1945 and All That: the Festival of Britain

Back when Labour tried to cheer us all up

RGS History


In 1851, the world had come to the magnificent new glass structure of the Crystal Palace, to the Great Exhibition, when Britain was the ‘Workshop of the World’.


During the Second World War, the Royal Society of Arts suggested a sequel: why not do the same in 1951? After the war, the new Labour government had an over-riding economic objective: exports, and the dollars they earned. This was also born of a genuine optimism, which did not prove misplaced, that Britain was the great exporting nation, and a great innovator: in 1949, the British de Havilland Comet became the world’s first commercial jetliner to be tested. Britain, went the message, was open, at the cutting edge, and open for business.


That was, emphatically, a government message, one sold in the Britain Can Make It exhibition of 1946.


By 1948, the government had enthusiastically looked to the ten idea of a…

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