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Get in touch – share your opinions on history and our magazine


I enjoyed your article (The Big Story: The War at Home, February 2016. However, I am 82-years-old and have a clear memory from the age of seven, so I would take issue with some of the statements.

Firstly, the ‘Spiv’. This term didn’t come into use until after World War II (about mid-1946 or later), when the shortages became more severe. The Spiv’s product was rubbish. He sold damaged or discontinued stock, obtained in large quantities from an ordinary supplier at a ‘knockdown’ price.

“Although there were criminal gangs, most black market traders were ordinary people”

He then sold these goods from a suitcase at the side of the road until ‘moved on’ by the police. The wartime black market was very different. The products offered were usually the genuine article, albeit at an outrageous price. Although there were criminal gangs operating on a large scale, most black market traders and agents were ordinary people. Everybody was at it. They were shopkeepers, small traders, pub landlords and people who, before the war, would have operated as bookies runners, such as office cleaners or factory maintenance men. I recall that, like everybody else, my dad would obtain the odd packet of ‘fags’ or my mum the odd half-pound of sausages from other than the offcial sources.

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The April 2016 issue of History Revealed.