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Robert Haines (Hertfordshire, UK)
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When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies
When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies
by Andy Beckett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive review of 1970s politics, 31 July 2009
I like books the size of bricks which can keep me company over a few days. So I was pleased when the weighty parcel arrived from Amazon. To say it follows a conventional format for such a history is not a criticism, neither was I disappointed that it was almost wholly a history of seventies politics ("when politics was interesting") rather than a wider picture of seventies Britain. It was a reminder that not so long there really were two tribes in Britain - lefties and righties - and most of knew which one we belonged to by the time we were five. Today, we no longer have this clear-cut choice and people vote according to the degree of teleginicity of the party leader (which is why Labour's keeping Gordon Brown is evidence of a suicide wish).

The problem with a history of a period you remember is that you read it, impatiently waiting for the really interesting bit which, for me, should have been the winter of discontent. But, thorough though Becket was in his description and analysis up to this period, I thought he was rather superficial when it came to this period when the unions thoughtlessly conspired to put Thatcher in power. He hardly mentions the gravediggers' strike. Was it not the stories of unburied bodies which really did for poor old Sunny Jim? Becket is good, though, on Callaghan, and it was the first time I had read that it was Callaghan who first moved Labour into the middle to enable them subsequently to be seen as a natural party of power - it was not Kinnock or Smith or Blair.

He's rather dismissive of Thatcher (Beckett, you must remember, is a Guardian features writer), but I suppose it's fair enough not to use his knowledge of the 80s to colour his analysis of the 70s. He's right that Thatcher was lucky in the gifts given her by the trades unions at the end of 70s, just as she was lucky to have, firstly, Galtieri and secondly, Scargill, as her incompetent enemies in the 80s.

It's a good read, quite kind to poor old Ted Heath, and rather scathing about Harold Wilson.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 28, 2010 4:38 PM GMT


Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (Pax Britannica)
Heaven's Command: An Imperial Progress (Pax Britannica)
by Jan Morris
Edition: Paperback

42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting picture of how the British Empire was made., 5 April 2001
The British Empire at one time encompassed a quarter of the globe, from countries as immense and diverse as India to ones as tiny as Tristan da Cunha. Jan Morris has the rare skill of not only painting the large canvas of history, but also of illuminating for her readers the daily life of distant quarters of the Victorian empire. She writes with warmth and affection of Zulus and Maoris, of Quebecois and Boers, of explorers suffering terrible ordeals, of be-whiskered colonial politicians in London and dear old Queen Victoria herself. She writes with a pleasing absence of political correctness, seeing the Empire not only in the currently fashionable way as an instrument of exploitation, but also as a power for good. She introduces us to colonialists dedicated to the welfare of their subjects, as well as those out to feather their own nests. And the texture of the book is typical Jan Morris - crafted in such a way that you at last understand what it was all about, and why it happened.


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