'Mrs Fairly is a dirty, lazy type': unsatisfactory households and the problem of problem families, Norwich, 1942-1963

Becky Taylor, Ben Rogaly

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22 Citations (Scopus)


Either as the ‘underclass’, or ‘residuum’, poor families with anti-social habits have excited comment and criticism, but rarely historical analysis. Using a rich archive of material on ‘unsatisfactory households’ in Norwich from 1942 to 1963, this article argues that it is essential to understand the material conditions in which such families lived: a period of apparent prosperity throughout Britain before the ‘rediscovery of poverty’ in 1965. This article uses the work of Norwich city council to unpick contemporary debates on ‘problem families’ and to explore the kind of family designated as ‘unsatisfactory’, in terms of economic position, family composition and patterns of behaviour. It concludes by examining the relationship between council workers and the listed families, and the agency of these families and their neighbours in mediating the attentions of officials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)429-452
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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