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J.B. Priestley. Connector What was the family name?. J.B. Priestley. LO Learn the historical context of the play. Plot.

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J b priestley

J.B. Priestley


What was the family name?

J b priestley1

J.B. Priestley


Learn the historical context of the play.


The Birling family are spending a happy evening celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling to Gerald Croft - a marriage that will result in the merging of two successful local businesses.

Yet, just when everything seems to be going so well, they receive a surprise visit from an Inspector Goole who is investigating the suicide of a young girl.

The questions he asks everyone relating to the case reveal that they all have secrets linking them to the tragedy.

What actually happens in the play?

To understand aic
To understand AIC…

  • You must know what was going on at the time.

  • In other words, you need the social and historical context!

  • In today’s lesson we will put the play into context and check your understanding of the plot.

Laptop task
Laptop task

  • Research the years between 1912-1945.

  • What do you think were the top five most important historical events during those years?

  • Rank them, most important first.

Did you include
Did you include?

  • WW1

  • WW2

  • Wall Street Crash

  • Great Depression

  • Holocaust

  • Titanic

  • Atomic bomb invented

  • Entertainment

  • Cars mass produced

Why these years
Why these years?

AIC was written in 1945


It is set in 1912.

1912 to 1945This was the period of the Russian Revolution, two appalling world wars, the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb.


To put this play into context you need to know a little about J B Priestley's life and political views, and about some of the huge changes that took place in the world during the first half of the 20th century.

J b priestley2
J. B. Priestley

John Boynton Priestley was born in Yorkshire in 1894. He knew early on that he wanted to become a writer, but decided against going to university as he thought he would get a better feel for the world around him away from academia. Instead, he became a junior clerk with a local wool firm at the age of 16.

1912 class distinctions
1912 - Class Distinctions

Poor Families

Wealthy Families

Context 1912 1945
Context 1912 -1945

An Inspector Calls is as much about 1945 as it is about 1912.

Despite Birling’s smugness, the history of Britain from 1912 onwards was far from trouble free.

Make sure you know what happened!

The 1945 audience would know all of this
The 1945 audience would know all of this!

He is wrong!

He makes these statements with confidence, but the audience would know that he is incorrect!

JB Priestly is deliberately making him look foolish – the middle class were wrong to think they were safe at the top, and he has created the character of Arthur Birling to show a classic example of this!

  • How do you think they would have reacted to the following statements from Arthur Birling?

  • “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” (about The Titanic)

  • “Fiddlesticks! the Germans don’t want war!”

  • “we’re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity”

  • “silly little war scares”

Recap between 1912 1945
Recap - Between 1912 - 1945

  • Huge change in history.

  • Two world wars, disaster, depression.

  • People wanted change!

Task peas paragraph
Task - PEAS paragraph

Why did JB Priestly choose to set the play in 1912, when he wrote it in 1945?

  • “unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable” (about The Titanic)

  • “Fiddlesticks! the Germans don’t want war!”

  • “we’re in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity”

  • “silly little war scares”

Success criteria
Success Criteria -

  • Mention the audience knows things the characters don’t (dramatic irony).

  • Talk about the effects on the audience.

  • Try to include why the writer chose to set the play in 1912 when it was written in 1945.

  • Extension – try to include a literary device and state why it is used.

Model answer
Model answer

JB Priestly set the play in 1912 not 1945 in order to show that middle class people (such as Mr Birling) were wrong. This can be seen in the quote ‘unsinkable, absolutely unsinkable’. Mr Birling says this about the Titanic. The audience watching the play in 1945 would be fully aware that The Titanic sank and killed lots of people. This makes the character of Mr Birling seem foolish and his confidence seems false. JB Priestly included this deliberately, so the audience would dislike Mr Birling and everything he stands for. He seems pompous and arrogant, which is exactly how JB Priestly thought of the ruling upper classes. Moreover, Priestly uses repetition to make sure the audience hears this ridiculous statement.

Review mini quiz
Review – Mini Quiz

  • What year was the play written?

  • What year was the play set?

  • List 3 things that happened between these years.

  • What is it called when the audience know something the characters do not?

  • Write down a quote to do with the historical context of the play.