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on 28 April 2009
Pointless if you're going to buy 'Austerity Britain 1945-51' because it's the first half of that book.
Tip: ignore any 'frequently bought with' recommendations.
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on 13 November 2008
I had high expectations for this book. The concept sounded great and the publicity had been very favourable. But a couple of chapters in I began to feel disappointed, and then angry and frustrated. Kynaston uses his source material in a shamelessly partisan fashion. Nothing unusual about that for a historian, perhaps, but here the narrative is so one-sided as to subtract almost all credibility from the text. It's fine for him to believe the post-war Labour government actually did the country more harm than good...but for him to imply (on the basis of very limited surveys and testimonies) almost the entire population felt the same way is preposterous. Reading this book you'd think most of the UK were ignorant, backward whingers who hated all politicians. Saying that, he doesn't even attempt to represent the whole of the UK, despite the 'Austerity Britain' title. Northern Ireland isn't mentioned once. Scotland is confined to a few pages about Glasgow. There's a south east/midlands bias which is really unsubtle. Certain passages are useful from a purely empirical point of view. Overall, though, this is a flawed attempt at what could, and should, have been an impressive work. If you want the definitive history of this period, read Peter Hennessy.
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on 1 June 2010
If you were poor and honest, life in Britain in 1947 meant you were cold and hungry. Rationing allowed bare existence, heat and light failed, jobs were scarce, millions of homes were wanting. Nothing worked properly. If you had money, or office, you could get more, but it was a constant degrading struggle. Underneath was the awareness that the war was won, but that there were no rewards for peace. Kynaston with his extracts from Mass Observation brings it all out as if we were living it, and it is a dreadful picture. Labour was elected to create a new world, but quickly lost its way in the sheer inadequacy of means and leadership. Read about shortages, whale meat, icy cold and then floods, bread rationing, and misery, and imagine how you might have coped. Somehow, they did, and that comes through too.

These books of Kynaston should be required reading for political and economic education, and to realise why 60 years later Britain is still in some ways living with the postwar scars upon society and attitudes.
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on 13 July 2010
I purchased this book because there is a lot of talk of "austerity measures" currently, and I felt I didn't have a proper understanding of the post war era. If you are interested in this period from a social history perspective, I would not recommend this book. It is mostly statistics and presumed some pre-knowledge of the terms employed. I didn't get past chapter three, it likely works well as a "dip into" book, but was not the accessible introduction I was hoping for. The photo-plates are wonderful, and it is a shame there are not more of them. Overall it lacks atmosphere in presenting what I remain sure, is a very interesting period in history, about which I still sadly know little.
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on 19 May 2015
Brilliant. Most history skips over this dire period after the war so it was good to read about it in such depth.
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VINE VOICEon 26 May 2009
I really wanted to like this book, and was intrigued by the approach of taking a whole host of material sources to paint the pictures of life in Britain immediately after WWII.

The overall thesis is clear, Britain goes through stages with the author's austerity period being (roughly) VE Day -> Maggie gets elected. I assume the next phases is boom-bust being Maggie through the the currently predicted Cameron victory, but I don't think I'll be looking out for the book.

The reason for my disappointment stems from having been very absorbed in the first few chapters, the birth of the welfare state, central planning, urban regeneration and other majjor topics, then having to put the book down for a few weeks. When I returned to it I (unusually) found that not only could I not spot where I had read to, but then accidentally reread a chapter before spotting a familiar page, thus leading me to realise that the whole style of the book was very comfortable but like one of those documentaries spun over two hour long episodes that could have been compressed into 40 minutes - easy to watch on a wet evening but not actually a great use of time.

Suffice it to say I struggled to get back into this book, and have actually abondaned play (something I almost never do).
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on 2 February 2015
Interesting book
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on 4 April 2015
No probs at all
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