The Only Way Is Up:  Self-Employment in Britain, 1950-2000

The Only Way Is Up:  Self-Employment in Britain, 1950-2000

History Hangout: Conversation with Amy Edwards


The self-employed have many motivations for choosing or accepting their working arrangements. A business model that taps into the desire for people to “work for themselves” can mobilize the capital, networks, and labor of large numbers of people at comparatively low cost. Whether through franchising, direct-selling, or other methods, major firms became enablers, advocates, and beneficiaries of self-employment.  

The latest research by Dr. Amy Edwards, senior lecturer at the University of Bristol, focuses on the tangle of personal and corporate interests around self-employment. While the top-down element of the franchise or direct-sales relationship is evident, the personal motives of the self-employed franchisee or direct-sales representative could make the arrangement mutually profitable. Bringing her family’s story into conversation with archival materials, including the Avon collection at the Hagley Library, Edwards explores the cultural as well as political and economic aspects of self-employment in late twentieth-century Britain. 

In support of her work, Dr. Edwards received funding from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library.

The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.