1945 and All That: the Festival of Britain

Back when Labour tried to cheer us all up

RGS History

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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’.

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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.

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

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

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