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The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain [Paperback]

Juliet Gardiner
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
Price: 10.39 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

3 Feb 2011

As ‘Wartime’ did for the 1940s, this book will grasp the broad spectrum of events in the 1930s in the words of contemporary witnesses drawn from metropolitan and provincial letters and diaries, newspapers, periodicals, books and the range of rich material available in the British Library.

J.B. Priestley famously described the 'three Englands' he saw in the 1930s: Old England, nineteenth-century England and the new, post-war England. Thirties Britain was, indeed, a land of contrasts, at once a nation rendered hopeless by the Depression, unemployment and international tensions, yet also a place of complacent suburban home-owners with a baby Austin in every garage.

Now Juliet Gardiner, acclaimed author of the award-winning Wartime, provides a fresh perspective on that restless, uncertain, ambitious decade, bringing the complex experience of thirties Britain alive through newspapers, magazines, memoirs, letters and diaries.

Gardiner captures the essence of a people part-mesmerised by 'modernism' in architecture, art and the proliferation of 'dream palaces', by the cult of fitness and fresh air, the obsession with speed, the growth and regimentation of leisure, the democratisation of the countryside, the celebration of elegance, glamour and sensation. Yet, at the same time, this was a nation imbued with a pervasive awareness of loss – of Britain's influence in the world, of accepted political, social and cultural signposts, and finally of peace itself.

Frequently Bought Together

The Thirties: An Intimate History of Britain + We Danced All Night: A Social History of Britain Between the Wars + Wartime: Britain 1939-1945
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Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (3 Feb 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007314531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007314539
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 106,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘The cinematic clarity of Gardiner’s descriptions of accidents and ceremonies tells more about the decade than a page of statistics.…or the depth of its research, the quality of the writing and the sheer richness and vibrancy of the material, this is a quite outstanding work of social history’ Telegraph

‘It is comfortably the definitive account of a decade that has been much maligned’ Daily Telegraph

‘A definitive, vividly detailed book on a complex decade, which is a joy to read’ History Today

From the Author

The Thirties: An intimate History started life under another name `Sitting on a Jigsaw', and that's how I think of the 1930s still: a fascinating series of pieces, that it's hard to fit together. Mass unemployment, hunger marches and slum dwellings alongside growing prosperity, glamour, swing, glitzy shops, modernist architecture, an obsession with speed. There was a passionate belief in a brave new world that science and progressive politics could bring about, and yet fascism and communism and ultimately war were also the reality. I have always found the Thirties an endlessly fascinating decade, and the only way to bring them to life was to write an intimate history, following the complex experiences of as many British people as possible as they lived through those complex pre war years.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Lid Lifted on The Thirties 5 April 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Juliet Gardiner's work is a heavyweight in every sense, but the strain on the arms is well worth the effort. Her book is rightly sub-titled an intimate study for that is precisely what it is. We often tend to view the Thirties as little more than a dull prelude to the following decade but Ms Gardiner's work takes us into territory that is usually glossed over because we all know what happened next. Because of its length many may find this a daunting book but Ms Gardiner shares with many contemporary historians an easy facility with words and the text flows smoothly and the sheer volume of the work ceases to be a deterrent if it ever was. For this reader there was a pleasing absence of polemic - the author does not, as so many are wont to do, seek to take sides and and treats such emotive issues as re-armament and the Spanish Civil War as phenomena to be explained rather than preached. After reading the book I was not only better informed but also felt much wiser.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Weighty Tome 22 Mar 2010
By S. Ross
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I brought it as a present for my mother, who is from that era, she found it a fascinating review and one that brought back good and bad memories of a different England, whilst also providing an insight into events that happened, but which she only remembered one aspect of. This is the advantage of waiting a few decades before trying to encapsulate an era or trying to give a rounded view of events, you can more fully judge and give an overview based on multiple inputs. With a tongue slightly in the cheek she reported that it was heavier than she might have liked for bedtime reading, perhaps I should have waited for it to come out in paperback?
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A big fat history book 6 July 2010
By Imelda
I really enjoy a big fat history book and I really enjoyed this one! From the beautiful enigmatic picture on the front jacket (I want to be that woman) to the satifying length of the text, everything was a delight.

Although the Thirties is not really a "forgotten" decade, it does rather get missed out between both World Wars other than some kind of sunlit uplands where everyone wore beautiful clothes and looked and danced like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or was downtrodden and poor like the Jarrow Marchers. Both extremes are examined here as well as everyday life for the majority of people and very interesting it is too.

I love Juliet Gardiner's books and look forward to the next one!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An engaging history of a tumultuous decade 29 Mar 2010
The 1930s, as Juliet Gardiner notes in the preface to her book, is not a well-regarded decade in British history, traditionally being perceived as a miserable time of unemployment at home and indifference to the growing evil abroad. In recent years, however, some have argued for a reinterpretation of the period, pointing out that it was also one in which a modern consumer society emerged in Britain, as the middle class enjoyed increasing affluence and access to goods. One of the great achievements of Gardiner's book is her holistic presentation of the decade, which incorporates both interpretations as a means of exploring the complexities and struggles of those years.

In examining the decade, Gardiner offers a chronological narrative that takes the reader through its many developments. Her approach is to use dramatic events of the period as a springboard for a broader examination of thematic issues; while this approach occasionally results in some repetitiveness, she nonetheless pulls it off with considerable skill. Moreover, no matter how expansive her focus is she never loses sight of the individual, primarily because she draws heavily from the writings and recollections of the people who lived through the decade, stitching together numerous accounts to show how they perceived and reacted to the times in which they lived. In doing so, she justifies her subtitle, successfully presenting an account that manages to be comprehensive while at the same time conveying the personal experiences of those who lived through the decade.

Overall, Gardiner succeeds in providing an engrossing and informative history of a tumultuous time.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Portrait of a Decade 11 Mar 2010
The poet W H Auden called it a 'low, dishonest decade'; others described it variously as 'the devil's decade', 'a dark tunnel', 'the locust years' and a 'morbid age' but as Juliet Gardiner impressively demonstrates in this monumental study the Thirties were much more complex. Certainly it was a decade blighted by high unemployment and abject poverty in many areas, particularly in the industrial regions of the North of England, Wales and Scotland. Certainly, too, political appeasement threatened to have fatal consequences. But some of Britain, especially in the South East and the Midlands, was, to quote the author, 'largely unaffected by the 'Great Depression', where the symbols of prosperity were the growth of home ownership, new light industries, a consumer society'. Ms Gardiner's survey ranges far and wide, embracing as it does a multitude of social, economic, political and moral subjects, some of which (such as the gap between the rich and the poor) continue to resonate to this day. This is a long book that extends to nearly 1,000 pages and is, perhaps, almost too detailed in places, but no one interested in Britain of the period should fail to find it instructive,cautionary and eminently readable. The subtitle, 'Britain's Forgotten Decade - An Intimate History', sums it up admirably because while the author's sweep is broad she does, indeed, convey a rare intimacy founded upon her humane depiction of the lives of ordinary people.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent history of the Thirties.
Published 16 hours ago by Jacqueline Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars In Depth view of the era
This author has gone to considerable lengths to explain the happenings in the era. Not an easy read but nevertheless well written
Published 11 days ago by Ann Bowyer
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book to have beside you
So much readable information, presented so well and so thoroughly, it will not leave you time for anytthing else to read.
Published 25 days ago by Mr. A. Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful thirties history
Superbly researched and full of detail and personal comment from this amazing period in history. Thoroughly enjoyable and a good read and reference
Published 4 months ago by David J. Barrington
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative but flawed
Ms Gardiner's fascinating survey of a darker side of the nineteen thirties in one European country contains a wealth of detail and a sympathetic awareness of the problems... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Michael Knight
4.0 out of 5 stars A doorstep but worth it
The first thing to say about this is that it's enormous and I wouldn't fancy approaching it in hardback! Read more
Published 14 months ago by Girl with a book
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
Firstly, the print is very small. It is crammed with facts and figures which is very interesting but hard going. Not an easy read, so disappointing. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Yvonne Henderson
1.0 out of 5 stars History buffs - give this a miss.
Very dull - too many quotes and not enough pace - very disappointing - for such an interesting decade this was the most uninteresting of books.
Published 15 months ago by Min
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad, but not great
The wording on the front didn't encourage me. 'Britain's Forgotten Decade'. Compared to the 1230s, maybe, or the 1730s? Read more
Published 23 months ago by Junius
4.0 out of 5 stars A MOMENTOUS DECADE
I really enjoyed this book.It is social hiostory written in an academic,but readable style.The aspect which struck me,and supports the quotation that'history repeats itself'was the... Read more
Published on 22 May 2012 by bibliophile
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