Learning to say "Phew' instead of "Brrr": social and cultural change during the British summer of 1976

Waites, Ian (2017) Learning to say "Phew' instead of "Brrr": social and cultural change during the British summer of 1976. In: Cultural histories, memories and extreme weather: a historical geography perspective. Routledge, pp. 16-33. ISBN 9781138207653

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Item Type:Book Section
Item Status:Live Archive


The summer of 1976 is remembered in Britain for its unprecedented heatwave and prolonged drought, when Heathrow recorded sixteen consecutive days with temperatures over 86°F from 23 June to 8 July, and Cheltenham experienced an all-time record high of 96.6°F on 3 July. For the past two years I have been collecting reminiscences and examining contemporary newspaper reports of that summer (‘It’s flaming June as Britain gets that Riviera touch’) to see how the constant heat, sunshine and balmy nights affected our everyday attitudes, behaviour and lifestyle. This paper will present some of the findings of my research, tracing the social transformations that occurred as a direct consequence of the heatwave both within the context of the late 1970s, and from our perspective today via a number of surveys conducted in the last ten years which variously found that the summer of 1976 was when we were last happiest as a society, when it was the best time to be a child, and when the gap between the rich and poor was at its narrowest.

Keywords:Cultural history, Memory, Weather, Postwar Britain
Subjects:L Social studies > L725 Historical Geography
L Social studies > L726 Cultural Geography
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V147 Modern History 1950-1999
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Architecture & Design > School of Architecture & Design (Design)
ID Code:29876
Deposited On:05 Dec 2017 20:41

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