Popular culture and working–class taste in Britain, 1930–39

A round of cheap diversions?

By Robert James

Popular culture and working–class taste in Britain, 1930–39


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9552-8
  • Pages: 282
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: March 2014
  • BIC Category: History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Historiography, European history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Popular Culture, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Society & social sciences / Popular culture, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / Historiography
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


This book examines the relationship between class and culture in 1930s Britain. Focusing on the reading and cinema-going tastes of the working classes, Robert James' landmark study combines rigorous historical analysis with a close textual reading of visual and written sources to appraise the role of popular leisure in this fascinating decade.

Drawing on a wealth of original research, this lively and accessible book adds immeasurably to our knowledge of working-class leisure pursuits in this contentious period. It is a key intervention in the field, providing both an imaginative approach to the subject and an abundance of new material to analyse, thus making it an undergraduate and postgraduate 'must-have'. It will be a particularly welcome addition for anyone interested in the fields of cultural and social history, as well as film, cultural and literary studies.


'This is an excellently nuanced book impressive first book'
Keith Laybourn, History

'An exemplary piece of social and cultural history: meticulously researched, cogently argued, imaginative in its approach. It deserves to be afforded major intellectual currency not just in British film studies but also in the social history of working-class life and practices'
James Chapman, Journal of British Cinema and Television

'Essential reading for anybody interested in 1930s British society',
Daniel Hucker, Gender and History

'James makes a convincing argument for the distinctiveness and complexity of working-class taste in this period. He also offers a compelling view of the importance of working-class consumer preference in shaping the provision of film and literature in working-class communities'
Andrew August, Labour History Review


1. 'The people's amusement': the growth in cinema-going and reading habits
2. 'Fouling civilisation'?: official attitudes towards popular film and literature
3. Trade attitudes towards audience taste
4. Working-class tastes: national trends in film popularity
5. Working-class tastes: national trends in literature popularity
6. Working-class tastes: South Wales Miners' Institutes
7. Working-class tastes: Derby
8. Working-class tastes: Portsmouth
9. Popular film and literature: textual analyses
Conclusion: 'giving the public what it wants'


Robert James is Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social History at the University of Portsmouth

Popular culture and working–class taste in Britain, 1930–39

By Robert James

Paperback £18.99 / $27.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

Or buy from your preferred bookseller:

Amazon Waterstones Blackwells

Click here for North and South America

Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout