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4.3 out of 5 stars225
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 5 December 2008
I liked this book, and as an overview of the post war to modern day period, it's pretty acceptable but I was surprised at how much of his comments/narrative were seemingly only evidenced by politician's own memoirs. Not greatly partisan sources!! I was also annoyed by the sheer volume of typos - Had someone shot the editor? Perhaps after this performance they should have! I also found his forays into pop music and fashion quaintly embarrassing! My final comment, though not necessarily a criticism was how much more interesting and accurate (for me) his comments and observations etc appeared to be from 79 onwards, which I assume was when he became more closely involved with events through his journalism.
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on 31 March 2008
I originally bought this book after hearing about the TV programme and reading the reviews on here and also because I thought it would be a good education for me.

As I neared the end of the book I re-read the reviews here and was somewhat surprised to see some 1 and 2 star reviews, although on reading them I did agree with some of their content.

Overall the book as far as what I hoped to get out of it was 5 stars. Very readable and a great review of politics from 1945 until 2006.

However I do have some comments about it. I didn't quite understand the infrequent dips into non-political issues e.g. fashion in the 1960s. Although I can understand that this was an important backdrop to the political situation (more liberal rules etc) the 'dipping' was a little inconsistent, almost as if either Andrew Marr or the publisher had said 'Nice book can you do a few non-political bits please?'. I did enjoy the 'dips' but wonder whether the book would be better without them, or with more of them? On balance they could probably have been worked in within the theme of the politics hence my title for my review - the book shoudl be A Political History of Modern Britain.

I was also a bit disappointed that more detail was not given to decimalisation (a couple of lines) which as an 11 year old I remember very clearly - surely that was a political hot potato worthy of more discussion?

As for the reviewer who complained it was like A-level History, well I didn't do that and for me the depth of the writing was enough, but I accept that perhaps the book is very superficial, though I have to say highly enjoyable.

These comments would not have made me drop a star in my rating, but the appalling typos I am afraid do, so 4 not 5.

Well worth reading though despite my tiny reservations.
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on 26 May 2007
This is easy to read, general history for the average person in the street like me who has a broad interest in the life of the country but who hasn't got the background to read the "proper" histories. I love this because I can dip in and out, or I can read it in linear chunks. I love the style which is chatty and friendly. And the period interests me because it is really before I was around, so I see the echoes of it but never experienced these things for myself. A lot changed in Britain post war, and I didn't really appreciated how much until I read this.

I can't really comment on the absolute accuracy, and I'm sure it isn't definitive, but it is approachable. It's like a Bryson book of science rather than a Hawking, but with history.

It's quite bit and heavy in hardbook though, but if that is my principle complaint then take this as an unqualified recommendation!
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on 9 August 2009
Having just finished this book after 3 days during which I did little else but read, I can confidently recommend it to anyone wanting to flesh out their knowledge of post-war British politics.

As one of the quoted reviews notes, Marr is at his best when writing about politics, although his short asides on the cultural shifts in Britain do not lack insight. His expert portrayal of the stresses, strains and scandals experienced by all PMs from Churchill through to Blair makes for compelling reading, as does his dissection of significant events such as Suez and the Winter of Discontent, which show that our politicians are far more susceptible to foreign pressures and trends than they would have us believe.

Thoroughly recommended.
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on 9 July 2008
This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read overview of postwar Britain but Marr does seem to get away with some shockingly wooly points that would have caused my history teacher's red pen to run out of ink!

The first chapters, about Britain's politics immediately after WW2 up to the 60s I thought were excellent, but as soon as he gets into economics, pop music etc it does become pretty sloppy tabloid generalisation. As a typical upper-middle class BBC journo and well-known chum of Gordon Brown he's also painfully PC, especially jarring in a history book, re. the unqualified good of multiculturalism, the NHS and welfare state, the liberal reforms of the 60s onwards etc. There's also a very sniffy attitude to the developments of business, the UK economy and consumerism.

Also it would be really useful in a future edition to occasionally include in the margins what year he's talking about. In an overview, thematic history it's very hard to follow exactly when specific things are happening, and Marr rarely gives any dates in his text.

Then there's the typos - I'm not that much of a pedant but I was seeing a glaring one every few pages! In a history book from a respected BBC journo this is really poor, and does make you wonder if some of the facts and quotes are in fact accurate, given that there was so little scrutiny in the editing process.
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on 12 January 2009
Andrew Marr, ex-editor of the Independent and more lately the BBC's political editor, has set himself a sizeable task: to cover the political and social development of Britain from the post-war government to (more or less) the present day in a single volume. Or perhaps not so great an endeavour when you consider that Eric Hobsbawm covers almost the whole of the twentieth century in "Age of Extremes".

But Marr isn't Hobsbawm, which isn't a criticism, because I think he does an excellent job of covering the period and in a much more accessible (and some would say less biased) way than the eminent historian. He manages a double handed trick: to give enough hard detail about events to make the read credible but also to use "softer" material - what we wore, ate, listened to and did in our free time - to deliver a flavour of each era. It's all straight reporting - Marr resists the urge to drop any personal anecdotes he might picked up during his long career as a political journalist - but it's all the better for that. We don't really need yet another "insiders" account of the Blair years. Politically, Marr maintains an admirable neutrality, or in plainer words, I can't tell from this book what his politics are, although I felt he soft pedals some aspects of the Thatcher years, in particular the long term effects of the mass unemployment unleashed at that time and Nigel Lawson's fairly cynical engineering of a boom in house prices in good time for the 1987 election. We are suffering the after effects of both still and as the point of history is hindsight, I don't think Marr would have been out of order to apply some here. He also, as a Scot, can't stop himself from having a whinge about oil, nationalism and the duplicity of southerners, but as an English person who lived in Scotland for 25 years, I'm allowed to feel weary when I hear the old arguments rehashed yet again.

Summary: an excellent overview of interesting times for a reader who wants a mixture of facts and social overview.
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on 1 August 2009
OK, in 600 pages you're not going to get the full comprehensive history of post-war Britain. What you do get is a page-turner that keeps you interested, informed and entertained throughout. From the immediate pre-war period until the end of the Blair years Marr provides a terrific insight not only into the formative and influential events but very enjoyable insights into and mini biographies of the personalities and players that have shaped them.
The style is very engaging and you can hear Marr as you read. Very highly recommended, especially I think, if you are in your 50s or older and can relate to the times, events and the personalities.
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on 23 May 2010
Andrew Marr turns the spotlight on the recent history of Britain to reveal how the political and social life of the Country has evolved over the past sixty years; in doing so he illuminates how many values and ideas have changed and realigned in response to technology and globalisation changes.

The Labour government of Clement Atlee inherited a post-war generation tired and hungry following the privations of war. But it was a proud, spirited and optimistic people that elected Clement Atlee to launch modern Britain with a vision of social justice and establish the flag-ship of the national psyche, the National Health Service. He outlines how Britain reacted to that period of optimism by electing the governments of Churchill and MacMillan. It was a period dominated a rather small ruling elite of people; in which Britain's role in the World retracted as it granted independence to its former colonies and adjusted to a World Order dominated by the `Cold War' as the US and USSR polarised international relations.

He describes how with the growth of consumerism, new fashions in pop-music and clothes a new more liberated youth challenged the prevailing customs of the time in the late sixties and early seventies. How the baton of leadership passed to a new generation of working class `academics' as the governments of Wilson and Heath struggled to develop a modern economy. These were times when the socialist ideology of a centralised economy and the liberal values for free-market economics divided and polarised the political debate.

It fell to the redoubtable Margret Thatcher to win the battle decisively for the free-market economics and Marr reminds us very well about the domestic conflict and strive that characterised the 1980's. It was a time of privatisation sell-offs and home-owning became the sine-qua-non of the British public. But again it was a time of economic growth that led to the boom and bust scenario of the early 1990's.

Marr concludes with an analysis of the development through the John Major years to Tony Blair's time in number ten. It proves to be a thoroughly enjoyable book, reminding us of the challenges and changes in the early 21st Century as Britain continues to develop its economic, political and social culture.
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on 14 June 2007
Quite clearly, Andrew Marr's television series - A History of Modern Britain, is a triumph and makes for entertaining viewing. The book which accompanies the series does the programmes justice. Readers should not be put off by its bulk as the book is compulsive and offers a very accessible insight to the key events and personalities which have shaped Britain since 1945. The book's style is witty and easy to read yet offers new ideas and opinions which will interest those with a more serious interest in the subject.

The period is in places a controversial and complex one, but Marr teases out a fine story of our times; adeptly combining Britain's political story with a more lighter social history with references to James Bond, game shows and television programmes. Although, a populist history, Marr does offer interesting insights and reassessments of key personalities of the era. In particular his reassessments of Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher gives much food for thought.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this history to anyone with an interest in our recent history as it is extremely accessible and enjoyable. Alongside this book, I would recommend the Dominic Sandbrook books - Never Had it so Good and White Heat - on Britain in the 1960's, which are equally entertaining and interesting.

A fine read!!!
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on 20 February 2009
This book should be obligatory reading for all schoolchildren. It places 20th century Britain in its true historical context. I grew up in the UK in the 1950s. I now see how I fitted in to a Britain as described by Marr far more flawed and fortunate than hyperbole would have us believe. For all that, it endears me to Britain for its intelligent, honest, balanced portrayal of a little country with a huge history.
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