Capital Affairs

London and the Making of the Permissive Society

Frank Mort

View Inside Price: $42.00


September 14, 2010
528 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
34 b/w + 8 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300118797
Cloth

A series of spectacular scandals profoundly disturbed London life during the 1950s in ways that had major national consequences. High and low society collided in a city of social and sexual extremes. Patrician men-about-town, young independent women, go-ahead entrepreneurs, Westminster politicians, queer men, and West Indian newcomers played a conspicuous part in dramatic encounters that signaled a new phase of post-Victorian sexual morality.

These dramas of pleasure and danger occurred not only in the glamorous and shady entertainment spaces of the West End but also in Whitehall, as well as the twilight zones of the inner city. Frank Mort uncovers the ways in which they transformed national culture. Soho and Notting Hill became beacons for anxieties over the changing character of sex in the city and the cultural impact of decolonization. The “old” European migrants and the “new” Caribbean presence were significant factors in the readjustment of urban sexual mores. Mort’s arresting history of sex and politics in London illustrates a key moment in the making of modern British society.

Frank Mort is Professor of Cultural Histories, University of Manchester. His books include Cultures of Consumption: Masculinities and Social Space in Late Twentieth-Century Britain.

"Capital Affairs is a major work of cultural history; path-breaking and lucid, fluently and engagingly crafted… Mort demonstrates exemplary novelistic skills and combines them with brilliant research, drawing on an astonishing range of sources. He reveals how important the central spaces of the metropolis were to epochal changes in values, aspirations and identities that fall under the category of ‘permissiveness’. This will be mandatory reading for British historians, scholars in cultural studies, urban studies, and human geography… and general readers of London’s history."-Judith Walkowitz, Professor of Modern European Cultural and Social History, Johns Hopkins University

"This book is a superb… ambitiously theorized history of contemporary Britain, combining the best of archival scholarship with the most sophisticated social and cultural analysis… Mort sets the gold standard… in uniting a rich knowledge of mainstream political history and the best insights which the new cultural history… has to offer, with brilliant results… An imaginative and intellectually challenging exploration of the history of the capital."-Geoff Eley, Professor of History, University of Michigan

"This is an excellent and… highly original challenge to conventional interpretations of Britain’s sexual history, which present the 1950s as a dull conformist decade liberated only in the ‘swinging sixties’. But… the book is about much more than the history of sexuality, it is an important contribution to… the social, cultural and political history of mid-twentieth-century Britain… Mort’s analysis of the period rings true throughout."-Pat Thane, Professor at the Centre for Contemporary British History, University of London

'Mort takes the reader from Buckingham Palace and the world of the debutantes through the streets of Soho to the striptease girls of the Windmill Theatre and back. In vivid illustrations and elegantly crafted sub-plots Capital Affairs paints a finely grained picture of a society in flux…Readers can now turn to this original and engrossing account.' — Frank Trentmann, Sunday Express

'Capital Affairs is a valuable alternative social history of 1950's and 60's Britain' — Nichi Hodgson, Standpoint

'…a provocative study that kicks a number of sacred cows and shows the Fifties as a precursor for most of the ideas of the Sixties.' — Barry Miles, Mail on Sunday

'Mort's analysis is outstanding. He writes very well, he melds broad analysis with telling tales of individuals, and along the way, he punctures more than this share of myths and lazy orthodoxies…A proper history book…I adored it.' — Jonathan Wright, Sunday Herald (Glasgow)

'Mort's book is an excellent riposte to all those popular studies that slice post-war history into neat decades…. One of the strengths of this book is that it is so tightly focused…. Mort has produced an excellent work of social and cultural history, overflowing with anecdotes and illustrations, exhaustively researched and thoroughly insightful.' — Dominic Sandbrook, Literary Review

“…a fascinating investigation into modern urban life.”—Contemporary Review

“…demonstrates emphatically the power of representation and their intimate relations with the practices and rhythms of everyday life.”—David Gilbert, Urban History, Volume 38 2011

"Mort’s attention to detail and storytelling skills makes this a compelling and brilliant cultural and sexual history."—Julie Anne Taddeo, Journal of British Studies