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The Last Dance: 1936, the Year Our Lives Changed [Paperback]

Denys Blakeway
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 May 2011

'The year has, indeed, begun in gloom. The King ill, and Kipling dead . . .' so wrote the diarist Chips Channon in 1936 as George V lay on his deathbed at Buckingham Palace. The passing of two such pillars of the establishment sent tremors through the nation and heralded the ending of the old order.

1936 was to be an extraordinary year: at home social and constitutional crisis threatened, while in Europe, the dictators were on the march. It was the year of the abdication and civil war in Spain. The tectonic plates of history were shifting - Britain would never be the same again.

The Last Dance is told using the accounts of those who lived through this turbulent period. Through extracts from diaries of shopkeepers, socialites, bishops, and volunteers in Spain, and the memoirs of the unemployed, housewives and hostesses, as well as the contemporary accounts of politicians, journalists and poets, Blakeway offers a compelling and vivid account of a turning point in our nation's story.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719523931
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719523939
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 413,603 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Denys Blakeway is an author and television producer with an abiding interest in the history of the twentieth century. His latest book, 'The Last Dance', profiles with insight and wit the amazingly eventful year of 1936. It was the year of the abdication of Edward VIII (as featured in the film 'The King's Speech'), Hitler's march into the Rhineland, the Berlin Olympics, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Jarrow March - and much more. It was truly a pivotal year in the troubled decade before the Second World War.

Denys was born in London in 1955 and spent his early years in Greece, a country with which he stll has a close connection. Alongside writing books he has made many television and radio programmes about contemporary history, politics, religion and the arts. In 1993 he wrote and produced 'Thatcher, The Downing Street Years' for BBC television in which Margaret Thatcher gave an enthralling account of her time as Prime Minister. The following year he set up Blakeway Productions, an independent production company, which has made many hours of quality radio and television documentaries (

Alongside 'The Last Dance' Denys has written books about British nuclear tests in the 1950s, the Falklands War and The Queen (whose family history has been the subject of many of his programmes).

Denys lives in Hampshire, England. He is married to Denise Johnstone-Burt, the publisher, and has three daughters.

Product Description


'An absorbing presentation...colourful and cinematic' (Piers Brendon, Sunday Times)

'Vivid... illuminating... four stars' (Mail on Sunday)

'Stimulating and highly readable... absorbing' (Geoffrey Wheatcroft, New Statesman)

'Witty... there are many good stories... a keen eye for telling detail... a lively book' (Michael Burleigh, Spectator)

"Absorbing... the divided society of time is lucidly portrayed... colourful and cinematic. It vividly recapulates key themes played out during the 1930s" (Sunday Times)

'Denys Blakeway has triumphed with this book, writing with humour and sophistication about all forms of British life' (Lady)

'A surprisingly vivid and enjoyable study of what turns out to be a semina year - 1936 . . . Blakeway brings a TV producer's eye to the sweep of history and enlives it with a plethora of fresh insights and anecdotes' (Anthony Horowitz, Sun Tel Christmas books)

'Politicians, poets and pacifist clerics share a brilliant, crowded canvas, with the sinister figure of Hitler looming in the background. Blakeway hardly misses a trick' (Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

An absorbing account of a turning-point in British history

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Dance 17 Jun 2010
This is a great book, it is very enjoyable to read and gives a great insight into not only 1936 but the wider context of prewar British social history.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'd give this book 6 stars if I could. 24 Dec 2010
By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER
Denys Blakeway has taken Britain in a single year, 1936, and written a marvelous history. It's the best history book I've read this year in terms of writing and research. Maybe one of the best I've ever read. The book is not yet available in the US; I read a copy I had sent to me from the UK.

The year 1936 was the fulcrum year in the 1930's. The year began with the death of King George V in January, which was an "orchestrated death", easing the ailing monarch to the next world in time to make coverage in "The Times", the newspaper deemed best to announce the King's death. His son, David, ascended to the throne, a most reluctant king. He was deeply-in-passion with twice married American, Wallis Simpson. The year would end with David - now known as Edward VIII - and his abdication. But what a busy year and Blakeway makes the most of events in between.

The fulcrum effect in Britain was the dawning realisation that no matter how much a future war would be regretted after the horrors of WW1, war with Germany was almost a certainty. Hitler's advance into the Ruhr Valley, in clear violation of the Versailles Treaty, brought home the fact that Hitler would need to be stopped, eventually. Italy's Mussolini's taking over of Ethiopia and the Spanish Civil War were also rude wake-up calls to the British government that war was likely.

Blakeway covers the economic situation in Britain as well has he does the political and social ones. The country was beginning to emerge from the depths of the world-wide Depression but there was still wide-spread poverty and long-lasting unemployment in pockets of the country. A march by the unemployed men from Jarrow, a former ship building city in north east England fallen on hard times, was led by fiery MP Ellen Wilkinson.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Really lively account 24 July 2010
No original research but lively and engaging account of 1936, centred around the King's abdication but bringing in detailed chapters on a number of other relevant issues such as the Spanish Civil War etc. Some unusual material too. Very good value for money.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Last Dance 24 Sep 2010
By A Customer
Format:Kindle Edition
A fascinating insight into this crucial year. Denys Blakeway's lively writing takes the reader on an extraordinary journey from the ballrooms of high society to the barricades of Barcelona. A particulary interesting chapter sheds light on the Jarrow March. A book that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of the past era 2 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was an excellent book, so much so that I have read it 3 times since having it. It falls into my own experience of the 30's, 40's etc.
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