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A History of Modern Britain [Hardcover]

Andrew Marr
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 May 2007

A History of Modern Britain confronts head-on the victory of shopping over politics. It tells the story of how the great political visions of New Jerusalem or a second Elizabethan Age, rival idealisms, came to be defeated by a culture of consumerism, celebrity and self-gratification. In each decade, political leaders thought they knew what they were doing, but find themselves confounded. Every time, the British people turn out to be stroppier and harder to herd than predicted.

Throughout, Britain is a country on the edge – first of invasion, then of bankruptcy, then on the vulnerable front line of the Cold War and later in the forefront of the great opening up of capital and migration now reshaping the world. This history follows all the political and economic stories, but deals too with comedy, cars, the war against homosexuals, Sixties anarchists, oil-men and punks, Margaret Thatcher’s wonderful good luck, political lies and the true heroes of British theatre. It accompanies a major five-part documentary series for BBC television.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 655 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan; 1st edition (17 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405005386
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405005388
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew Marr was born in Glasgow in 1959. He studied English at the University of Cambridge and has since enjoyed a long career in political journalism, working for the Scotsman, the Independent, the Daily Express and the Observer. From 2000 to 2005 he was the BBC's Political Editor. He has written and presented TV documentaries on history, science and politics, and presents the weekly Andrew Marr Show on Sunday mornings on BBC1 and Start the Week on Radio 4. Andrew lives in London with his family.

Product Description


As in the days when he was the BBC's chief political editor, it is the clarity of his judgements, the arresting insights and the irrepressible wit that keep us hanging on to his words. Among his other qualities, Marr is the ideal history teacher that most people never had at school . . . It is a measure of Marr's professionalism that his judgements inspire the kind of trust which Tony Blair and his allies squandered through spin and outright lies. --.

This book certainly goes for impact . . . Skipping and dipping through these six hundred-odd pages is great fun, perhaps even (I give a quote for the eventual paperback's blurb) a damned good read . . . This book will be read with pleasure, for Marr's ironic tone and ever -present pleasant presence. --Bernard Crick, Edinburgh Review

Book Description

'Andrew...has a real talent for digging out the little anecdotes that bring history to life'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stick to what you know? 5 Dec 2008
I liked this book, and as an overview of the post war to modern day period, it's pretty acceptable but I was surprised at how much of his comments/narrative were seemingly only evidenced by politician's own memoirs. Not greatly partisan sources!! I was also annoyed by the sheer volume of typos - Had someone shot the editor? Perhaps after this performance they should have! I also found his forays into pop music and fashion quaintly embarrassing! My final comment, though not necessarily a criticism was how much more interesting and accurate (for me) his comments and observations etc appeared to be from 79 onwards, which I assume was when he became more closely involved with events through his journalism.
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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I originally bought this book after hearing about the TV programme and reading the reviews on here and also because I thought it would be a good education for me.

As I neared the end of the book I re-read the reviews here and was somewhat surprised to see some 1 and 2 star reviews, although on reading them I did agree with some of their content.

Overall the book as far as what I hoped to get out of it was 5 stars. Very readable and a great review of politics from 1945 until 2006.

However I do have some comments about it. I didn't quite understand the infrequent dips into non-political issues e.g. fashion in the 1960s. Although I can understand that this was an important backdrop to the political situation (more liberal rules etc) the 'dipping' was a little inconsistent, almost as if either Andrew Marr or the publisher had said 'Nice book can you do a few non-political bits please?'. I did enjoy the 'dips' but wonder whether the book would be better without them, or with more of them? On balance they could probably have been worked in within the theme of the politics hence my title for my review - the book shoudl be A Political History of Modern Britain.

I was also a bit disappointed that more detail was not given to decimalisation (a couple of lines) which as an 11 year old I remember very clearly - surely that was a political hot potato worthy of more discussion?

As for the reviewer who complained it was like A-level History, well I didn't do that and for me the depth of the writing was enough, but I accept that perhaps the book is very superficial, though I have to say highly enjoyable.

These comments would not have made me drop a star in my rating, but the appalling typos I am afraid do, so 4 not 5.

Well worth reading though despite my tiny reservations.
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253 of 274 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid, popularist history 26 May 2007
This is easy to read, general history for the average person in the street like me who has a broad interest in the life of the country but who hasn't got the background to read the "proper" histories. I love this because I can dip in and out, or I can read it in linear chunks. I love the style which is chatty and friendly. And the period interests me because it is really before I was around, so I see the echoes of it but never experienced these things for myself. A lot changed in Britain post war, and I didn't really appreciated how much until I read this.

I can't really comment on the absolute accuracy, and I'm sure it isn't definitive, but it is approachable. It's like a Bryson book of science rather than a Hawking, but with history.

It's quite bit and heavy in hardbook though, but if that is my principle complaint then take this as an unqualified recommendation!
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72 of 78 people found the following review helpful
This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read overview of postwar Britain but Marr does seem to get away with some shockingly wooly points that would have caused my history teacher's red pen to run out of ink!

The first chapters, about Britain's politics immediately after WW2 up to the 60s I thought were excellent, but as soon as he gets into economics, pop music etc it does become pretty sloppy tabloid generalisation. As a typical upper-middle class BBC journo and well-known chum of Gordon Brown he's also painfully PC, especially jarring in a history book, re. the unqualified good of multiculturalism, the NHS and welfare state, the liberal reforms of the 60s onwards etc. There's also a very sniffy attitude to the developments of business, the UK economy and consumerism.

Also it would be really useful in a future edition to occasionally include in the margins what year he's talking about. In an overview, thematic history it's very hard to follow exactly when specific things are happening, and Marr rarely gives any dates in his text.

Then there's the typos - I'm not that much of a pedant but I was seeing a glaring one every few pages! In a history book from a respected BBC journo this is really poor, and does make you wonder if some of the facts and quotes are in fact accurate, given that there was so little scrutiny in the editing process.
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105 of 117 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and enjoyable read of our times. 14 Jun 2007
By Twazzer
Quite clearly, Andrew Marr's television series - A History of Modern Britain, is a triumph and makes for entertaining viewing. The book which accompanies the series does the programmes justice. Readers should not be put off by its bulk as the book is compulsive and offers a very accessible insight to the key events and personalities which have shaped Britain since 1945. The book's style is witty and easy to read yet offers new ideas and opinions which will interest those with a more serious interest in the subject.

The period is in places a controversial and complex one, but Marr teases out a fine story of our times; adeptly combining Britain's political story with a more lighter social history with references to James Bond, game shows and television programmes. Although, a populist history, Marr does offer interesting insights and reassessments of key personalities of the era. In particular his reassessments of Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher gives much food for thought.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this history to anyone with an interest in our recent history as it is extremely accessible and enjoyable. Alongside this book, I would recommend the Dominic Sandbrook books - Never Had it so Good and White Heat - on Britain in the 1960's, which are equally entertaining and interesting.

A fine read!!!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Delivered on time packaged well
This was bought on behalf of my son.
So I have no comment, but he was very pleased with his purchase.
Published 2 days ago by JO-JO
3.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Marr - History of Modern Britain
Good to begin with but got too heavy for me, so had to leave it a while. Density was daunting. Haven't managed to get back into it yet. Not sure if I can be bothered.
Published 1 month ago by MS S AMATUZZI
5.0 out of 5 stars Really enjoyable.
For anyone interested in modern British history this is a very good book. Written in the authors lively style and divided into reasonable length chapters and sub-chapters, it's a... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Baggly
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book
The delivery came before the estimated time. I have not read it yet but browsed through and it looks as if I shall enjoy the content. New condition.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs M Clarke
4.0 out of 5 stars Shabby Country Chic canisters x 3 - failure to deliver
I have not reviewed the canisters as they didn't turn up. I contacted Amazon and the supplier. The supplier agreed to contact the carrier direct with regard to the missing package... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Helen Fullerton
4.0 out of 5 stars A failed (but enjoyable) attempt to educate myself
This is a fantastically researched and written book which I read on a 5 week trip around central America. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Discerning Reader/Viewer
5.0 out of 5 stars An Informative, Entertaining and Easy to read History of The 20th...
I am half way through this 600 page book and now begin to understand a lot of events which happened during my past 65 years. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robert Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written
Fascinating review of more recent history. Very well written in the author's very characteristic style. An easy read, and worth the little effort involved.
Published 2 months ago by K.M.Youings
4.0 out of 5 stars History of Modern Britain
It is OK as a summary of recent British History, amusingly written and very readable. With such a large subject the writer is, of course, unable to provide much detail though there... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nelson
4.0 out of 5 stars A history of modern Britain
Despite a subject matter that so many people find so dull and uninspiring these days ie politics.

This book is witty informative and thoroughly engaging a great insight... Read more
Published 2 months ago by MR GAVIN M YOUNG
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