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Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) [Paperback]

David Kynaston
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

6 Oct 2008 Tales of a New Jerusalem
For the first time, the Sunday Times bestseller Austerity Britain is available in one complete paperback volume. Coursing through Austerity Britain is an astonishing variety of voices - vivid, unselfconscious, and unaware of what the future holds. A Chingford housewife endures the tribulations of rationing; a retired schoolteacher observes during a royal visit how well-fed the Queen looks; a pernickety civil servant in Bristol is oblivious to anyone's troubles but his own. An array of working-class witnesses describe how life in post-war Britain is, with little regard for liberal niceties or the feelings of their 'betters'. Many of these voices will stay with the reader in future volumes, jostling alongside well-known figures like John Arlott (here making his first radio broadcast, still in police uniform), Glenda Jackson (taking the 11+) and Doris Lessing, newly arrived from Africa, struck by the levelling poverty of postwar Britain. David Kynaston weaves a sophisticated narrative of how the victorious 1945 Labour government shaped the political, economic and social landscape for the next three decades.Deeply researched, often amusing and always intensely entertaining and readable, the first volume of David Kynaston's ambitious history offers an entirely fresh perspective on Britain during those six momentous years.

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Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) + Family Britain, 1951-1957 (Tales of a New Jerusalem) + Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-1959
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Product details

  • Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (6 Oct 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747599238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747599234
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Kynaston was born in Aldershot in 1951. He has been a professional historian since 1973 and has written eighteen books, including The City of London (1994-2001), a widely acclaimed four-volume history, and W.G.'s Birthday Party, an account of the Gentleman vs. the Players at Lord's in July 1898. He is the author of Austerity Britain, 1945-51, the first title in a series of books covering the history of post-war Britain (1945-1979) under the collective title 'Tales of a New Jerusalem'. He is currently a visiting professor at Kingston University.

(Photo credit: Michael Burns)

Product Description


`Few historians have the power to make you feel you actually inhabit the times they are writing about. Kynaston does. Crowding the pages of this exhaustive look at post-war Britain with hundreds of voices from all walks of life, he summons up the spirit of the age with precision and generosity' --Sunday Times, Book of the Decade

About the Author

David Kynaston was born in Aldershot in 1951. He has been a professional historian since 1973 and has written fifteen books, including The City of London (1994-2001), a widely acclaimed four-volume history, and W.G.'s Birthday Party, an account of the Gentleman vs. the Players at Lord's in July 1898. He is currently a visiting professor at Kingston University.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
205 of 211 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling social history 17 Jun 2007
By koink
This is an exemplary social history of Britain in the six years after World War 11, dazzling in its scope and impressive in its detail.

It covers the impact of the War and its aftermath on most major aspects of British society: class, health, crime, sport, culture (high and low), work, play, leisure, politics, race, the mass media and much more.

Moreover it does it readably. Kynaston seems to have learnt the lessons of the readability studies published at about the time that he covers, including the most important (and most often forgotten) of all: put flesh and blood on your facts, quotes and anecdotes. He does this by enlivening his narrative from beginning to end with a focus on people. Politics may be a clash of ideas but it is people who generate these ideas. Education is teachers and pupils in classrooms. Buildings and suburbs, cities and towns are the product of architects and planners, government officials and residents.

The readability studies of Flesch, Gunning and others said Be Specific and Kynaston bowls over his readers with a wealth of fascinating details. They said Illustrate with a Wealth of Anecdotes and Kynaston provides a veritable newsreel of little stories, weaving them together so seamlessly that the reader is scarcely aware that he is often making an incisive argument. This is because the argument is presented as narrative rather than the abstract analysis normally associated with academic historians.

The result is that you get the feel of time and place, the taste of food, the appearance of streets and towns and cities, the image and reality of buildings. This is, after all, social history, not political history. Politicians make their appearances and so does politics - but in a social context.
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232 of 241 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable History 15 May 2007
One of the best history books I have ever read. Whilst 700+ pages is daunting this is well written and very readable. Kynaston mixes the big events with tales of everyday living with quotes from Mass Observation, the pollsters of the day.

Most histories of the 1940s cover the war years and end with smiling faces celebrating VE day in May 1945. A return to normality would take several years. What followed was bleak austerity that is hard to belive from the comforts of 2007 that we so take for granted.

The author places events together so you can read events as they would have appeared in the newspapers of the day, or heard on the radio (only 20,000 TVs, and all of those within 3 miles of Alexandra Palace!). So Hiroshima, the Labour landslide election and people taking their first holidays - day trips to Blackpool, rather than holidays abroad - all take place within a few weeks in 1945. In the process the book debunks a few theories. Churchill's rebuff was not the lurch to the left dreamt of by some but a practical belief that Labour would deliver better housing and health services. Politicians and were trusted about as much they are today and promises of a brave new world were treated with apathy and disdain, not surprising when rationing was even more stringent than it had been in the war years.

Many of us have relations who lived through this period yet this age seems very distant and completely alien to modern society. There but 4 indian restaurants in the whole of Britain and no package tours, and certainly no ipods, computers, starbucks or playstations. If your grandparents say that those days were tough believe them but if they hark back to the good old days beware rose tinted glasses.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Enjoyable Trip Through Late 40s Britain 16 Dec 2007
By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This compilation of two books covering the period 1945 - 51 and intended to be the first two parts of a work that will progress to 1979, is very enjoyable and sweeps the reader along at a great pace. The daunting 632 pages thus become quite manageable. Kynaston covers the actions of the major movers and shakers in the government and in sport, architecture, industry and the unions, and the literary world. These action are contrasted with the feelings and attitudes of the people on the receiving end as judged by diarists and the results of the Mass Observation exercise that was still in place. Kynaston handles this wealth of material with great skill and moves through all these areas with great aplomb such that the narrative never becomes boring or a disjointed list of different topics.
Minor criticisms of this otherwise excellent book from someone who lived through the period might include a little too much space given to racial attitudes and a failure to really capture the feeling and appearance of bombed cities. There is also a failure to capture the atmosphere of a hospital of the time which was, of course, completely different to today, or the fear of unwanted pregnancy. There is also a tendency to anticipate new building that only really became significant after 1951. Nevertheless, these are relatively minor quibbles and I commend this book as a great read to all those interested in UK domestic history of the late 1940s, and look forward to further instalments.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intellectual tour-de-force 2 Mar 2009
The other reviews have summarised this book very well. It is extremely well-researched and written. My only criticisms are that the book is very much angled (IMHO) towards housing issues. I would have liked there to have been more detail, say, on the influence of the Korean war and the Nationalisation of the Railways. A few more pictures- say of early TVs, furniture, bathrooms, privies, fashion would have been useful.
Highly recommended - and not so much of a 'dry' read as one might have thought from the title.

RTJ Stevens 03/02/2009
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting insight
For one born in the late 50's this book gives an honest picture of post war Britain. Lots of the names and bills it contains are now or were well known. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Jim Dixon
4.0 out of 5 stars I was part of that!
Not quite what I expected, but seems accurate as it talles with my (young) experiences of those times and adds considerable background. Illuminating.
Published 6 days ago by DonPin61
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book. I learned so much about the background ...
This is a great book. I learned so much about the background to the birth of the NHS and the Town and Country planning act. All the contemporary quotes wonderful.
Published 8 days ago by hapless reader
2.0 out of 5 stars England, not Britain
This takes me right back to post-war days, and indeed the 60s when I grew up in Glasgow. It was commonplace at that time to say Britain and mean England. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Sue Reid Sexton
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay just
Gave it away eventually as not all that interested. I usually keep my books but donated this one to charity
Published 3 months ago by E.Scape
3.0 out of 5 stars Have your Thesaurus at the ready!
I bought the whole trilogy of 'A New Jerusalem' so I could read a modern history work about the period of my own Childhood (born 1946). Read more
Published 3 months ago by Mr. K. Heap
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Commentary
I have greatly enjoyed reading this fine book by David Kynaston very much as a companion to 'Never Again' by Peter Hennessy which covers the same same period , 1945-1951 , but very... Read more
Published 3 months ago by A.J. Reynolds
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb social history
A long but highly readable account of post-1945 British society. He emphasizes the great changes introduced by Labour in the postwar years, grand plans and setbacks.
Published 4 months ago by R. M. Ravitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Austerity Britain
Well researched social history - excellent for historical researchers, sociologists and fiction writers who want to get their facts right.
Published 6 months ago by Ms L L Crassus
5.0 out of 5 stars When I was young...
This book fills in the time in history when I presumed austerity to be the norm. As a child born in 1939, I did not recall butter... Read more
Published 6 months ago by catherine koppana
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