"A Frisky, Tiresome Colt?"Sir William Joynson-Hicks, the Home Office, and the "Roaring Twenties" 1924-1929

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Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date13 May 2009
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The late 1920s saw a major cultural clash between the standards of the avantgarde of the postwar generation, and the earlier morality of a largely elderly political, administrative and judicial elite. This has traditionally been portrayed as a fight between an out-of-touch minority trying to defend the discredited values of an older world against the new, improved culture of a different age. Particular criticism has been reserved for William Joynson-Hicks, Home Secretary for the period 1924-1929, a Puritanical Diehard Unionist who was accused of trying to impose his own morality on everyone else by police action. This thesis explores various aspects of the policing of morals - censorship of theatre, literature and film, and the efforts to enforce regulations on out-of-hours drinking and the taking of drugs, to discern whether there was a consistent pattern of censorship, and crucially, how far Joynson-Hicks himself was involved. It also examines two major police scandals that occurred in 1928 in cases linked with these enforcement campaigns, and assesses how far pressure from the top was to blame for their occurrence. The evidence assembled calls into question some long-held assumptions - namely that Joynson-Hicks was a puritanical zealot who personally fought almost alone to enforce his standards through the law, and more importantly, how far the belief he was without popular support in his stance, or made Britain uniquely an island of reaction in a world giving way to the new culture, is accurate. It underlines the role the Civil Service played in all of these matters, and suggests Joynson-Hicks could be more pragmatic in his enforcement of the law than is popularly supposed. It ends with an attempt to explain why he earned his previous fearsome reputation, and asks whether the time is ripe for a reassessment of his career