This article reviews the history of the Lawrence myth in the course of the 20th century. Since Lawrence's life was rich in ambiguity and ambivalence, it has been passed on among biographers and commentators in a way that has made the real person all but disappear behind the myth. Indeed, the hero himself was eager to cultivate his own legend. An early protagonist of popular culture, Lawrence is shown to have served specific psychological needs for each decade after the Great War. In the immediate post-war era, he embodied the past glory of individual heroism that had vanished in the mass actions of trench warfare. In the dire conditions of the late twenties and early thirties, he was perceived by many to be Britain's hope for a better future, despite his apparent desire to retreat to the anonymous life of a private soldier. Even after his death, clouded in mystery, Lawrence maintained this rôle, being transferred to the realm of what might have been. With decolonization and the loss of the imperial spirit after the Second World War, the fascination of the lone hero began to fade away. At the same time, the psychological analysis and debunking of his personality gained momentum. Despite the occasional new biography, Lawrence of Arabia seems to have lost his enigmatic appeal as well as his function for British national identity.
This article examines conflicts of gender relations during the interwar period in Britain. It centres on a discussion of Walter Greenwood’s successful novel Love on the Dole (1933) as a representative case study of working-class coping strategies in the face of unemployment and dearth. While the interwar period has sometimes ambiguously been named The Age of Illusion, even The Long Week-end, the 1930s with their consistently high unemployment rates in the industrial north have been termed Devil’s Decade, Pink Thirties, or, quite plainly, The Hungry Thirties. Gender relations could not remain unaffected by these constraints on everyday life: Whereas it had been a commonly shared view in the working classes that the husband had to be the bread-winner and the wife’s place was at home, these established gender roles could no longer be taken for granted. Increasingly, they were reversed: Men who lost their jobs stayed at home, while their wives went out to work to support the family. As a result, notions of gender identity, self-respect, and morality had to be redefined. British re-armament and the outbreak of the Second World War created a fundamentally different prospect by mobilizing the entire workforce of men and women alike. The resulting full employment provided a precondition for Labour’s postwar welfare state, which brought with it a return to traditional gender roles by the 1950s