Being boys

Youth, leisure and identity in the inter-war years

By Melanie Tebbutt

Being boys


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6614-6
  • Pages: 340
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £19.99
  • Published Date: April 2014
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, HISTORY / Social History, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies, Society & social sciences / Gender studies, gender groups, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Social & cultural history, European history, Humanities / Social & cultural history
  • Series: Gender in History


This original and fresh approach to the emotions of adolescence focuses on the leisure lives of working-class boys and young men in the inter-war years. Being boys challenges many stereotypes about their behaviour. It offers new perspectives on familiar and important themes in inter-war social and cultural history, ranging from the cinema and mass consumption to boys' clubs, personal advice pages, street cultures, dancing, sexuality, mobility and the body. It draws on many autobiographies and personal accounts and is particularly distinctive in offering an unusual insight into working-class adolescence through the teenage diaries of the author's father, which are interwoven with the book's broader analysis of contemporary leisure developments. Being boys will be of interest to scholars and students across the humanities and social sciences and is also relevant to those teaching and studying in the fields of child development, education, and youth and community studies.


This well-researched book is a corrective to depictions of working-class young men as rigidly masculine.'
Jad Adams, The TLS, 25/05/2012

'A welcome addition to the literature on inter-war youth; contributing to our understanding of American influences across this 20-year period and offering insights into aspects of experiences that affected all young men, not just a minority.'
John Griffiths, Reviews in History, 24/05/2012

'The ultimate success of this marvellous book lies in the way that Tebbutt allows the private voices behind the public swagger of the 'monkey parade' to articulate the longing in 1930's Britain for a better world while also showing how, in their own small way, boys like Les helped that world come into being.'
Richard Weight, History Today, December 2012

'A valuable contextual source for historians of post-war youth'
Sarah Mills, Contemporary British History, May 2013

'A fresh and welcome contribution to our understanding of youth in twentieth-century Britain'
Kate Bradley, Twentieth Century British History, 2012

'Being Boys makes an important contribution to the nexus of the history of interwar society and culture, of the history of gender and of childhood and youth, and of the history of leisure and consumerism.'
Stephanie Olsen, Journal of British Studies, 52 (3) July 2013

'The historian Melanie Tebbutt, Les Tebbutt's daughter, has drawn on her father's teenage diary entries, as well as contemporary memories and interviews, to try to reconstruct the inner lives of working class boys in the interwar years.'
Alan Allport, London Review of Books, 21/11/2013

'It is one of the most stimulating books to appear on British youth history in recent years.'
David Fowler, University of Cambridge, English Historical Review, 04/09/2013

'In its exploration of the subjective and affective dimensions of growing up male, Being Boys is both important and consistently moving. The boys who lie at the core of this study are complex characters who interact with dominant models of masculinity in diverse and surprising ways. Tebbutt consistently places boys' experiences alongside those of girls and in so doing generates a richly relational sense of gender.'
Claire Langhamer, University of Sussex, Sport in History, 33:4, 605-607, 2013


1. Looking at youth
2. Ordinary boys and masculine men
3. Bodies and appearance
4. Sex and sentiment
5. Seeking advice
6. Dancing and gender
7. Movement, motion and street space
8. Being a boy and becoming a man


Melanie Tebbutt is Senior Lecturer in History at Manchester Metropolitan University.

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