Dominic Sandbrook: Let Us Entertain You Final Episode (BBC-2 25 Nov 2015)


AIRDATE: Wednesday 25 November 2015 at 9.00pm on BBC Two

Episode 4 (of 4)

The final episode of Let Us Entertain You looks at the way in which post-war culture has seen the triumph of an idea that first took hold during the Victorian period: the rise of the individual.

Industrialisation may have led to a growth in collective identity, with the emergence of large, unified workforces and powerful unions, but the Victorian period also gave rise to the concept of individual identity and self-determination. This was the era of the novel with its first-person narrator and focus on the lives of individual protagonists; it was the age of Samuel Smiles and his emphasis on self-help: (“Every human being has a great mission to perform, noble faculties to cultivate, a vast destiny to accomplish.”)

These seeds were planted in the Victorian era, but reached fruition in the post-war years. Culture, after all, is egalitarian – talent trumps social background or circumstance. For better or worse, post-war culture has seen the powerful emergence of the individual: from John Lennon to John Self, and from Kate Bush to the seemingly endless stream of TV talent show contestants.