Dating 20th century photos
So it is as well to realise that the Left-wing intellectual Beatrice Webb’s first impression of the young Winston Churchill in 1903 was of a ‘restless, self-regarding personality’ with a ‘lack of moral and intellectual refinement’.On the other hand, in 1922 she came away with a very favourable impression of the future Fascist leader Oswald Mosley.In his 1955 diary, Harold Macmillan, at that time Churchill’s Defence Minister, recorded that at one Cabinet meeting Churchill proposed the slogan ‘Keep Britain White’ in response to unease about immigration from the West Indies.During the Second World War, Gladys Langford, a diarist in London, noted complaints about the children evacuated to the countryside.Back in 1912, one diarist is already worrying about ‘an enormous number of cheap foreign cars’ that are beginning to flood the market.
At its best, it opens up secret peep-holes on to some of the key events of the century, and allows us to see them from unexpected angles. People tell them to each other, and then forget them with the passing of the days.
Aptly enough, Elborough begins his lively compilation with Queen Victoria writing in her diary on January 1, 1900.
‘I begin today a new year & a new century, full of anxiety & fear of what may be before us.’ In some ways, this sets the mood for her fellow diarists throughout the ensuing century.
‘Lots of people are carrying cats about in baskets, evidently to be destroyed,’ wrote Gladys Langford: in a useful footnote, Travis Elborough writes that this led to a rapid increase in mice and rats in urban areas.
Likewise, the history books have it that Queen Victoria’s death in 1901 was deeply traumatic to the British.