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Explore the Decades - 1940s

1940s Newspaper Gifts

The 1940s was dominated by the Second World War. Germany finally surrendered in 1945, but the aftermath of the conflict shaped the rest of the decade. The Allies formed the United Nations in an attempt to maintain international peace. However, tension developed between the Soviet Union and Western powers over the post-war re-organisation of Europe. The Cold War began in 1947 and Civil wars broke out in many other parts of the world. Britain was left crippled by debt. The Welfare State was introduced at the end of the Second World War, inspired by the William Beveridge report on poverty. It continued to develop through the 1940s, including the introduction of the NHS in 1948.

The Arts maintained a powerful presence through the 1940s, helping to lift morale. Singers began to emerge as stars from the Big Bands of the 1930s, with Frank Sinatra gaining popularity as a solo artist. Doris Day and Vera Lyn were iconic singers during the war and Ella Fitzgerald mesmerised audiences later in the decade. Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir Ralph Richardson formed the Old Vic Theatre Company in 1944 and regularly performed in plays such as Shakespeare’s “Richard III”.