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State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974 [Hardcover]

Dominic Sandbrook
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)

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Book Description

30 Sep 2010

In the early 1970s, Britain seemed to be tottering on the brink of the abyss. Under Edward Heath, the optimism of the Sixties had become a distant memory. Now the headlines were dominated by strikes and blackouts, unemployment and inflation. As the world looked on in horrified fascination, Britain seemed to be tearing itself apart. And yet, amid the gloom, glittered a creativity and cultural dynamism that would influence our lives long after the nightmarish Seventies had been forgotten.

In this brilliant new history, Dominic Sandbrook recreates the gaudy, schizophrenic atmosphere of the early Seventies: the world of Enoch Powell and Tony Benn, David Bowie and Brian Clough, Germaine Greer and Mary Whitehouse. An age when the unions were on the march and the socialist revolution seemed at hand, but also when feminism, permissiveness, pornography and environmentalism were transforming the lives of millions. It was an age of miners' strikes, tower blocks and IRA atrocities, but it also gave us celebrity footballers and high-street curry houses, organic foods and package holidays, gay rights and glam rock.

For those who remember the days when you could buy a new colour television but power cuts stopped you from watching it, this book could hardly be more vivid. It is the perfect guide to a luridly colourful Seventies landscape that shaped our present from the financial boardroom to the suburban bedroom.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 768 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (30 Sep 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846140315
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140310
  • Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Superb ... vivid ... magnificent ... Anyone who was there should read it: and so should anyone who was not (Simon Heffer Literary Review )

Hugely entertaining, always compelling, often hilarious (Simon Sebag Montefiore Sunday Telegraph )

Thrillingly panoramic ... he vividly re-creates the texture of everyday life in a thousand telling details (Francis Wheen Observer )

Masterly ... nothing escapes his gaze (Independent on Sunday )

Splendidly readable ... his almost pitch-perfect ability to recreate the mood and atmospherics of the time is remarkable (Economist )

There is so much to enjoy ... Neatly interweaving his interpretation of the Heath years with insightful reflections on everything from racism in television to the rise of self-sufficiency, football hooliganism and sex comedies, Sandbrook has produced a memorable portrait of Britain in an era of angst and upheaval (Sunday Times )

Sandbrook is an inveterate demolisher of myths (Independent on Sunday )

This epically enthralling account of the Seventies will be read with embarrassed recognition by those who lived through it and disbelieving astonishment by those who missed it (Independent )

About the Author

Dominic Sandbrook was born in Shropshire in 1974, an indirect result of the Heath government's three-day week giving couples more leisure time. He is now a prolific reviewer and commentator, writing regularly for the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Sunday Times. He is the author of two hugely acclaimed books on Britain in the Fifties and Sixties, Never Had It So Good and White Heat.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total historical immersion 23 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback
I was a child in the early 1970s, the period this book covers, and so whilst some of this was familiar to me, most of it was not. And anyway, when you're a kid, eating by candlelight and reading books under the bedclothes with a torch is exciting rather than a complete pain - my poor parents trying to keep a normal life! It's a complete immersion in early 1970s culture and politics. Nothing's missed - even football and television are covered to make sure you have a grasp of the country as a whole. I found it hard to get into at first but once I was gripped, fairly romped through to the end, so if that's your first response too, persist. I think I didn't immediately respond to the way he was organising his material, but once you get into the swing, it does work.

I particularly liked his fairness. Even as I reached the end of the book, I realised that I've no idea about his politics. That's not to say he lets people get away with things - all sides come in for criticism at some stage or another. But it's probably the best kind of historian to read, unless you know you want polemic. If you're wondering if this tells you anything about Scotland in the 1970s, the answer is no - as with lots of historical overviews, it's mostly about England, though because of the events of the period, Northern Ireland is extensively (and to my mind well) covered. But it's a very good general overview, particularly if you're looking for something to help you understand the politics of the crazy four years that was 1970 to 1974.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant. Doesn't flag for a single page 11 Oct 2010
By Chris Widgery VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have not read Mr Sandbrook's other two books, covering the 50s and 60s, but will definitely be doing so now. This book covers four years 1970-74 and, whilst 700 pages seems a lot for four years, he needs every one of them. He focuses primarily on the political and economic scene, with the travails of the Heath government, but brings in sport, entertainment, sex, fashion and food. I found it both informative and illuminating but most of all, I found it hugely enjoyable, He is a very good writer and knows when to provide serious historical analysis and when a waspish comment from Kenneth Williams. Mr Sandbrook also doesn't let himself be too constrained by chronological order or his period - so he does drift about into the late 60s and as far as the early 80s. This just adds to the whole thing.

I really didn't know much about the three day week, about the miners' strikes, our entry into Europe or, well, much about the time at all (I was born in 1972). I do now.

This is great. If you have the slightest interest in the period, read it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Continues the story 5 Jun 2013
By traveller TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This volume takes us into the early 70's and as I was a teenager then, this is an informative read about the state of the country when I was growing up. Very well researched and well written, there are once again lots of anecdotes, quotations and observations to make it yet an another enjoyable read in the series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb. But also incredibly readable 7 Aug 2012
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It's unusual to find a history book that's written with this much style and punch. There are plenty of weakly constructed books that can fill you in on all the facts, but which will send you to sleep in the process. And there also exist highly readable books, which due to factual wavering, lack authority.

This is neither: a totally watertight, very gripping, beautifully described history of the first four years of the seventies. Every generalisation is accurately measured, every story elegantly told. Just enough period detail, just enough historical perspective, and you actually look forward to getting back to the grim years of 1970-174. A really astounding achievement. Can't wait to order the previous two now!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars State of Emergency 16 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Bought this book for father, as a birthday present, as we have previously enjoyed Dominic Sandbrook's books of the 1960s. I had cheated and got it from the library so had read it but had seen the TV series first. Growing up as a teenager in the 1970s the book gives excellent historical context to the changes of the time linking them to politics, economics and social movements. Can't wait for the next book in what is turning out to be a masterpiece in popular (but certainly not dumbed down) history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Ch - Ch - Ch - Ch - Changes" 26 Oct 2010
By The Wolf TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Dominic Sandbrook has written a very big book about
a relatively narrow window in time : 'State Of Emergency.
The Way We Were : Britain, 1970-1974'. I note that the
author was born in Shropshire in 1974 and that he has
also written another book about the life and times of
this small island : 'White Heat : A History Of Britain
In The Swinging Sixties' (2006). I am old enough to have
known and survived both decades. 'State Of Emergency'
brought back a whole flood of memories (some less welcome
than others) to me. A list of names to raise smiles
and shivers in equal measure. David Bowie (Huzzah!);
Mary Whitehouse (Booo!); Arthur Scargill (If you picket it
never gets better!); Edward Heath (Yawn!); Harold Wilson (Aww!)

Mr Sandbrook's treatise provides a robust and insightful analysis of
his subject. The economic crisis; the rise of feminism; the Common Market
(groan!); the "permissive" society and all its (longed-for) little evils;
the gaudy excesses of glam rock; the three-day week and power cuts.

The English have never truly had an appetite for revolution.
We get a big cross and upset for a while and admire or abhor
the few who dare to put their heads and hearts in the firing
line, then we revert to what we're best at. Grumbling.

The financial disasters of the last two years cast a long
shadow backwards in time. 'State Of Emengency' is a book which
resonates deeply with our current crisis. It is as clear
now as it was then : those who would rule us have as little
idea as we do about how to pull us all out of the mess.
Come the revolution! I don't think so!

A fine book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 6 days ago by AndyT
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, very well written, not much original research or...
It's worth reading if you're interested in the seventies. It's very well-written and compelling, if also somewhat long. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Zachary Abraham
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Last Days of Pompeii"
If witnessing some political events is like `watching a car crash', then reading this brilliant, compelling account of the 1970s is like reliving something similar but on a far... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Number13
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Sandbrook is such a great social historian. This is the first of his that I read and am now seeking out everything. Full of sharp observations and insights; and reads very well. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Medge
3.0 out of 5 stars Had to give up
I think Dominic Sandbrook is brilliant,especially his tv documentaries but for me this book is just way way too long. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kevin Bradley
5.0 out of 5 stars State of emergency
Being interested in this period this makes interesting reading and quite an eye opener. Recommended. Well written and easy to read.
Published 5 months ago by Mr. E. Goody
5.0 out of 5 stars Hate History, try this.
Lucid style that makes for easy and fascinating reading. All the different facets that made the British society then are all effortlessly interwoven and explained in captivating... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Michael
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but...
This is an very readable book. Dominic Sandbrook is excellent on the politics of the Heath era --- the strikes, economic failures and the growing anarchy in Northern Ireland. Read more
Published 7 months ago by DJK
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
This is a wonderful book, well written, detailed and the style of writing enjoyable. The author knows his stuff and, although it is a long read, very rewarding. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Diego
5.0 out of 5 stars I remember it but not very well!
I was a teenager during the 70s and it was fascinating to read this history of the times. As a teenager I really didn't register a lot of the politics at the time but even as an... Read more
Published 11 months ago by John Smith
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