The Ted scare

Article English OPEN
Williamson, C (2014)
  • Publisher: Le Centre de Recherche et d'Etudes en Civilisation Britannique
  • Subject: D839 | D901 | D1

Emerging in South London in 1953 in a blaze of lurid headlines young toughs defined by their outlandish Edwardian style Jackets, the Teds were the original modern ‘Folk Devils’. They were also the pioneers of the fusion of popular music and youth culture when they adopted ‘Rock’n’Roll as their soundtrack. In addition the ‘moral panic’ around the Teds was to be the British manifestation of a global concern about juvenile delinquency, a concern that would culminate in the 1960 United Nations Conference on the prevention of crime and treatment of offenders held, appropriately in London. \ud The labelling of the Teds as deviant is a major moment in defining anxieties about youth, affluence and behaviour in post-war Britain. The teds were to encapsulate a growing generational divide but also alienation of youth from mainstream political movements that were all too willing to view them as a threat to social harmony. \ud The study of the Teds incorporates all three of the themes at the heart of this project. The labelling of the Teds was crucial in shaping the nature of their threat to the social order. The name itself would outlast the original Teddy Boys and become a synonym for all forms of youth deviance in the 1950s this process would culminate in the Teds being blamed for race riots in Nottingham and London in 1958. Some politicians seeking to roll back liberal developments in the criminal justice system most notably the abolition of corporal punishment in 1948 would grasp the disorder associated with the Teds. The Teds themselves would become increasingly ostracised, as there is evidence of social exclusion and victimisation of the young men by employers and others in authority. \ud The role of the Teds in shaping the debate on anti-social behaviour has however been largely neglected, even Stanley Cohen was to somewhat marginalise their contribution to the creation of moral panics around popular music and youth cultures, it is therefore appropriate and relevant to re-examine the ‘new Edwardians’ as the pioneer adolescent folk devils.
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