anthropology he read at Cambridge enabled him to systematize
his approach in Crow (1970), an invented primitive creation cycle which glorifies a
brutal life-force. His life was darkened by the suicide in 1963 of his wife Sylvia Plath,
the American poet. Before he died in 1999, he released in Birthday Letters (1999)
poems which concern that time (Alexander, 2000:372).

Geoffrey Hill (1932-) was a teacher in universities in England and latterly the US. He
is concerned with the public responsibility of poetry towards historical human suffering,
injustice and martyrdom. His meditated verse has the tight verbal concentration, melody

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and intelligence of Eliot, Pound and early Auden, adroitly using a variety of verse-
forms and fictional modes. He is agonized, intense, ironical, scornful. Condensation and
allusiveness lend his work a daunting aspect, softened in his more narrative later
sequences. His most approachable volume is Mercian Hymns (1971), a sequence of
memories of his West Midlands boyhood, figured in a series of imaginary Anglo-Saxon
prose poems about Offa, the 8th -century king of Mercia and England. Its serious play
domesticates and makes intimate the ancient and modern history of England
(Alexander, 2000:373). Among other works we include For the Unfallen (1959),
Tenebrae (1978), The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Pguy (1983), and The
Triumph of Love (1998).

Tony Harrison (1937-), on the other hand, was a public poet, writing a clanking
pentameter line with punchy rhymes. His degree was in classics, but he also learned
from stand-up comics in Leeds about pace, timing and delivery. He has written,
translated and adapted a number of theatrical and operatic scripts for international
companies. This theatrical extroversion lends a performative impact to his own verse,
which shows a bleakly Gothic range of emotions and a proclaimed and campaigning
commitment to the Northern working class. His upbringing contributes richly to his
idiom, which is often vulgar in the good sense of the word. Alienation from family by
education is rawly recorded in telling poems to his parents in The School of Eloquence
(1978). Yet, his most spectacular work was V (1985), which became famous when it
was made into a television film. The title v. Is short for versus, Latin against, as used
in football fixtures such as Leeds v. Newcastle; it also means verse. It is one of
several letters sprayed on his parents gravestone by skinheads after a Leeds United
defeat. The poem dramatizes personal and cultural conflicts, giving poetry a rare public
hearing. A less socially committed poem, more finely expressive of Harrisons relished
gloom, is A Kumquat for John Keats. Among other works, we highlight The Mysteries
(1985) and The Trackers of Oxyrhyncus (1990).

Seamus Heanye (1939-) won the Nobel Prize in 1997. Heaney considers himself no
longer British, but Irish. He was born into a rural Catholic family in Protestant Northern
Ireland. Poems written out of the experience of his own people can reflect this, as in
Requiem for the Croppies or The Ministry of Fear, but he is not simply partisan. The
Loyalist-Republican conflict in the North brought Ulster writing to wider notice.
Heaney has taken an Irish passport and lives in the Republic. His voice is Irish, as are
most of his subjects. But he writes in English, and, like many in Ireland, he partook in
the everyday culture of the English-speaking Brit ish Isles. His poems mention Londons

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Promenade Concerts, BBC radios Shipping Forecast- and British army checkpoints in
Northern Ireland. He was a popular Professor of Poetry at Oxford and has for two
decades been the most widely-read poet in Britain.

Early poems re-creating sights, sounds and events of his childhood won him many
readers; he writes well of his farming family, from whom his education at Queens
College, Belfast, did not separate him, and he still makes his living from the land
metaphoric ally. Where his fathers dug with spades, he digs with his pen, uncovering
layers of Irish history, Gaelic, Viking and the pre-historic. He has extended his range to
politics and literary ancestry without losing his way with language; for him words are
also things. Despite the Troubles, to which he attends, he is never merely political. The
memorable poem Punishment, likening a sacrificial body found in a Danish bog to a
victim of Republican punishment squads, echoes also to cast stones and numbered
bones from the Gospels.

Modern poets in English are more discreet with their literary allusions than the
modernists, and gentler on their readers. Heaney has always learned from other writers.
The volume Seeing Things (1991) deals with the death of parents, marital love and the
birth of children. It is much concerned with the validity of the visionary in reaching
towards life after death. It is striking that Heaney, with other leading Anglo poets,
Geoffrey Hill, the Australian Les Murray and the West Indian Derek Walcott, looks
towards the realities of metaphysics, of religion, of presence. In defending the
possibilities of the sacred, the poets are quite opposed to the scepticism of Franco-
American literary theorists who have much affected the academic climate in which
literature is often studied.

Among other works, we may include Eleven Poems (1965), Death of a Naturalist
(1966), Door into the Dark (1969), North (1975), Field Work (1979), Station Island
(1980), The Haw Lantem (1987), The Spirit Level (1996), and Beowulf (1999)
(Armitage & Crawford (1998).

A generation of post-Marxist intellectuals came to the fore in France after 1968,

sceptical towards metaphysics and the possibility of meaning in language. Their
competing discourses political, psychological and philosophical: far too complex to be
briefly summarized- belong to a chapter in the history of criticism rather than of
literature. They have, however, influenced American and to an extent British academic
criticism into trying to cleanse its language of any intimations of the immortal or of the

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divine. This push towards provisionality and indeterminacy is linked with what is often
called postmodernism (Alexander, 2000:374-375).

3.2.2. Drama.

The change after 1955 is clearest in drama, where Becketts impact overturned conventions.
Also, according to Albert (1990:590), the immediate result of the wartime black-out was the
closing of London theatres for some time; but not ony did they soon reopen, but they were never
completely dominated by the frivolous gaiety of leave entertainment, as in the 1914-18 War.
It must be borne in mind that English drama took an entirely new turn with the establishment in
1956 of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre. It aimed to present the best
foreign plays and to encourage new native writers; its private productions withoud decor gave
inestimable help to young actors and writers, and helped to disseminate new ideas. Later on, a
great step forward was made int hat companies sponsored by C.E.M.A. (Council for the
Encouragement of Music and the Arts) and E.N.S.A. (Entertainments National Service
Association) took drama into the provinces, to the smallest villages, and wherever Army camps
and workers hostels were situated. They created a vast new public, which was responsible for
the boom which immediately followed the War.

C.E.M.A. was transformed into the Arts Council, which dispenses State patronage by way of
grants, and is therefore the means by which some of the smaller experimental groups continue to
exist. During the War and after it, the prestige of the Old Vic Theatre Company was enormous,
thought its training school and childrens theatre soon fell victims of the economy drive; in 1963
the Old Vic became the temporary home of the National Theatre company. Another aspect of
subsidized drama is the considerable number of annual festivals, aimed largely at tourists but
offering splendid opportunities even to small enterprises on the fringe.

One must also stress the importance of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford, and its
sister-company based on London, as well as the steady increase in university theatres and
theatres sponsored by local authorities, many of which seek to encourage future audiences by
educating children to appreciate all forms of drama. Actually, a revolution in playwriting came
about when television appeared into everyones home. Dramatists can now not only write for
television, but write only for it, and a considerable number of authors are associated with the
small screen rather than the public stage (Alun Owen, Clive Exton, John Mortimer).

With this background in mind, we shall approach the most representative figures in this field,
thus Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), Samuel Becket (1906-1989), John James Osborne (1929-

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1994), and Harold Pinter (1930-). It must be borne in mind that these three authors have been
chosen to represent other less figures, such as Christopher Fry (1907-1987), who illustrated the
vitality of verse drama and caught the mood of the times about the power of women in The
Ladys Not for Burning (1949); Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-1977), who wrote about human
relationships as in Separate Tables (1954); Peter Levin Shaffer (1926-1999), who examined the
conflict between idealism and evil, depicting it in the historical spectacle of The Royal Hunt of
the Sun (1964); Robert Oxton Bolt (1924-1998), which dealt with the power politics and the
clash of ambitions in Vivat! Vivat, Regina (1970); Tom Stoppard (1937-2002), who showed
social concerns in Travesties (1974); John Clifford Mortimer (1923-2001), who applied media
methods to his writings in Dock Brief (1957) which was developed from a TV script; and
Michael Frayn, with his contemporary work Copenhagen (1999), as a representative symbol of
modern Europe.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was an English dramatist who seemed to have nothing in
common with the leading foreign writers whose influence suddenly made itself felt in
the early 1950s. Brecht showed his uncompromising views on production, his use of
songs and music, his humanitarian communism, and his insistence on the alienation of
the audience and the actor from the character even as he projects the play into the midst
of the onlookers.

After Brecht, the most important influence was Samuel Becket (1906-1989) , formerly
James Joyces secretary, who wrote in French. Following Alexander (2000:360), he
had the career of an Irish exile. A Protestant, he was educated at Wildes old school and
lectured in philosophy at Trinity College, Dublin. He left for Paris, still hostess to
international modernism wrote on Proust and became Joyces disciple. After the war he
wrote three novels in French rather than his native language, in order to write without
style. In 1952 he wrote Waiting for Godot, a static representation without structure or
development, using only meandering, seemingly incoherent dialogue to suggest despair
of a society which was destroying itself and of mankind unsuspectingly surrendering its
natural liberties. Other dramatic devices of Beckett are Endgame (1955) and Krapps
Last Tape (1958).

In Becketts plays, the audience has to make sense of a verbal and visual text as spare
as an Imagist poem and as basic as a music -hall sketch. By letting in audience
imagination, Beckett made extremist minority art immediate, involving, universal. Hie
warly tragicomic novels appeal to intellectuals. But another early work, a tribute to the
silent film comedian Buster Keaton, was the route to the music -hall solutio n Eliot had

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tried and abandoned (Alexander, 2000). Becketts later works reduced the dramatic
elements: the number of actors, of their movements, of their moving parts, of their
words. Words achieved a stage role they had not had for centuries. Often recycling topic
and words Beckett achieves an intense effect by his soliloquy and its new meaning.

John James Osborne (1929-1994) is regarded as the first products of the English Stage
Company. The impact of Look Back in Anger (1956) was due to its content rather than
any novelty of form. It gave the strongest fillip to the concept of the Angry Young Man;
the tragi-comic depiction of the failure, the liar, and the irresponsible showed him
bolstered up with optimism and nostalgia for a past that always seemed better than the
present. The working-cla ss Jimmy Porter, married to Alison, a young woman of
conventional upper-middle-class background, delivers colourful tirades directed equally
at the limitations of their lives and the pieties of her family, representing what was soon
called the estblishment, a term originally referring to the legal position of the Church
of England but now extended to the inherited social set-up.

The remembered social cohesion of the war years gave a dramatic edge to Jimmyps
frustration at social inequality and the futility of individual action. Osborne made the
grotty flat with its Sunday newspapers and ironing-board an image of its time: kitchen-
sink realism was at hand. Then he wrote Epitaph for George Dillon (1957), which dealt
with the same topic, and published The Entertainer (1957), his next-best play in which
he merely provided a vehicle for a star actor. Though protest has a good day out in
Luther (1961), which regained some prestige for him. It was followed by Inadmissible
Evidence (1964), which highlights vanity in the anti-heros disgust at hypocrisy and
outdated laws. It had considerable success, but in seeking to attack everything and to
concern himself with abnormalities of sex, Osborne seemed to lose his way in Plays for
England (1963), A Patriot for Me (1965), West of Suez (1971), and Watch It Come
Down (1976).

Harold Pinter (1930-) was, following Alexander (2000:364), the son of a tailor in the
East of London , learned from Beckett and the Theatre of the Absurd. His verbal surface
has a peeling realistic veneer, each character being identified by a memorable trick of
speech; but the characters relation to what is ordinarily taken as real life is tenouous
and oblique. He conveys the rambling ambiguities and silences of everyday
conversation with an amazing authenticity that is obviously much influenced by
Beckett, and uses them to build up the sense of menace and scarcely restrained violence

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which characterize The Birthday Party 81958), The Dumb Waiter (1960), and The
Caretaker (1960).

Following Albert (1990), the plays are quite short and set in an enclosed ,
claustrophobic space; the characters are always in doubt about their function, and in fear
of someone or something outside. More recently Pinter has written on a larger scale
and in a less restricted way, for instance in A Night Out (1961) and The Homecoming
(1969), but he still prefers the shorter play, as in Silence (1969), and the drama of
unidentified menace, such as Old Times (1971). Among Pinters many achievements, he
has demostrated how plays for radio and television can be adapted to suit the stage, and
that the so-called legitimate drama can gain much from the techniques necessitated by
other media.

3.2.3. Prose.

Following Albert (1990:563), in prose many of the younger generation of writers are involved
int he new psychological problems arising from the bizarre and contradictory nature of an
affluent society which is discontented with itself, and yet is interested chiefly in retaining or
acquiring material comforts. A mixture of realism, cynicism, dark comedy, shrewd comment,
and satire is used to express their search for stability and basic values. Stark individualism is
often the essence of characterization; novelists are not infrequently interested in the individuals
flight from an environment with which he cannot cope, or his attempts to find satisfaction by
abandoning selfishness for love, service, and even sacrifice.

The future is rarely clear; happiness is often the discovery of some small assurance amid an
uncertain and even incomprehensible environment. Because of technological advances, space
exploration, and the threat of nuclear and germ warfare, there has been a tremendous increase in
science fiction novels about the future on other planets, or on an earth catastrophically altered.
In fact, the contemporary English novel has been affected to an inestimable extent by three
entirely new influences. Thus, never before have novels from the U.S.A. been so widely read.
Many of these have been characterized by detailed realism, lack of reticence, brutality,
disillusion, and criticism of the national and international scene; they have dealt in a penetrating
manner iwth the frustrations and emotional storms largely caused by urban-commercial life.

We shall focus on just a handful of writers, the most representative ones, since there is huge
number of them to mention. For instance, among those we shall not examine we include Henry
Miller (1891-1980), with his latest claim, The Rosy Crucifixion trilogy (1949-60); John

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Steinbeck (1902-68), with his popular work East of Eden (1952); Neson Algren (1909-2000)
and his A Walk on the Wild Side (1956); James Baldwin (1924-2001) with Another Country
(1962); Truman Capote with Breakfast at Tiffanys (1958); also, the best-sellers Invisible Man
(1952) by Ralph Ellison and Lolita (1955) by the Russian Vladimir Nabokov; in addition, we
include Lionel Poles Hartley (1895-1972) writing about denaturized humanity as in The
Betrayed (1966) and The Harness Room (1971); William Cooper (1910-2001) with Youre Not
Alone (1976); Ian Fleming (1908-1964) with his James Bond stories on spying; and John Le
Carr suspense novels, among others.

Yet, the main leading post-war novelists were Joyce Cary (1888-1957), Rebecca West (1892-
1983), Jean Rhys (1894-1979), Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), Malcolm Lowry (1909-1957),
Lawrence Durrell (1912-1990), Barbara Pym (1913-1980), Angus Wilson (1913-1991),
Anthony Burgess (1917-1993), Olivia Manning (1918-1980), Muriel Spark (1918-), Irish
Murdoch (1919-1999), Doris Lessing (1919-), Paul Scott (1929-1978), Brian Moore (1921-),
Kingsley Amis (1922-1993), John Fowles (1926-), and Malcolm Bradbury (1932-), among

Yet, we shall concentrate on William Golding (1911-1993), as representing the evil of society
and mans most primitive insticts; Graham Greene (1904-), as the imaginative exploration of
characters; George Orwell (1903-1950) as the typical product of the inter-war and WWII years;
and J.R.R. Tolkien, as the most representative figure of the XXIst century with his science
fiction novels.

William Gerald Golding (1911-1993), following Albert (1990:576), deals with mans
instinct to destroy what is good, whether it is material or spiritual. Treating of cruelty,
selfishness, and the yearning after power, he puts his viewpoint very clearly evil is
apparent everywhere, and is with difficulty held at bay, and good is almost impossible
to achieve. Each of his novels is a unique fable for the times in which symbolism plays
an overridingly important part. Nevertheless, they are convincingly realistic, and his
characters are feasible, even thought they are forced by unnatural circumstances into
unnatural situations.

His best-known novel is Lord of the Flies (1954), in which civilization is shown to be a
mere veneer that cracks and splinters under the slightest pressure, but The Inheritors
(1955) most effectively illustrates his view that innocence, good, happiness were
instinctive before Homo spaiens developed, and with him and all-destructive urge to
evil. Pincher Martin (1956) with its brilliantly conceived plot, Free Fall (1959), and

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The Scorpion God (1971) are studies of individuals who deliberately reject heaven and,
as all humans must, sink satisfied into hell. The Spire (1964), however, shows man
apparently achieving something that is good; yet everthing connected with it is evil. The
reader is left to wornder whether mankind can ever attain or create anything that is
wholly good. Goldwing is not a simple moral fabulist like Lewis or Tolkien. His
allegories are embedded in temporal as well as physical settings, and are written in a
precise, dense and ambitious way on the search of moral sense.

Graham Greene (1904-) is probably the best-known novelist of the period because he
worked imaginatively on the exploration of his characters. Following Albert (1990:565-
566), he has written a considerable number of novels which, while popular, have none
the less pleased the critics because of the tautness of their construction and their
imaginative exploration of character. Whatever he writes seems to be topical, not just in
subject-matter and location but in the emotions stimulated, for Greene has the gift of
evoking the atmosphere of a period as well as giving an accurate depiction of the

The world is brutal and humourless; in it his characters pursue or are pursued. Usually
they are insignificant people with a little authority who are forced to make a choice and
to suffer the pangs of indecision and conscience. Greenes Roman Catholicism has
encouraged him to see action as a series of moral dilemmas; he depicts not right and
wrong but fundamental good and fundamental evil; his characters seek after evil
sometimes on principle and sometimes from lack of initiative to do otherwise, and in
doing so they acknowledge the reverse of evil. By accepting the Devil they believe in
God. The settings of hisnovels range from West Africa to Cuba, England to Viet Nam;
by selecting significant details he sketches in a background that looks authentic and
then, by symbolic touches, draws ones attention to matters of special importance.

The most noteworthy of Greenes novels are Its a Battlefield (1934), England Made
Me (1935), Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the
Matter (1948), The En d of the Affair (1951), The Quiet American (1955), A Burnt-Out
Case (1961), The Comedians (1966), and Travels with My Aunt (1969). Graham
Greenes short stories have become increasingly popular; recent collections are May We
Borrow Your Husband? (1967) and Shades of Greene (1976). He has also written what
he calls entertainments. These are stories of crime and retribution, but they too are
concerned with moral difficulties bedevilling people in a confused and violent world.
The best of these books are A Gun for Sale (1936), The Ministry of Fear (1943), The

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Third Man (1950), and a satire on contemporary spy novels, Our Man in Havana

George Orwell (1903-1950), whose real name was Eric Hugh Blair, represents the
typical product of the inter-war and WWII years. His proletarian sympathies and his
contempt for the upper-middle -class society from which he sprang were shown in the
sardonic Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). Yet there was a love-hate attitude towards
the idea of Empire and the White Mans Burden in Burmese Days (1934); and in The
Road to Wigan Pier (1937), a picture of squalor and hopelessness during the Great
Depression, he seemed to despise the very type he represented, the left-wing intellectual
striving to identify himself with the victims.

It was only after the Second World War that Orwell became a figure of outstanding
importance, and then it was because of Animal Farm (1945), an expression of his own
disillusion and the humoristic way of depicting the horror lived in the Nazis
concentration camps. This was a closely knit allegory on the degeneration of communist
ideals into dictatorship, expressed in an incisive, witty, deceptively simple style
reminiscent of Voltaire. Utterly different was Nineteen Eighty -Four (1949), a terrifying
prognostication of the hatred, cruelty, fear, loss of individuality, and lack of human love
that the future would bring. The common man whom Orwell admired was reduced to a
political and social nonentity; human dignity and decency were dead because of mass
apathy and tolerance of evil.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) is best known for his worldwide famous
science fiction novels, recently taken into the big screen by Hollywoods
superproduction The Lord of the Rings. Since he found nothing interesting about the
present and near future reality, he invented his own fantasy worlds. Following Albert
(1990:578), he was a Professor of Anglo-Saxon and then of Language and Literature at
Oxford from 1925 to 1959, whose novels became something of a cult, especially among
intellectuals. The Hobbit (1937), ostensibly a childrens book, and The Lord of the
Rings (1954-55) present a world that is an amalgam of fairy lore, Norse mythology,
epic, and Arthurian legends. Tolkien himself claimed no seriousness for this work, but
one finds it difficult to believe him when one considers its length, and the care bestowed
on interweaving its complex stories. The language too was specially created to suit the
characters, very much the brain-child of an expert philologist.

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Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspects of educational
activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language (poetry, drama, prose novel, short story,
minor fiction-, periodicals) either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet,
handling literary productions in the past makes relevant the analysis of literature in the twentieth
and twenty-first century in Great Britain and Ireland in this unit. Yet, what do students know
about the literature in this period? At this point it makes sense to examine the historical
background of Great Britain and Ireland up to the present day so as to provide an appropriate
context for these poets, dramatists and novelists in our students background knowledge and
check what they know about them.

Since literature may be approached in linguistic terms, regarding form and function
(morphology, lexis, structure, form) and also from a cross-curricular perspective (Sociology,
History, English, French, Spanish Language and Literature), Spanish students are expected to
know about the history of Britain and Ireland and its influence in the world , as well as their
integration in the EU. In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to
provide good models of almost any kind of literary productions for future studies.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and
teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe
learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels
must be conceived in terms of literature and history. The basis for these assumptions is to be
found in an attempt, through the use of historical events, to develop understanding of students
shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching
implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching-learning relationship. This means that
literary productions are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential
contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of genre
techniques: the stream of consciousness, the kaleidoscopic point of view, and the presentation of
different scenes, among others. We must bear in mind that most students will continue their
studies at university and there, they will have to handle successfully all kind of genres,
especially poetry, drama and fiction ones within our current framework.

Moreover, todays new technologies (the Internet, DVD, videocamera) and the media (TV,
radio, cinema) may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate

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context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a
communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over
form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies
and the media. Hence literary productions and the history of the period may be approched in
terms of films and drama representations in class, among others, and in this case, by means of
books (novels: historical, terror, descriptive) and drama (opera, comedies, plays), among others.

But how do twentieth and twenty-first-century British and Irish literature tie in with the new
curriculum? Spanish students are expected to know about the British and Irish culture and its
presence in Europe since students are required to know about the world culture and history. The
success partly lies in the way literary works become real to the users. Some of this motivational
force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to
recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom by means of
novels, short stories, documentaries, history books, or their familys stories.

Hence it makes sense to examine relevant figures such as John Clifford Mortimer (1923-2001),
who applied media methods to his writings in Dock Brief (1957) which was developed from a
TV script; Pinters demostration of how plays for radio and television can be adapted to suit the
stage, and that the so-called legitimate drama can gain much from the techniques necessitated
by other media ; and the best example for students, Tolkiens novels which have been recently
taken into the big screen by Hollywoods superproduction The Lord of the Rings.

This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular,
the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the
teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication
tasks with specific communicative goals, for instance, how to locate a literary work within a
particular historical period. Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of
every literary students basic competence (B.O.E., 2004).

In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of
almost any kind of literary productions for future studies. Following van Ek & Trim (2001), the
learners can perform, within the limits of the resources available to them, those writing (and
oral) tasks which adult citizens in general may wish, or be called upon, to carry out in their
private capacity or as members of the general public when dealing with their future regarding
personal and professional life.

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In short, the knowledge about British culture (history and literature) should become part of
every literary students basic competence (B.O.E., 2004). There are hidden influences at work
beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual. The literary
student has to discover these, and wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The
main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate
the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within
the European framework.


On reviewing the issue of Unit 58, the political, social and economic development in the United
Kingdom and Ireland since 1945 up to the present day, we have also examined their presence in
the European Union. This introduction is aimed at reviewing the literary background of the
time and, therefore, the life, works and style of the most representative authors in this period.
Hence we have started by presenting the main events occurred during and after the World War
II (1941-1945) up to the present-day in Great Britain and Ireland in political, social and
economic terms.

This historical background has provided the basis for a better understanding of the literary
background in the XXth and XXIst-century main authors and works. On reviewing each genre,
we have got closer to how those writers reflected the time in which they were living. Some of
them chose a real approach (Dylan Thomas, Hugh DcDiarmid, Bertolt Brecht, William
Goldwing); others, a humoristic approach to the WWII horror (George Orwell); and others, a
different perspective of reality through the world of fantasy or science fiction (J.R.R. Tolkien),
as a way of avoiding the cruel reality.

In Chapter 4 we have established a link between this historical and literary background with the
main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in
the classroom setting and how to make our students aware of how much they know about the
modern history of Great Britain and Ireland. At this point, we hope to offer fruitful conclusions
on this presentation, and we shall close it by presenting all the bibliographical references used in
its elaboration for further references.

So far, we have attempted to provide the reader in this presentation with a historical, literary and
cultural background on the vast amount of literature productions in the twentieth and twenty-

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first-century literature in modern Great Britain and Ireland. This information is relevant for
language learners, even ESO and Bachillerato students, who do not automatically establish
similiarities between British, Irish and Spanish social reality. So, learners need to have these
associations brought to their attention in cross-curricular settings through the media . As we have
seen, understanding how literature reflects the main historical events of a country is important to
students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of English and Irish literature in all
English-speaking countries.

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Armitage, S. And R. Crawford (eds). 1998. The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since
1945. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Albert, Edward. 1990. A History of English Literature. Walton-on-Thames. Nelson. 5th edition (Revised
by J.A. Stone).

B.O.E. 2004. Consejera de Educacin y Cultura. Decreto N. 116/2004, de 23 de enero. Currculo de la

Educacin Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autnoma de la Regin de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2004. Consejera de Educacin y Cultura. Decreto N. 117/2004, de 23 de enero. Currculo de

Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autnoma de la Regin de Murcia.

Cook, C. and J. Paxton. 2001. European Political Facts of the Twentieth Century. Palgrave.

Council of Europe (1998) Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European
Framework of reference.
Drabble, Margaret (ed.). 1995. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. New York, Oxford
University Press,
Magnusson, M., and Goring, R. (eds.). 1990. Cambridge Biographical Dictionary. New York: Cambridge
University Press.
Palmer, R. 1980. Historia Contempornea, Akal ed., Madrid.

Sanders, A. 1996. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford University Press.

Rogers, P. 1987. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature. Oxford University Press.
Speck, W.A. 1998. Literature and Society in Eighteenth-Century England: Ideology Politics and Culture
1680-1820. Book Reviews.

Thoorens, Lon. 1969. Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y Amrica del Norte. Gran
Bretaa y Estados Unidos de Amrica. Ediciones Daimon.
van Ek, J.A., and J.L.M. Trim, 2001. Vantage. Council of Europe. Cambridge University Press.

Other sources:

Enciclopedia Larousse 2000. 2000. Editorial Planeta.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the 20th Century. 1999. Detroit, St. James.

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