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This accords with Wohl’s (1980) account of the self-consciously ‘lost generation’, associated with the First World War poets, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Siegfried Sassoon. According to Marwick, ‘[t]he great crisis of 1930–2 affected the youth movements as it affected British intellectuals: nudism gave way to Marxism, the free-floating international soul was replaced by a national conscience strongly aware of local economic and social evils’; and ‘in the period of “commitment” left-wing splinter groups proliferated, finally to be exposed in all their youthful fatuity by the test of the second world war’.

Gillis presents four ‘phases of life’ in pre-industrial society: childhood, youth, parenthood, and death or retirement. Gillis characterises youth as a period of ‘semidependence’: ‘a very long transition period, lasting from the point that the very young child first became somewhat independent of its family, usually about seven or eight, to the point of complete independence at marriage, ordinarily in the mid- or late twenties’ (Gillis, 1974, p. 2). However, the relative stability of generational categories in preindustrial societies did not always make for harmony.

There are, Mannheim argued, two components of the sociology of knowledge: ‘as theory it seeks to analyse the relationship between knowledge and existence; as historical-sociological research it seeks to trace the forms that this relationship has taken in the development of mankind’. Only through developing a social scientific approach to knowledge ‘can we hope to overcome the vague, ill-considered, and sterile form of relativism with regard to scientific knowledge which is increasingly prevalent today’ (Mannheim, 1936, p.

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