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4.1 out of 5 stars9
4.1 out of 5 stars
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This is a fine book which has taken several attempts for me to read to it's conclusion . This is through no fault of Peter Hennessy's . Quite the contrary , it was because I was so moved by the eloquence of his writing that I often found myself compelled to put this fine book to one side . Like Peter I am a child of the 'baby boom' generation . The period of the Post-War Labour government was crucial to the world of my childhood and youth . Peter reminded me of the towering achievements of that government against a background where Britain had emerged from the Second World War essentially bankrupt and how my parents and grandparents generation were part of an essentially cohesive society . The book saddened me as I reflected that that society has been destroyed over the last thirty years and that the key achievements of the Atlee government , and my parents and grandparents generations selfless aspirations and endeavours , are constantly under attack from a generation of valueless politicians of all parties intent on so-called 'reform' .
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on 28 December 2011
In this book and in the next in time, "Having it so Good" dealing with the fifties, Hennessy sets out to create a narrative history of wartime and postwar Britain with some analysis of causes and trends and largely succeeds. It must be very difficult to write about recent history, as its results are still not completely resolved. Much of the shaping of Britain in this time had to with politics and politicians and it is right for Hennessy to quote these extensively, although he also quotes plenty of non-politicians in all walks of life where their contributions are relevant. I think the review by W. Crawford would have been more correct if Hennessy had set out to write a bottom-up social history of the times, but he did not claim to do this. Other authors like Arthur Marwick in "British Society since 1945" have done that and done it well, but they did not claim to be writing political history.

The book contains detailed narrative on and explanation of a period where the documentation is enormous, and Hennessy does a very good job of picking out the important matters, generally without too much unnecessary detail. His style is readable without compromising on content and, at the end of the book, I felt that I had a much clearer understanding of what happened in this period, and a wish to read his next book,"Having it so Good" which I did later. If I did not give it five stars, it is because in parts it was a little too lengthy.
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on 12 January 2011
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Took me back over sixty years to my own childhood growing up during and immediately after the war. Helped me understand my parents, for they really lived through it.
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on 27 December 2015
An important book reviewing how Britain coped after the Second World War, though in vague attempts at objectivity the author does not give enough credit to the excellent post-war socialist Labour government who struggled against the odds to make Britain great again. This book is good for some nostalgia but not always entirely accurate.
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on 14 July 2012
I really admire Hennessy's decision here to write a readable, as opposed to an academic book about the Attlee Government; it pays huge dividends. He brings a first class academic mind to the job, so you get a hugely intelligent work, but the absence of the formality of an academic approach means that it really swings.

His depth of research is laudable too - this is no cut and paste job - another mark of the real historian, so you get a thoroughly nourishing history book. His choices are repeatedly excellent in terms of what and who to include in terms of viewpoint and supporting evidence. Never does he bog you down with detail, and if he is over-fond of the views of civil servants and ex-service chiefs, suggesting a somewhat top down view of things, we must remember that this is, essentially a history of the Attlee government: the men who made and advised it. This is, without doubt, a work of political history.

What right wingers would hate about it, however, is the fact that the author's sympathy's are clearly with the rebuilding, pioneering Labour government. Which is not to say that Hennessy is a Labourite, but that he is clearly a liberl chap - or was when he wrote this book (I caught him on Radio 5 recently saying that Queen Elizabeth II "has never put a foot wrong," showing clearly that a) he's very comfortable with the British monarchy and b) he may have completely lost his mind in recent times). Nonetheless, he doesn't let them off the hook by ignoring their mistakes and weaknesses. Being very much "not a Conservative" myself, I'm very happy not to be reading a Tory version of this vitally important period in British history.

The all-important thing is that this is a supremely informing work of history and the smoothest of reads. Delightful, essential and without doubt, worthy of 5 stars.
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on 21 December 2015
My husband has read this night and day since it arrived.
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on 15 December 2015
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on 4 June 2015
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on 27 November 2008
This is not a social history of Britain. It is an elitist study of the period concentrating on history from the viewpoint of the senior politicians who made the key decisions at this time. It is very London, Downing Street, Westminster, Whitehall dominated and ignores the rest of the population. There is a large amount of quotations from the diaries, autobiographies or books of politicians. If these were left out it would reduce the book's content by about 1/3 and make it far more readable.
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