‘No More Walls. Homelessness in London after 1945 – Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (University College London) – Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire – Axe Histoire du Politique

Publié le 17 février 2022

17 février 2022 - 17 h 00 min - 18 h 30 min

Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite (University College London), ‘No More Walls. Homelessness in London after 1945’


This paper aims to sketch out changing state policy on “homelessness” and the changing ecology of homelessness in postwar London, as well as saying something about how this impacted on the experiences of Londoners who found themselves without a home in the three decades after 1945.


The Second World War intensified the emotional weight invested in “home” in British culture; it created mass homelessness in London (and in other cities), but it also ushered in the “people’s peace”, the final sweeping away of the Poor Law, and the beginning of a major push by Labour and Tory governments to build council and private housing. In the three decades after 1945, patterns of homelessness in London were shaped by those developments, as well as slum clearance, new commonwealth migration, racialized council-house allocation policies, full employment and the slow arrival of “affluence”. In this period, street-sleeping was reduced to very low levels in London – though the actual levels were contested – and, more slowly, homelessness and inadequate housing for families were reduced – though never eradicated. Remnants of the Poor Law remained, however, not least in the reception centres which dealt with homeless individuals and families, which were set up in old Poor Law buildings. Remnants of the pre-war way of thinking about homelessness also persisted, in the way policy was gendered, and in the way ‘vagrants’ – those without a ‘settled way of life’ – were thought about. The overview of the infrastructure for and policy about homeless people thus shows that older, moralised ways of approaching the issue persisted in the welfare state.


Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite est historienne, spécialiste de la Grande-Bretagne au XXe siècle. Elle est notamment l’auteure de Class, politics, and the decline of deference in England, 1968-2000 (Oxford University Press, 2018), et elle mène, avec Natalie Thomlinson,, un projet d’histoire orale sur les femmes dans la grève des mineurs de 1984-1985.


Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire – Année 2021-2022

  • Organisé par : Sorbonne Université (Centre d’histoire du XIXe siècle ; Centre Roland Mousnier–UMR 8596 ; HDEA).
    En partenariat avec AGORA (Cergy Pontoise), l’Institute of Historical Research (Londres), l’Institut universitaire de France
    et le LARCA-UMR 8225 (Université de Paris).

Les séances ont lieu, sauf indication contraire, le jeudi de 17h à 18h30 à la Maison de la Recherche de Sorbonne Université

(28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e), salle D421–  https://sfbh.hypotheses.org/

Le séminaire est tributaire de la situation sanitaire. Pour éviter tout déplacement inutile, les participants sont invités à consulter le blog, ou à s’abonner à la liste de diffusion.

Prochaines séances

  • Jeudi 24 février : Niall O’Flaherty (King’s College London) : ‘Malthus and the Discovery of Poverty’
  • Jeudi 10 mars : Andrew Mackillop (Glasgow), ‘Scots in long eighteenth-century London’
  • Jeudi 17 mars : Thomas C. Jones (Buckingham) : “The Foreign Jews Protection Committee: refugee protection and relief in First World War Britain”
  • Jeudi 24 mars : Nigel Leask (Glasgow) : “‘As Little Known as… Kamtschatka’: Reflection on the Highland Tour in the Long 18th Century’
  • Jeudi 31 mars : Hugh McLeod (Birmingham), autour de son livre Le déclin de la chrétienté en Occident. Autour de la crise religieuse des années 1960 (traduit par Elise Trogrlic, Labor et Fides, 2021)
  • Jeudi 7 avril : Barbara Crosbie (Durham) : ‘The Rising Generations: Age Relations and Cultural Change in Eighteenth-Century England’
  • Jeudi 14 avril : Chris Manias (Kings College London), ‘The Age of Mammals: Nature, Development and Palaeontology in the long nineteenth century’
  • Jeudi 21 avril : Emma Griffin (East Anglia), autour de son livre Bread Winner. An Intimate History of the Victorian Economy (Yale University Press, 2020)
  • Jeudi 12 mai : Laura King (Leeds), ‘The School Case of Poor Harold: Families’ multi-generational remembrance of deceased children in twentieth-century England’