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Thread: Life in London 1930

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  1. #1
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    Life in London 1930

    I'm writing a story based in approx. 1930, about a witch who is eleven years old and forced to leave home. Her mother wouldn't accept that she is a witch (muggle-born) and wouldn't let her attend Hogwarts. When the rest of the town finds out that she is a witch, she is forced to leave and go on her own travels. I'm still working out the bugs and the plausibility etc. of the story and I have a few questions to ask.

    What was London like in that time? (in general)

    Were witches condemned in the 1930's? Or is there no proof to prove or disprove?

    Is there any chance of the girl throwing a tantrum (and then having a magical reaction), or is rudeness like that in the 1930's just unheard of? If so, how would there be a fight between daughter and mother? Or is it not possible?


    This is all I have for now, but I may return with further questions if you are able to answer them.

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  2. #2
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    I love the twenties/ thirties!

    London in 1930 is the height of the Great Depression for Londoners. I think by 1933/4 we were slowly climbing out of it. However this is the Age of Austerity after the glitz and glamour of the 1920s. Of course the glitz and glamour only applied to certain classes but everyone in London, via lots of magazines etc, would have been aware of the Roaring Twenties. Lots of people have drawn parallels between the 20s/ 30s to the first half of the 2000s and the last few years.

    London at the time would have a huge poor/ rich divide, with high levels of unemployment amongst the poor. The rich would have lost a lot of money as well ( I think Churchill lost a lot of his fortune in the Wall St. Crash) but because they have a lot anyway it doesn't matter.

    Also class- since WW1 class boundaries have been slowly breaking down and therefore class boundaries are less strict BUT still firmly in place, and everyone would be well aware of it. One class that's particularly changing is the middle-class, as they throughout the 19th century could afford large houses and servants, but this is no longer possible and so increasingly the middle-classes begin to cook/ do housework for themselves.

    Also homosexuality is still illegal, women are treated worse than men (having only had the vote on equal terms with men since 1928) and racism is very, very widespread. Also no birth control (legally- back street abortions were available) so, unless the mother was unable to/ father's dead or their relationship is platonic I think there'd be some siblings.

    And there's a good chance the girls parents would have witnessed WWI. The father might have fought in WW1 unless he was skilled in a particular job/ couldn't for health reasons/ was a Conscientious Objector. At least they would know a few people who died in the war and the mother might have helped as nurses or in war work of some sort.

    Is there a specific area of London you want to set your story? If so there are some very helpful local history websites of most London boroughs so you can do some research there.

    Were witches condemned in the 1930's? Or is there no proof to prove or disprove?

    Well, since the Statute Of Secrecy I think most people would be unaware of them/ not believe they existed. However if someone behaved oddly than I think they would be thought of differently. There's a saying that if you are working class you are mad, if you are upper you are eccentric. Communities were much stronger then (though still are in many parts of London) so I think if the girl angered them by doing something violent (intentionally or not) then she could be forced out.

    Is there any chance of the girl throwing a tantrum (and then having a magical reaction), or is rudeness like that in the 1930's just unheard of? If so, how would there be a fight between daughter and mother? Or is it not possible?

    Of course there is! People could still be rude/ I just think they were more repressed. I think a lot of this depends on class (although this is a very, VERY broad generalisation) as working/ middle classes would be feeling the squeeze ALOT more and therefore tensions/ the possibility of arguments would increase. However there's always a sense of keeping up appearances therefore if the argument happened in their home, in private I think it would be more believable.

    Read George Orwell- "Down And Out In Paris and London" in particular- I mean read George Orwell anyway but if you want information about thirties London than that would be a good start. Also JB Priestley, DH Lawrence.

    There's also (if you're really, really interested,) a book which is informative (if, sometimes, heavy going) but not specifically London is "The THirties- An Intimate History" by Juliet Gardiner.

    That's a very, very long answer- I hope some of it is helpful!
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  3. #3
    Fifth Year Slytherin
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    Wow, thanks heaps! This post was incredibly helpful. It has also sparked some more questions

    Would schools be separated between the middle and upper class?

    Since my character is in the upper class, would it be believable for her to argue with her mother? And then afterwards almost blow up a room (she is a very powerful witch, even at the age of ten)?

    Would her being powerful make her a Mary-Sue?

    Is it likely for her father to be more kind/totally gutless, and her mother more stern and strict?


    I really appreciate your post, welshdevondragon.

    And I will look into the books. Thanks!

    ~ Annalise x

    Ronnie, Lyss, Becca, Andi, you guys are amazing. <3

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  4. #4
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    Having nursed several people born around 1919 from what would have been the upper class, I can tell you that they ranted a fair bit about the behaviour of young children today and their disobediance to their parents. I don't know if things would have been as strict as they were in the previous century, but I get the impression that children were still supposed to be seen and not heard. I think that your character, if she's a stroppy little madam, could have argued with her mother, but I'm not sure if she'd have been able to blow up a room. I'm sure you could make a plausible enough character for her to get very, very angry, but I don't think making the biggest explosion means the wizard will grow up to be very powerful.

    I think that the measure of the power of underage wizards is not the scale or the force of the magic they preform, but their ability to control it. Lily, Tom Riddle, and possibly Snape as well, could control their magic, to a certain extent before they started Hogwarts, and they all went on to be very talented, powerful wizards. Harry also notes in HBP that he had long since learned that lots of noise and smoke were usually signs of incompetence rather than expertese, so this could be true for underage magic as well.

    Of course, we don't see these characters mentioned preform magic when they're angry, but I think it might be worth noting that when Harry is angry and preforms underage magic, they're nearly always to an end. He ends up on the roof of the kitchens when he's being chased, and the door of his cupboard bursts open for him when he goes to get his trunk. I think that blowing up a room is perhaps a bit too much; maybe she could cause all the windows to shatter, or glasses to break?

    Would her being powerful make her a Mary-Sue?
    Not necessarily. I think it depends how you write it. There are powerful characters in the books, and in certain ways, Harry himself is powerful, but it doesn't really make him a Gary-Stu. You need to balance the good traits with the bad ones to create a believable character.

    Is it likely for her father to be more kind/totally gutless, and her mother more stern and strict?
    It totally depends on their characters. If you wanted the father to be gutless and the mother to be stern then it's up to you. You've got to make them believable though.

    Sarah x


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    Fifth Year Slytherin
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    Thanks a million, everyone. I am examining all of your posts and writing notes and things. All of your help is really appreciated.

    Another question:

    I want my story to be set somewhere in London that would have been very expensive and high class. I am not from Britain, nor have I ever been there so I am stuck on this. What are some good places that the beginning of my story could have been set?

    There is a question that I keep thinking of, and then forgetting. *sigh* Next time I will write it down as soon as I think about it.

    ~ Annalise x

    Ronnie, Lyss, Becca, Andi, you guys are amazing. <3

    I'M BACK, BABY! *evil laugh*

  6. #6
    Seventh Year Gryffindor
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    Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Belgravia are the ones that spring to my mind. I'm not sure if some of these ones are more residential than others, though. I'm not from London, so there may be more expensive places, but I think these are the ones that people associate 'poshness' with.

    Sarah x


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  7. #7
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    I echo what welshdevondragon said, but would like to point out that the racism angle is harder to quantify. In the 30's there weren't a lot of black/asian migrants. The ones that were here weren't really discriminated against in the way they were later in the 50's simply because there weren't that many of them here and weren't perceived as a threat. I think on the whole they were patronised. (My mum was brought up in the 30's and 40's). It was not like the situation in America where the racism was far more prevalent.

    The main group that would have been targeted in London (and the other cities) would have been the Irish who were banned from pubs, clubs, restaurants and found it difficult to find work.

    Were witches condemned in the 1930's? Or is there no proof to prove or disprove?
    If you mean in real life, then no. In real life no one was burnt to death for being a witch since the witchcraft act was repealed in 1736.

    Is there any chance of the girl throwing a tantrum (and then having a magical reaction), or is rudeness like that in the 1930's just unheard of? If so, how would there be a fight between daughter and mother? Or is it not possible?

    Children were still children even in those days. What was different is that tantrums by a two year old, for instance, would not have been tolerated and the parent would probably administer a slap or threaten them with the slipper or belt when they got home. Teachers were still able to use the cane on children up until the 70's.
    Perhaps the fight between mother and daughter could be over a pair of shoes. The mother forcing her child into smart, shiny but uncomfortable shoes. The child rebelling and the shoes flying off and splitting perhaps) Dressing children up to look neat and well groomed (bows in hair, ringlets that took forever to coax into shape) was pretty important to middle-class mothers and the upper class children's nannies.

    Quote Originally Posted by welshdevondragon
    Also no birth control (legally- back street abortions were available) so, unless the mother was unable to/ father's dead or their relationship is platonic I think there'd be some siblings.
    Condoms would have been available, but that relies on the man wanting to use them. Other contraceptive methods in those days relied on charts, calenders and complicated arithmetic. Families were bigger in those days (especially as the infant mortality rate was at last improving), but there were also plenty of families who only had one or two children.

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