An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls Glossary


the location where the judge sits in court; used colloquially as shorthand for the legal and judiciary system as a whole


a town that Priestley invents in the North Midlands, UK, the broader setting of the Birlings and the play


a system of economic and social organization in which investors take financial risks in order to maximize profit. The means of production thus are controlled privately, and products are traded in markets. Capitalism seems to flourish when people specialize in particular tasks, and this division of labor makes owners, workers, and products interdependent, also often leading to high efficiency and higher overall standards of living. The socialist critique points out that the welfare of the workers--most of the people society--is not the primary motivation of the capitalist, leading to various kinds of alienation and unfair situations.

Chief Constable

the title given to the most senior police officer in charge of a local police force in England


strong bleach, used for cleaning, which would bring about a horrible death if swallowed


John William Dunne, a famous theorist on the subject of time, whose work Priestley was familiar with and fascinated by.

Honors List

(British spelling: "Honours List") The United Kingdom's honors system is a long-established way for the British monarch to reward bravery, service to the country, or achievements more generally. Birling is to be given a knighthood, an honor that Gerald's father already has.




A high honor conferred by the British monarch that descends from medieval chivalry. It carries the title "Sir" but not much else beyond the honor itself.


a general political term used to describe leftists, people who tend to want to change established traditions and cultural patterns in order to create a different, more "fair" distribution of wealth and privilege; the British term does not as often suggest leftist extremism as it does in the United States

miners' strike

a strike is a refusal to work by an organized group of workers, acting together in order to improve their situation (such as working conditions, wages, and benefits) over against their employer. The miners' strike was the industrial action taken in Britain as a result of working conditions and inadequate pay agreements for the workers in the coal mines. The strike concluded in October 1911 as a result of action taken by Home Secretary Winston Churchill, who later would lead the nation.

North Midlands

an area of England, usually thought to contain South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and Derbyshire


a general political term used to describe conservatives, those who tend to recognize the value of traditional cultural and moral values or even a hierarchical society, and who tend to encourage individual merit, hard work, and personal responsibility as the sources of wealth and honor; the British term does not as often suggest rightist extremism as it does in the United States


a political ideology which suggests that capitalism unfairly gives power and wealth to only a small fraction of society, meaning that a small group controls capital and runs society. As a possible political and economic system, socialism works to minimize differences of power and wealth so that everyone works mainly for the benefit of everyone else. Socialists, very generally, argue for equality, and maximizing each person's potential is limited by serving the best interests of everyone else. The capitalist critique points out that the limitation on entrepreneurship and redistribution of wealth and power tend to discourage people from working hard and taking responsibility for themselves, and that the ideology demands moral conformity rather than counting on charity--a view that socialists tend to see instead as selfishness.


a slang term for drunk or intoxicated


The RMS Titanic was a massive, Olympic-class passenger liner which famously sank despite being thought of as unsinkable. It sank about two weeks after the evening on which Priestley sets An Inspector Calls.