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First Class: A History of Britain in 36 Postage Stamps [Hardcover]

Christopher West
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Oct 2012

Every stamp tells a story. Ever since Queen Victoria's Penny Black first burst on to the scene, stamps have depicted history as it happens. From the rise and fall of Empire to the defeat of Hitler, from Victoria's coronation to the death of Diana, from the first railways and steamships to the advent of computers, every big event in British life has been reflected by a stamp.

Chris West has selected 36 of the most evocative, quirky and beautiful stamps in his collection and woven them into a witty and elegant popular history of the nation from 1840 to the present day. Each classic, lovingly-designed stamp is presented in full colour, revealing it to be both a work of art and a tantalising window into the character and spirit of its era.

Here is a history of Britain like no other, that will delight stamp collectors and lovers of history alike.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Square Peg (18 Oct 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0224095463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224095464
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.4 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 265,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write in various genres. I have written four crime novels set in China. I have written on business and entrepreneurship (The Beermat Entrepreneur and follow-ups). My first book was a travel memoir, written back in 1991, about a trip to China when China was a closed, remote place! My most recent book is First Class: a History of Britain in 36 Postage stamps.

Product Description


"Sometimes the simplest of ideas produces a gem of a book and this captivating history of 170 years of the postage stamp is really an excuse to examine British history" (Sally Morris Daily Mail)

"Entertaining nostalgia trip" (Express)

"Telling a nation's story through a selection of its stamps is an ingenious idea for a book, and Chris West has executed it with flair and imagination" (D J Taylor)

"Small but pefectly formed - 5 stars" (Ceri Radford Daily Telegraph)

"A splendid reminder of the philatelic glories of the past. These miniature gems are of the highest quality in design, subject choice and colour" (David Driver The Times)

Book Description

A quirky history of Britain through the postage stamp.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! 27 Oct 2012
A delightful social history of Britain, illustrated by stamps. Chris West mixes social commentary with history to reward the reader with his knowledge and insights - highly recommended!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like "QI" you will love this... 6 Nov 2012
This is a gem of a book - it was easy to read and each page had a " I didn't realise that" moment. It gave me a a real feel for the last 150 or so years of British history but in an easy and fun way to digest.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars nostalgic inspiration. 21 Nov 2012
An easy and entertaining read,
good to dip into, and revive memories!
This book has inspired my friends to re-discover their own stamp collections, and to encourage their children and grandchildren to take an interest.
I have used this successfully for topic work in school with 10 year olds.
This would make an ideal Christmas present.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A colourful and engaging treasure trove 20 Nov 2012
This is a fascinating romp through some of the most colourful episodes in Britain's history. If you liked Radio 4's 'History of the World in 100 Objects'; this is just the book for you - it doesn't claim to be a comprehensive historical tome; but rather a glorious treasure trove of insight.

As with '100 Objects', it takes Haiku-like discipline to extract vivid and engaging portraits from nothing more than a postage stamp (although they are unquestionably artifacts of both historical and artistic significance). With Chris West, we are in safe hands. He has an extraordinary ability to assimilate and simplify, with an eye for the amusing and interesting. Another review here says 'If you love QI, you will love this book'; and that's a fair summary - Chris writes like the ideal dinner guest: never droning, light of touch, and yet loaded with knowledge.

Incidentally, if you're a bit skeptical because it's hard to be encyclopaedic with a collection of vignettes, there are advantages, too. Unlike the usual Ferguson/Marr fare, West has no qualms about going right up to the new millennium; and isn't too afraid to make social judgements without the safe distance of history.

Highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
"First Class" certainly lives up to its name. I am not a stamp collector, but Chris West's quirky and entertaining account of the links between 36 iconic stamps and the history of the last two centuries is riveting. It even sent me back to leaf through a neglected family album of stamps compiled by Great Uncle Claude, to see which he had thought to collect - 5 as it turned out. West also turns a quizzical eye on some of the historic occasions of the period - both tragic and festive - from the Irish potato famine, the First World War and the death of Princess Diana to England's victory in the 1966 World Cup and the Queen's Silver Jubilee. West's lively style and offbeat take on many of these great events make this a compelling read - his assessment of the great philatelist George V, for example, who built up the royal collection into one of the world's finest - so large that noone knows how many stamps are in it. However "He is not an easy man to warm to. He was ill-tempered and lacked interest in art or science. His favourite hobby was shooting; he once killed 1,000 pheasants in a single day. His children were scared of him." And the king's last words when his heroic smoking habit finally caught up with him and encouraging courtiers optimistically suggested he might soon be well enough to revisit Bognor Regis?
"Bugger Bognor!"
This will certainly make a good Christmas present for anyone with a taste for popular history interestingly told - and might well help them unearth some hidden gems in long-forgotten albums.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PS.. it both informed and entertained 18 Nov 2012
Chris West can be forgiven for editing British history across his 36 stamp-inspired history. What we have is a fascinating insight into British politics, culture, social change and economy at certain cross-roads in 150 years of the nation. There is sufficient here either to ignite an interest in going deeper into British history, or to entertain over dinner. Overwhelmingly, the book celebrates the people who shaped Britain; their beliefs, actions, reactions. The style is authoratative, accessible and personal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fab book! 14 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I couldn't put this book down and will never again neglect to look at stamps very closely in future. Also, it brought back memories of my stamp collecting days long gone (with stamp hinges, swapping with my brother, etc) !
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very interesting book full of facts and stories. It was excellent value for the small price that I paid
It was delivered very quickly and I was more than satisfied. The book was entitled "First Class" and so was the treatment I received!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A first class book!
I thoroughly enjoyed this philatelic look at some of our recent history. A great idea and well put together. Read more
Published 4 months ago by JC
5.0 out of 5 stars Fulfilled
Sometimes you buy a product (Book, CD, DVD) and whilst happy with the purchase there are usually some annoying ommisions ie a Greatest Hit etc. Read more
Published 6 months ago by jonesy
5.0 out of 5 stars Quircky book
A lovely well written quirky history of Britain, I would highly recommend it if you want a fun concise history of Britain.
Published 7 months ago by Aimee Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars First Class Chris West
Chris West's book is a delight, and very original idea. The social history of Britain seen through the eye of the humble stamp. Cannot recommend highly enough. Excellent.
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Philately will get you nowhere. Ho ho.
This is an engaging enough read, but one that falls slightly short of its high-concept title. For philatelists, there's not really enough philately... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Ivan Zehdra-Maychayne
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
I bought this as a gift for my partner who is a serious stamp collector. He was so pleased with it as although he knows a lot about stamps there were quite a lot of interesting... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs Sylvia Hutchings
5.0 out of 5 stars Stamps don't just taste disgusting
Until I read this excellent book I considered stamps to be nothing more than foul tasting pieces of paper I was occasionally forced to lick. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Steve King
5.0 out of 5 stars safe to judge this one by its cover
As a child stamps offered glimpses of a hidden world; colour, history and wonder. Chris West has written a really great book, insightful and a joy to read. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Nicholas
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and novel
This is a fascinating book which certainly isn't limited in its appeal to philatelists. It is great for the general reader with an interest in social history and has a breezy... Read more
Published 17 months ago by boadicea
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Purchased as a Chrismas gift for a philatelic friend who was delighted with it. Hopefully he'll pass it to me when he's finished!
Published 18 months ago by bookworm
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