Dancing in the English style

Consumption, Americanisation and national identity in Britain, 1918-50

By Allison Abra

Dancing in the English style


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4262-7
  • Pages: 304
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: September 2019
  • BIC Category: Dance, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / British & Irish history, Humanities / History, HISTORY / Modern / 20th Century, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Modern History, HISTORY / Military / World War II, HISTORY / Social History, PERFORMING ARTS / Dance / History & Criticism, HISTORY / General, History, Social & cultural history, History
  • Series: Studies in Popular Culture


Dancing in the English style explores the development, experience, and cultural representation of popular dance in Britain from the end of the First World War to the early 1950s. It describes the rise of modern ballroom dancing as Britain's predominant popular style, as well as the opening of hundreds of affordable dancing schools and purpose-built dance halls. It focuses in particular on the relationship between the dance profession and dance hall industry and the consumers who formed the dancing public. Together these groups negotiated the creation of a 'national' dancing style, which constructed, circulated, and commodified ideas about national identity. At the same time, the book emphasizes the global, exploring the impact of international cultural products on national identity construction, the complexities of Americanisation, and Britain's place in a transnational system of production and consumption that forged the dances of the Jazz Age.


'[.] this nuanced and well-researched study demonstrates the merits of using popular dance as a gateway into British social and cultural history.'
Laura Quinton, New York University, Twentieth Century British History, 2018

'Drawing upon a fascinating range of source material (including autobiographies, Mass Observation, and the trade press), she tackles a series of complex issues, and advances a number of intriguing, important, and convincing arguments.'
Canadian Journal of History

'Dancing in the English Style breaks new ground in many areas [.and] is a detailed, well-written, and comprehensive account of its subject.'
Journal of British Studies

'The book's value lies in its emphasis on the commercialization of dance during the period and its connection to national identity - something hitherto not explored in any real depth. These discussions of national identity and its link to commercialism will interest scholars from a wide variety of fields, and hopefully serve to spark different perspectives on this under-researched area. The book therefore serves as vital reading for scholars of dance and twentieth-century Britain more broadly, but also those interested the variety of ways national identity can be constructed and performed.'
Journal of Contemporary History


1 Dancing mad! The modernisation of popular dance
2 Who makes new dances? The dance profession and the evolution of style
3 At the palais: the dance hall industry and the standardisation of experience
4 The dance evil: gender, sexuality and the representation of popular dance
5 English style: foreign culture, race and the Anglicisation of popular dance
6 Doing the Lambeth Walk: novelty dances and the commodification of the nation
7 Dancing democracy in wartime Britain
8 The 'infernal jitterbug' and the transformation of popular dance
Epilogue: Come dancing: popular dance in post-war Britain
Select bibliography


Allison Abra is Assistant Professor of History and a Fellow in the Dale Center for the Study of War & Society at the University of Southern Mississippi

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