Mark my Essay - A Level HistoryWatch
Using Sources A, B and C and your own knowledge, how far did the changes of the 1960's in Britain create a permissive society? (24 marks)
1960’s Britain saw many changes such as the liberalisation of laws, a decrease in censorship, the spread of drug use and the use of the Pill. Despite the liberal behaviour people had and the newfound feeling of depravity, there was an underlying continuance of conservative and traditional attitudes towards there being a permissive society. Therefore, the changes of the 60’s did not create a permissive society as the media often exaggerated what they believed to be ‘permissive’.
It could be argued that the changes of the 1960’s Britain did not create a permissive society. There were new laws being made and a decline in censorship, but this did not mean that the public was universally in favour of them and not everyone embraced the change. Source B states that due to the changes made “the moral state of our nation was weakened”. Mary Whitehouse believed that television was undermining family life and attacking Christian values. Outspoken critics such as Malcolm Muggeridge (Rector of Edinburgh University 1967) expressed his distaste when he received a request from the student body asking that the Pill be made available. Even the Catholic Church opposed liberalisation and the chat show ‘Women’s Hour’ had increasingly traditional views on the Pill. So, even though society was changing, not everyone was changing with it as some people stayed traditional. This suggests that Britain did not create a permissive society.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the changes of the 1960’s in Britain created a permissive society as social norms became increasingly more liberal. For example, due to a decrease in censorship, a permissive society was reflected on screen, on stage and in literature. This depravity can be seen in the publication of Oz and other obscene works as in some theatres, nudity was shown for the first time due to the Theatres Act, 1968, which allowed plays to feature nudity and four-letter words, therefore showing that there was changing moral standards in the media and Britain was breaking traditional rules grounded in Christian values. People now had the freedom and choice to do what they wanted. Source A states that Britain is now a “civilised society” where people can live their lives however they want without being questioned, “they should be allowed to do so”. This reinforces Roy Jenkins’s statement about a permissive society being a “civilised society” and that it was becoming more liberal.
Despite the permissiveness of the decade, there was still a lot of traditionalist feeling remained and by 1970 the tide turned against cultural experiment. This was seen in the tightening of drug laws and the waning of the Hippy culture. The government introduced a new law, the Dangerous Drugs Act 1967, which made it unlawful to possess drugs such as cocaine. This impacted society massively as bands like the Rolling Stones were made examples of in court. Due to the government taking action it could be argued that 60’s Britain did not create a permissive society as social norms were not entirely liberalised as drugs were still forbidden.
However, there is evidence to suggest that 1960’s Britain created a permissive society. The use of soft drugs increased as bands such as the Beatles took LSD. Thus, because they were role models, even ordinary people took drugs in order to copy their lifestyle. This message is reinforced in Source C which states “people had more freedom to do all kinds of things in the sixties”. Therefore, people started to experiment, with cocaine and heroine use rising ten times in the first half of the 60’s simply because the old traditional way of life had ended. Due to this, the 60’s created a permissive society.
Furthermore, it could be argued that the changes of 1960’s Britain created a more permissive society, as women were able to take control of their lives. Since 1961, the contraceptive pill was available for women; meaning society became more liberal and permissive for them as they now had liberty in sexual relations. The Divorce Act, 1969, which made it easier to end marriage was an undoubted feature of the decade and there was a new sexual freedom, which was confirmed by the advent of the Pill. Aspects such as birth control, treatment of venereal diseases and sex before marriage were now firmly on the agenda and out in the open. There was new legislation, particularly the Abortion Act, 1967 and the Sexual Offences Act, 1967, where homosexuality was decriminalised but only in private and then between consenting adults over 21. Therefore, permissiveness was prevalent as there was sexual liberation.
However, despite the introduction of the pill and the liberalisation of laws, it doesn’t mean it impacted society entirely as Source C states “people did not necessarily exercise that freedom”, suggesting that not everyone changed their lifestyle. In fact, there was less sexual liberation/drug-taking than suggested by the media. Also, very little change occurred among the more working class and poorer communities and the impact was much less widely felt the liberalising legislation was limited in scope. This shows there was not permissiveness in sixties Britain as the change that took place was often exaggerated and many people were left untouched by the ‘so-called’ revolution.
In conclusion, the changes of sixties Britain did not create a permissive society to a great extent, as the degree of permissiveness in Britain was not as great as the media made it out to be and was often hyped up. Despite a decline in censorship, liberalisation of laws and the use of drugs, there was still continuity with the past, where there were deep-rooted traditional values and the lives of many remained untouched and stayed the same. Therefore, the changes of 60’s Britain did not create a permissive society.
I'm going to quote in Puddles the Monkey now so she can move your thread to the right place if it's needed.