University of Sussex
Strimpel, Zoe.pdf (7.3 MB)

The matchmaking industry and singles culture in Britain, 1970-2000

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posted on 2023-06-09, 09:03 authored by Zoe Strimpel
This thesis charts the expansion of the British dating industry after 1970, using singles services as a lens for assessing the impact of a period of rapid sexual and gender-political change on romantic aspiration. Its central contention is that by studying mediated courtship, we gain a new window onto the very heart of change in late 20th century Britain – namely, the transformation of the gender order. Courtship lets us see how this transformation – normally studied in political, sexual, demographic or cultural terms – was played out in the everyday affective and social lives of individuals. The thesis is arranged in four chapters, with sources centring on first person testimony (Mass Observation diaries, oral history, reader letters, television interviews, memoirs) and newspaper discourse. The first chapter discusses the demographic, cultural and discursive context in which Britain’s expanding population of single people increasingly sought commercial, third-party romantic aid. Chapters Two and Three set out the structure of the mediated dating industry and its most prominent characters alongside an analysis of the flashpoints that shaped how it was perceived. In the final chapter, I turn to daters’ memory and experience in terms of their self-identifications, expectations and encounters. The evidence analysed here is used to argue for the emergence of a new and distinctive ‘single’ identity in the period. Moreover, by interrogating the production of romance and the conditions in which it could take place, I show that at the heart of heterosexuality in late 20th century Britain there existed a relationship between rapid change and older feelings. This dynamic has not so far been adequately accounted for by historians and is, I argue, integral to a full understanding of relational life in the period.


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