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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 18 November 2009
Andrew Marr is the kind of person you wish had been your History teacher at school. Many people view history as a dry subject, boring at best and downright death inducing at worst. But history, as presented by Mr Marr, comes alive and throbs with vitality. This book, following on from his previous one, covers the period from the start of the twentieth century right up until the end of the Second World War. During that time there is a wealth of history waiting to be discovered and many things will amaze you.

Sadly though Andrew Marr has at times been sloppy with his facts. For example Mr Marr rightly claims that Queen Victoria was born in 1819 and became Queen in 1837, but mistakenly states that Queen Victoria was twenty when she became Queen, when in fact she had turned eighteen less than a month previously. When you find errors like this it tends to undermine your confidence in the facts being presented overall throughout the book. Some proof reading would have served Mr Marr well, one feels.

But that said this is a very good book, filled with a wealth of history that is easy to read and even more easy to understand. It is not dry history, but is alive and helps us to understand the path our country took to arrive in our modern times. Along the way you will learn about Edwardians, World War One, the General Strike, Depression and of course the road to further conflict during World War Two.

Personally I love history and read a lot of books on the subject. But this book will appeal to people on a much wider scale and reading through it's pages won't make you feel as though you are back in a boring history lesson. Rather you will feel like a tourist travelling through time soaking up what our grandparents and great grandparents experienced during their lives.
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on 10 November 2009
I hadn't read anything by Andrew Marr before, but as 1900-1945 is a period I'm very interested in I thought I'd give this a go. Marr's an engaging TV presenter, but his writing style is even more evocative, and it's almost as if he's telling you the story of the period face to face with the way he manages to bring the period to life so well. You can almost hear him speaking to you as you read.

The social history element was what I enjoyed most - the stories of the music hall entertainers, the first night club owners, the Suffragettes, the birth of the mortgage-obsessed society, the first package holidays - but what's fascinating is the way Marr weaves politics, general history, social history and commentary together so that you don't even realise you're moving from one subject to another. This was a great read, and educational, and I'm definitely going to be buying his next book!
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Marr's previous history of post war Britain was hugely accessible, well written, populist and often very quirky. One remembers the flashes of detail such as the impact on the British people of unpopular imported tinned fish "snoek" after the second world war or his dislike of the eighties "big hair" rock bands. As a big post 1945 political history for the general reader it has few equals but can Marr perform the same trick in his new and equally weighty tome "The Making of Modern Britain" subtitled "From Queen Victoria to VE Day"

It is set in a historical period that has been subject to forensic analysis from eminent historians ranging from A J P Taylor, Peter Clarke, Paul Addison and Martin Pugh. Similarly in terms of key events like the First World War there is an embarrassment of riches in terms of the works of Huw Strachen, John Keegan and Niall Ferguson. As such this period is one of the most studied and argued over era's in British history and it begs the question what can Marr add?

Ultimately the value of Marrs approach it to pitch his book again into the field of populist history and encourage accessibility. No doubt students and the general reader will use his book as a source to get into other historical works for which we must pay our thanks to him. His book accompanies a TV series and therefore has to be lively in its analysis, entertaining and self deprecating. As Marr has stated in the series bumf "If you are not trying to make people watch, if you're determined to maintain your dignity, then you're in the wrong business". That said the sections in this book on Music Halls, the Suffragettes, Charlie Chaplin and political figures like Asquith and Lloyd George are excellent and provide real illumination. Similarly he vividly retells the story of the how belief systems on eugenics and vegetarianism were essentially formed in this period to great effect. Marr of course is most at home with the politics of the period and with the all those big pre war ideologies swirling around he is in his element.

There are some niggling little errors in the book Marr says that King Edward V11 is the cousin of the Kaiser when in fact Edward was actually the uncle of the German Emperor. In terms of interpretation his analysis of Ben Tillett is a nice piece of historical revisionism that rescues a key figure in Labour history from obscurity; but is he Britain's answer to Leon Trotsky? To be fair this is only implied but somewhat overcooked. Similarly with the array of BBC researchers at his disposal the lack of footnotes and a proper bibliography is a bit on the lazy side. That said in the run up to Christmas this book will be intelligent and enjoyable stocking filler and goes well beyond just being a script for the TV series. Stretching to 450 pages it provides ample evidence that Marr like the best historians tells a good story very well, he will draw and excite new people into what is clearly the best analytical discipline within the arts and for his hugely enjoyable history he should be widely applauded.
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on 19 October 2009
The Making of Modern Britain is a very good book dealing with the era when Britian evolved from a Victorian superpower to the dawn of the country we know today. It is well-written, insightful, opinionated and has a very good pace. However, there is a slight hint of bias at times. Also because it is covering 45 years in around 400-500 pages it does not cover everything, and partly as the result of this some may struggle to get used to the structure, which although roughly chrononlogical does jump about a bit in both themes (just because the author was the political editor of the BBC do not assume that it is a dry book about politics) and time. The one major criticsm I have of the work though is the bibliography which is not up to the standard of the rest of the work . All in all though a very good book.
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on 7 October 2009
This excellent read by Andrew Marr gives an informative overview of how British scoiety changed dramatically in only 44 years (1901-1945).It shows the effects of two World Wars,grandeur of Edwardian society and Appeasement, to name but a few. For those who enjoyed his first book and new Marr readers, this book is a must!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 28 November 2009
'The Making of Modern Britain' is interesting and entertaining but it is not an in depth history book, rather a series of historical vignettes. True to his journalistic background the likeable Andrew Marr stays with personalities and not events, with contenders for power not the background to power. Generally the personalities he describes are those we might expect to hear about with, perhaps, one or two exceptions. He works very hard to pull a 'gee-whiz' fact out of the bag in each case and will generally succeed in surprising the reader. Marr tells us this is definitely not a television book, however, that is exactly what it seems to be although more centrally placed in the political spectrum than the accompanying BBC programmes. No surprise there then, as he might say.
The book is split into four obvious sections; pre-WWI, WWI itself, between the wars and WWII. Correctly, in a book of this sort, Marr makes no attempt to describe the wars themselves but stays with the leading personalities of the time and their processional dance of power; Churchill being an ever present character throughout.
In a recent talk Andrew Marr stated that he was not trying to attract those with an established interest in history, but rather to 'draw in' those for whom history may be a new subject. The book will probably succeed in this mission and it is a good and entertaining commentary on the times. For those of a more academic turn of mind there are many in depth histories and biographies currently on sale.
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on 2 January 2010
The book is described as "accompanying the BBC2 series" by the BBC, though as the "book before the series" by the author. It was clearly written with a TV series in mind: the way the chapters are structured into 'vignettes', just the right size for a TV programme piece, is what annoys me.

It is very readable. Andrew Marr is a good communicator. But he is clearly a TV (or radio) communicator. If you like your books to be readily available in tidy chunks, then you will like this (indeed love it and quote from it). However, as a more complete view of "what made Great Britain" it fails for me - see comments on factual errors noted by others, and also rather sparse references, notes, etc.

For me, it's a relaxing read. That's it.
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on 26 December 2015
Just couldn't get into this. I quite like Marr on tv, and bought this on the back of it. However, his writing style just isn't right for me, and found I was looking for other things on my kindle to delay me getting back this book after little more than a chapter. My wife, who is an avid reader, also had a go at it, but also found the style cumbersome. She lasted 2 chapters. Wish I liked it; I'm sure that I would have learned a lot.
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on 13 October 2015
Enjoyed reading this, but if you know NOTHING about history (like me) you may find that it assumes a certain level of background knowledge. I came away from it still not quite understanding the political motivations and ramifications discussed, but I'm pretty sure this is my failing rather than the author's. The writing style is accessible, and the Kindle version is well edited. It's safe to say that I know more now than I did before I read this!
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on 20 June 2011
I've now read both of Andrew Marr's 'History of...' books, and I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed them. They are accessible, amusing and full of little asides that bring the whole subject alive. I don't think you necessarily have to be a lover of history to both read and enjoy them - in fact if such a thing still existed, I'd suggest that they are made compulsory reading at school - they're not 'heavy going' but they bring social and political history to life, make you aware of where you belong, where you came from and (hopefully) where you're going. Oh of course there are a few little niggles, but isn't that what makes the whole experience really enjoyable?

Mr Marr clearly loves his subject, and the enthusiasm comes through, which I think is possibly what makes the books so enjoyable - you share in his enthusiasm. There's nothing dry or dusty about them - they are what a good history book should be.

Recommended.
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