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White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties Hardcover – 3 Aug 2006

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 896 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown & Company; 1st Edition edition (3 Aug 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316724521
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316724524
  • Product Dimensions: 16.7 x 24.1 x 5.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 428,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat (subtitled A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties) is a mesmerising piece of reportage -- detailed, authoritative and written with the kind of vividness that brings the period to vibrant life, both for those who lived through it, and for those to whom it is as remote as ancient history. And weighing in at nearly a thousand pages, it is as comprehensive as one could wish, dealing with revolutions in the arts (the Beatles, of course, are central -- and iconic -- figures here), as well as the relentless bloodletting in Northern Ireland, and political scandals in Westminster (the John Profumo/Christine Keeler affair being the most significant). The book quotes on it jackets Harold Wilson's much-repeated comment ‘Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution’ -- and Sandbrook, taking his title from this quote, makes the strongest possible case for this being a revolutionary period -- even if several of the revolutions involved (such as the hippie-inspired ‘Summer of Love’) actually came to nothing. The changes in society during this period were seismic: cultural and political (as mentioned above), but also technological. In the sports arena, Britain featured a resounding World Cup triumph in 1966).

In many ways, as the author demonstrates, Britain became a significant player again in this era and featured once again on the world stage in a fashion it had not achieved in the 1950s. But the outward accoutrements of these revolutions in society nurtured some clandestine (and less palatable) undercurrents, and Sandbrook anatomises these with quite as much skill as he devotes to the more celebratory sections of the book. The range of references involved is quite stunning, and the period concentrated on (1964 to 1970) is not likely to receive such a comprehensive airing again. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


'A socio-politico-cultural extravaganza on the Sixties ...
Riveting even if you didn't live through it'
-- Independent

'A triumph ... The way in which Sandbrook counterpoints his themes is masterly' -- Jane Stevenson, Telegraph

'An even-handed 900-page journey through the 1960s filled with verve and snappy storytelling' -- Time Out

'Could hardly be more impressive in its scope. [Sandbrook] writes with authority and an eye for telling detail' -- The Times

'This is history of a commendably inclusive range' -- Sunday Times

'This second volume lives up to the promise of the first ... Sandbrook is an inveterate demolisher of myths' -- Independent on Sunday

'a substantial contribution to our understanding of the social and political history of modern Britain' -- Seven Magazine, Telegraph

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Evans VINE VOICE on 20 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
I find it hard work reading long books these days as there are so many more distractions than there used to be.
However this book - and it is certainly long - was a pleasure to read. Written in an easily accesible style, it actually told me lots of stuff I didn't already know, which is a rare feat.

The book covers almost every aspect of the 60's in Britain, focusing predominantly on politics; indeed Harold Wilson is the central figure, but it also covers music, television, fashion, architecture, housing, sport, morality, the start of the troubles in Northern Ireland which really exploded in the 70's, and a host of other areas. I even learnt a good deal about music, an area of the 60's I thought I knew all there was to know about.
The chapters on the early troubles in Northern Ireland were particularly enlightening. For example, although I knew the British army was initially welcomed by the Catholics and the first soldier wasn't killed until the early 70's, I didn't know that the first murders were committed as far back as 66 and they were committed by Protestants as was the first killing of a police officer. I also already knew that the so called Reverend! Ian Paisley was a deeply bigoted and unpleasant man, but I didn't realise how bad he actually was!

The research Dominic Sandbrook must have put into this work is phenomenal and there are literally hundreds of references. Just skimming through them at the back of the book was exhausting; for the author to have read them all is remarkable.
Even if you thought you knew all about the 1960's, as I did, there is something new to be learnt here,
Highly recommended!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Earthshaker on 9 May 2009
Format: Paperback
As Sandbrook points out in his introduction, histories of the Sixties tend to follow tedious rituals of romanticising or demonising. Certainly, until recently it has been impossible to discuss the era without being drowned out by a mighty roar of self-celebration from the main players. We are now, however, far enough away for some perspective to creep in: history is being written by people not even born when the decade ended, and with less of an axe to grind.

A welcome step in the right direction, then. Sandbrook rightly points out that "Swinging London" was largely about the adventures of a few hundred affluent individuals in the fashionable bits of London, whilst the rest of the capital - never mind the rest of the country - watched from outside, sometimes with interest but sometimes with their main attention elsewhere, in urban landscapes that too often reached 1970 still looking as they had in the 1930s.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. D. P. Jay on 19 Oct 2011
Format: Paperback
Named after the speech by Harold Wilson about modern technology, which was ghost-written by his personal aide and not seen by him until the night before it was delivered, this book chats the history of the 1960s. The author hadn't been born then but he recounts the decade much as I remember it.

Contrary to the popular myth that Labour messes up the economy so the Tories have to put it right, Wilson inherited a dreadful mess from the Tories and was unable to carry out his planned socialist reforms because there was no money left and he had to devalue the pound.

The machinations within the Labour Party are well presented, though I wonder why we heard nothing of the infamous Lord Driberg.

This was an era when housewives were liberated by modern gadgets, the pill and legal abortion (helped by the liberal voice of the Church of England in the House of Lords); when gay men were released from the threat of blackmail as homosexuality was partially decriminalised. (also thanks to the bishops of the Church of England, particularly Archbishop Michael Ramsey, who is not given his right place in this book.)

It was the time of Carnaby Street, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

Supposedly, it was the time of free love and promiscuity, though it didn't seem like that until the Seventies for most people, me included.

It was the time of Enoch Powell's `rivers of blood' speech and the author rightly points out that he was quoting Virgil but knew the impact those words would have on traditional labour voters who were now `backing Enoch'.

I loved this book every bit as much as his previous volume on the MacMillan era.
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