The audio-visual culture of Europe right after 1945 was a culture in ashes in a Europe soon to be divided into east and west under the Cold War. It was a Europe where nation-states had to reconstruct and revitalise a cinema culture damaged by war, and where television did not emerge until the 1950s, or in some countries even later. Already during the 1980s, a cultural policy and a policy for film and media was starting to develop, and both the MEDIA programmes (from 1987) and the EURIMAGE programme (from 1988) represented the institutionalisation of support for the diversity of film and media culture in Europe as a whole. This article explores European images in cinema and television culture during the postwar period. It also discusses fascism and new wave cinema in Southern Europe, new wave cinema in Scandinavia and the rise of a modern welfare culture, European media culture and the Communist ‘Ice Age’, European art television and national fiction series, the transnational power of television, documentary film and television, and digital television and film in European perspective.
There is no doubt that planners, architects, and designers, or anybody involved with creating works addressed to the public, would have testified to the overwhelming importance of a comprehensive sense of a new postwar world, most definitely for the first twenty years after 1945. It was a period that followed what appeared as the ‘zero hour’, marking the end of the most terrible war in history. There was a sense of a new beginning that aimed at ‘making good’ what the war had destroyed and pacifying the evils of dictatorship. But not only that; the ‘reformers’ aimed higher, at creating a world which was ‘better’ than any known before, and even the pre-war years in those countries that had not been under a dictatorship, such as Britain, were held to have been gravely deficient. Almost all other countries also took part in this ‘renewal’, chiefly under the banner of ‘modernity’. This article examines art, architecture, and design in Europe during the postwar period, looking at painting and sculpture as well as postmodernism.
Mass consumption and leisure are among the most fascinating and thought-provoking challenges for twentieth-century historians. It was precisely the initial phases of mass consumerism that prompted Norwegian-American economist Thorstein Veblen to warn of the consequences of ‘conspicuous consumption’ and misguided materialism in his 1899 The Theory of the Leisure Class. In Veblen's estimation, new-money leisure classes could dress up their pretensions and social status with a wasteful display of commodities. It was television more than any other factor that introduced people to the new world of things. Sports claimed a prominent place on television and in leisure life throughout Europe in the second half of the twentieth century and beyond. Tourism emerged from the ashes of World War II as one of the best prospects for European economic recovery and for providing relief for restive, war-weary Europeans only too happy for a few days of holiday respite. The second half of the twentieth century gives scholars every reason for pause in assessing the intertwining of citizen and consumer.
Ido de Haan
One of the most striking features of Europe's postwar history is the emergence of the welfare state. Even though the first social policies had already been introduced in the 1880s, and while many of the organisational forms that became entrenched after 1945 were initiated in the first half of the twentieth century, the size and impact of the postwar welfare state was unprecedented. Even more remarkable was the widespread consensus with which structural social and economic reforms were implemented. The deep political and social rifts of the 1920s and 1930s and the lack of trust in democratic means to overcome these confrontations had been replaced by the acceptance of an interventionist state and parliamentary democracy as the way to solve conflicts about the way in which this state distributed social goods. The swift and consensual growth of the welfare state is also remarkable because most western European countries were governed by conservative governments, or coalition governments in which Social Democrats had to share power with conservative Christian Democrats and Liberals.