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Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles Paperback – 2010


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Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles + White Heat: A  History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties 1964-1970 + State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974
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Product details

  • Paperback: 921 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus (2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349115303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349115306
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 4.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A clever and engaging study of Britain as it prepared to swing into the sixties. Never Had It So Good is very good indeed (Amanda Foreman)

A wonderful book -- a most accomplished, readable and convincing tour through seven years from Suez to Beatlemania. It is refreshing because it probes beneath the surface of events, dissolving many of the myths of the sixties and suggesting, quite rightl (Lawrence James)

Unforgettable vignettes and revelations in this prodigious and ground-breaking study of British life. (SUNDAY TIMES)

It is a tribute to Sandbrook's literary skill that his scholarship is never oppressive. Alternately delightful and enlightening, he has produced a book that must have been an enormous labour to write but is a treat to read. (OBSERVER)

Book Description

A fresh, enlightening and comprehensive history of Britain in the early 1960s by a supremely talented young historian.

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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By nicjaytee on 30 July 2006
Format: Hardcover
For some reason reviews of Dominic Sandbrook's histories of Britain in the 50's & 60's - "Never Had It So Good" & "White Heat" - are duplicated under both titles. A little confusing, but actually sensible as the two books are in fact the first and second parts of a single work. Which is? A brilliant, highly entertaining and extremely well written social & political history of a country in a period of huge change.

"Never Had it so Good" starts in 1956 but also encompasses a much wider overview of the whole of the 50's while, quite wisely, ending pretty sharply in 1963 when "the 60's" - in terms of what the phrase has come to mean - really started. And, the period it explores in assiduously researched detail is quite fascinating: an under-estimated and often forgotten decade of massive change, the individual & combined impact of which on UK society make for thoroughly absorbing reading.

"White Heat" covers the years from 1963 to 1970, picking up seamlessly from where "Never Had it so Good" left off and applying the same diligent research to a period that has already received saturation coverage. A mixed blessing, for the enormous amount of source material causes Sandbrook some difficulties in marshalling it into a cohesive whole. On the plus side, the numerous diaries of key politicians aid him in producing what must be one of the most authoritative political & economic studies of the period, but, on the negative side, the sheer amount of available material on social & artistic events causes him problems in ensuring that things are given their correct level of importance.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Gregory S. Buzwell TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 July 2007
Format: Paperback
There are many good things to say about this book. It is well written - indeed it bowls along like a fine novel - informative, entertaining and intellegent. But perhaps above all what most impressed me is the beautiful balance Sandbrook achieves between the political, the economic and the cultural. All of these very different elements are given their due respect and place in his narrative and consequently they combine together to give a vivid impression of what life was really like in the Britain of the late 50s and early 60s.

All of the heavyweight political figures are given sufficient space to make them live as individuals: Eden, for example, a man of high principle touched with arrogance for whom, perhaps, the post of prime minister came at a stage in his life when he was a little past his peak; and Macmillan, the Edwardian gentleman who was a whole lot sharper than he ever let on. Similarly the economics of post war Britain is explained in a serious and meaningful, but never dry, fashion. Cabinet rumbles over inflationary and deflationary budget options contain, in Sandbrook's hands, moments of surprising high drama with resignations and often rather childish temper-tantrums being far from uncommon. Similarly the scandals of the time, and in particular the Profumo affair, are given excellent coverage. It wasn't until I had read this book that I fully understood just why the affair between a fairly low-level minister and the (frankly gorgeous) party girl Christine Keeler rocked the Macmillan government to its very core.

But for me what makes this book a real joy - and what puts it above many other volumes of a similar nature - is the attention given to the cultural figures of the time.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By koink on 21 Jun 2005
Format: Hardcover
This wide-ranging history of only a few years in the fifties and sixties is a clever blend of political, social and cultural history. Because it relies heavily on anecdote and narrative, it triumphantly passes the test of readability. But this is not narrative for narrative's sake: it uses story to present incisive insights into the nature of the times and to correct some of the myths associated with the age.
The politics of the time are brought to life with lively portraits of the leading politicians. The profile of Macmillan, for example, is a gem. The culture isn't confined to high culture but enlivened with memorable portraits of the Beatles, the spy novels of the time and the television shows that enraptured the UK in the seven years covered.
At the centre of the social history is the picture of a newly affluent society which may or may not have sacrificed its traditional or moral values. In the memorable chapter, "Live Now, Pay Later" social and economic history are cleverly woven together. And in "The Provincial All-Stars" you get an equally impressive blend of culture and economics, not to mention a vivid portrait of Kingsley Amis.
This very long history will not be an endurance test for most readers. Like me, they will find themselves returning to it eagerly and even more eagerly waiting for volume 2, which according to this site, is due next year. I can hardly wait!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By paul stipe on 3 July 2006
Format: Hardcover
Well all I can say is what a book!!From the first page of the preface to the last page of the chapter 'On to 1964'I was hooked to this masterpiece.

Never has a book been written in such minute detail without ever becoming boring. After having the book you really are left with the feeling that you yourself have just lived through the 8 year period in question.The follow-up,White Heat 1964-70 is top of my birthday list and boy am I pleased that I only have to wait 7 weeks to start reading the next volume.This Is a classic. Please read it.
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