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When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies Hardcover – 7 May 2009


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When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies + Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s + Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 057122136X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571221363
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

The 1970s was the decade that formed my politics and Andy Beckett captures it perfectly. No-one will ever write a better biography of this decade that saw the twilight of social democracy and the beginning of the Thatcher/Reagan era which now too enters its twilight. I just couldn't put it down. --Ken Livingstone<br /><br />What makes this book such an evocative and riveting read is the archival record of an approaching thunderstorm, which he describes vividly and honestly. ... (A) compelling narrative. --Francis Wheen, Literary Review<br /><br />(A) beautifully written and hugely entertaining book. The author has the ability to make the prosaic seem exciting and some of his characters would be at home in a Victorian melodrama. --Roy Hattersley, Daily Telegraph

What makes this book such an evocative and riveting read is the archival record of an approaching thunderstorm, which he describes vividly and honestly. ... (A) compelling narrative. --Francis Wheen, Literary Review

(A) beautifully written and hugely entertaining book. The author has the ability to make the prosaic seem exciting and some of his characters would be at home in a Victorian melodrama. --Roy Hattersley, Daily Telegraph

Review

(A) fabulous book.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

117 of 123 people found the following review helpful By Alan Pavelin VINE VOICE on 24 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
On page 2 the author writes "I was born in 1969". As someone who took a keen interest in current affairs throughout the 1970s, I prepared myself to spot lots of mistakes from a writer who was only a child. However, the nearest I came to spotting one (not that I was particularly looking for them) was the omission from the index of Ian Paisley, who has a single mention (page 96).
This book turned out to be a thoroughly and scrupulously researched history of that derided decade, mostly political but also touching on matters like pop festivals. It is a detailed analysis, with the benefit of hindsight, from the beginning of the Heath era to the beginning of the Thatcher one. Beckett's list of sources, including books, articles, and TV and radio broadcasts from the time, runs to no less than 25 pages, and the book took 5 years to write. He personally interviewed several major players of the era, including Ted Heath, Denis Healey, Jack Jones (recently deceased), and Arthur Scargill. These interviews, with fascinating descriptions of the characters 30 years on, are particularly delightful. So any idea that someone who had just turned 10 by the end of the decade is unsuited to write such a book must be rejected.
The book is in 4 parts, entitled Optimism, Shocks, New Possibilities, and The Reckoning. The chapter titles are sometimes obscure until the reader has read several pages; "The Great White Ghost" refers to Heath, "Margaret and the Austrians" refers to Thatcher's espousal of the so-called Austrian school of monetarism, while "William the Terrible", which completely mystified me until almost the end of the chapter, refers to the US Treasury Secretary in 1976.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A. I. McCulloch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's difficult to believe that Andy Beckett was a child during the period he writes about so effectively. The social history of the Seventies has been well documented. This is not an addition to that canon, despite the cover hinting that it might be.
This is a fascinating book of political history with voices in the pages that have already passed from us. Beckett was insightful enough to realise that age might not necessarily prevent effective reflection and a sizeable chunk of the book is bolstered by the reflections of the late Sir Edward Heath - Beckett must have been one of the last people to interview Ted.

As I write this, the trade unionist Jack Jones has just passed away. Within these pages is an account of how Heath and Jones first met during the Spanish Civil War - Ted the observer, Jack the soldier. It's interesting to reflect on how the respect formed at that time possibly informed political and union negotiations thirty five years later.

I was delighted to discover well-written, insightful accounts of events that my in-laws had been involved with - events barely chronicled elsewhere but recognised by Beckett as being pivotal at the time.

This book was a long time in the writing and it shows - there are no woolly passages, no reverting to cliches. Andy Beckett diligently sought out the right people to speak to, revisited the scenes of events in an attempt to understand what happened years ago and to provide their modern context.

I loved this book. I can't imagine me writing that about many books of political history but it is true of this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Big Jim TOP 50 REVIEWER on 4 Feb 2010
Format: Hardcover
Both these books cover some of the same ground but equally find much to say that is not covered in the other volume. I have therefore decided to do a joint review that will appear under both books.

"When the lights went out" (WTLWO) is the more in depth of the two, significantly longer and has many interviews with some of the main participants which cast a modern eye on the events of the seventies where hindsight often proves, as always, 20-20. It concentrates on the political machinations of the time and brings in more of the outside world and how this affected Britain and how Britain affected the world than "Crisis what crisis?" (CWC). This means that I, as someone who was born in 1960, see this book almost like a straight history book of a period in which I spent my formative years. There is lots of stuff in here that I was not aware of and it is written in a witty and engaging style so that it is easy to read but offers plenty food for thought. It does not, however, engage me on the personal level as much as CWC does because it barely mentions things like sport, TV shows and pop music, indeed most of what makes up the interests of a teenage lad. And this is where CWC scores.

If anything there is too much reliance in this book of the author stating how the issues of the day were reflected in novels, pop music and TV programmes in particular. James Herbert's "The Rats" is surely given too much attention as a comment of the times - indeed rats of various types are a recurring theme. The author's obvious interest in the music of the time informs the chapter titles, and many of the conclusions he draws. He also spends a lot of time showing where sitcom characters in particular pass comment on current events.
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