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4.3 out of 5 stars33
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 8 July 2008
Martin Pugh has amassed a great deal of information about the attitudes and social mores of the ordinary people throughout Britain in the Twenties and Thirties and made it accessible and even enjoyable. The 'celebrities' such as the Duff-Coopers and the Mountbattens are there, but the strength of the book lies in the insights it gives into the lives of ordinary people going about their work and leisure. There is rigour as references are scrupulously given, but there is also an easy and friendly style which makes the 400 plus pages pass quite quickly.
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on 12 September 2009
This book gives a fascinating and scholarly account of all aspects of life between the two world wars. There are chapters on sport, food, housing, crime, marriage and divorce, to name just a few of the topics addressed. The book is written in an accessible style and should be required reading for sixth-formers studying history and for anyone whose interest in this significant period goes beyond the superficial.
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on 3 May 2010
This is one of the best and most readable books on a period that is gaining increasing interest.
What I particularly like is the arrangement of chapters by topic rather than a straight 1918-1939 approach e.g. Food Between the Wars, Childhood and education, Sport and gambling, the countryside etc.
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on 18 March 2010
Simon Pugh's social history of Britain between the First and Second World Wars is an excellent text for the period. Well set out into themed chapters from dietary habits through to sexuality and gender, with excursions into areas as diverse as monarchy, empire, divorce and aviation his book gives readers a thorough understanding of the period. Essentially an advanced text book it reads well and easily, lending itself to dipping in and out to read specific chapters in isolation - very good if you have an essay on interwar society....

However reading all the chapters does reveal several interesting aspects of the period. One is the increasing demise of Scotland (suffering over twice the loss of life of any other region of Great Britain in the War then hit economically very hard by the decline of its heavy industry). More significantly, Pugh argues that far from being the period of economic depression, doom and gloom that it is usually portrayed as, outside depressed areas like Scotland the years were ones of growing prosperity which saw the emergence of much of modern consumerist Britain: aspirations of property owning, the increasing desire for consumer durables, and the restructuring of the economy on services based in the south rather than the traditional heavy industries of the north. Pugh even suggests the second World War is then perceived by society as an obstruction to all of this - hence the widespread desire from very early on in the war to seek an outcome that will broaden this process across society when war ends through a welfare state and greater planned economic development.
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on 16 March 2009
This is a wide-ranging book. What it lacks in depth, it makes up for in breadth. Martin Pugh has clearly put a lot of hard work into this and the evidence he provides more than backs up his central thesis; that the interwar period was a time of considerable economic and social progress, despite the dominant post-war image of it as a period of unmitigated depression. That said, Pugh also tries to be balanced in his views and doesn't intrude his own opinions too much. You can take much from this book, regardless of your political views of the period.

There are some problems: 1) some repetition, as though the chapters were insufficiently cross-checked, 2) quite a few typos and a maddeningly eccentric approach to the use (or non-use, to be more accurate) of commas and semi-colons, 3) An occasionally overly-convoluted writing style, 4) an over-reliance on a few key sources, especially autobiographical accounts, in some places, 5) as is frequent in books of this kind, a relative lack of sustained analysis (with the notable exception of the chapters on empire and the British regions, where the latter is particularly thoughtful). The first two points might seem picky, but such minor errors are too frequent to just ignore. One suspects the book may have been rushed a little as deadlines approached. The latter point is a common one, but given Pugh's initial thesis some more developed argument on its behalf - even if only in a conclusion - would have been welcome.

Still, the strengths of the book more an outweigh the weaknesses. If your prevailing image of the 1920s and 1930s is based on media stereotypes or arguments from those with a political axe to grind, you will see the whole period differently once you have read this book. I came away with much to think about and am grateful to Martin Pugh for producing something so rewarding and stimulating. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't benefit in some way from reading this book.
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on 23 July 2014
Martin Pugh goes thoroughly to the core in debunking a few myths of the inter-war years. He is quite convincing in repudiating that the 1920s was anything but roaring for the common man (except an increase in consumer goods), rebutting the conception of a mass of unmarried women during the same time as a result of the Great War (“singled out”) and also pointing out that the dismantling of the Empire had already begun. Pugh does this convincingly – this not only through anecdotes, but also through statistics and other research.

The result is an exhaustive work. As an academic read, it is entertaining and well written. As a light holiday pocket book - Well, you’d have to have above normal interest in the topic. I felt sometimes back at Uni when reading it, but at the same time backtracked and thought that it would have been more fun studying if all academic books were as this one.
I bought this one together with Lucy Moore’s “Anything goes” on the recommendation of Amazon. Though the books match in topic (Moore on the US, Pugh on the UK), they could not have been more different. Whereas Moore’s book is based on renowned news stories (and citing newspapers) to provide a snapshot, Pugh goes deep in to the matter. While Moore was done in an afternoon plus, I spent a week reading Pugh. I know I lot more about the common person in the 1920s than I know after reading Moore.

If you are looking for something that has everything you wanted to know about Britain in the mid-war years but never dared ask, this book is for you.
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on 4 April 2013
Appallingly edited, with factual errors, spelling mistakes and typos. The author has an unfortunate tendency towards liberal use of exclamation marks! (Which detracts from the supposed academic slant of the book! Making it appear rather amateur! ). Would not recommend it to anyone wanting to understand this period of the 20th century.
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on 20 February 2010
How did parts of the working class survive this period and how did parts of the aristocracy have time to eat their dinner?One group could hardly afford to eat;the other was too busy having sex with each other.No wonder everyone was thin.Read chapter seven and you'll never have to read the News of the W. again
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on 3 September 2008
One of Pugh's frequently-cited surces is Bryan Magee's Clouds of Glory: A Hoxton Childhood (2004). The book covers the period between the two wars and quotes from this autobiography as substantiation for many assertions. However, Magee was born in April, 1930. Magee has many gifts and is a man of considerable intellectual ability. Even so, his earliest memories of his childhood are likely to have been after 1933, and one wonders just how these recollections can be applied to the period 1918 - 1939. Neverthess, I enjoyed the book and thought it was mostly very good; I would have appreciated more awareness of just how different the 1920s were from the 1930s.
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This history book concentrates on the history between the wars, something I was keen to know more about as inevitably this period is overshadowed by those very wars.

The book is split into chapters each one looking at different aspects of the period, including the role of women, crime, schooling, childhood etc. which makes reading it a pleasure. This is an easy book to dip into and gain some insight into the lives our ancestors would have lived. Hugh doesn't ignore the past in this link and in places uses data from later on to put some of the facts and figures into context.

An engaging book good for anyone who wants to get an overall picture of the period.
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