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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent personal account of the history of social housing
For me personally, a university student who grew up in a council estate, to read a book which was both academic and personal was refreshing. Lynsey Hanley uses her own experience growing up on an estate in Birmingham to describe the social problems that exist our estates today. More importantly she reveals our views as a nation to social housing, unveiling deeper issues...
Published on 25 Mar. 2012 by catchasemouse

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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the other reviewers suggest
This book doesn't quite work. It seeks to be a personal memoir and an account of public housing policies but falls short in both. For example, while there are references to the author's childhood, these are fleeting and not all that interesting or personal. And, while there is some information on Government housing policy, this is unoriginal and relies too much on a few...
Published on 18 Mar. 2008 by Avid


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent personal account of the history of social housing, 25 Mar. 2012
For me personally, a university student who grew up in a council estate, to read a book which was both academic and personal was refreshing. Lynsey Hanley uses her own experience growing up on an estate in Birmingham to describe the social problems that exist our estates today. More importantly she reveals our views as a nation to social housing, unveiling deeper issues of class in the UK.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the most interesting argument in her book was her description of `walls in the head' that culturally there are barriers between the working and underclass and the middle-classes. Myself I have experience these walls, and I found her personal account very reminiscent of my own experiences. I think this would also be an interesting read for anyone who have never been to a council estate to learn more about public housing in the UK.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It wasn't meant to be like this ..., 7 Jun. 2010
By 
hbw (uk) - See all my reviews
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Mention council estates to many British people and they're more likely to think of dysfunctional communities than "homes fit for heroes".

During the 20th century, public housing was meant to eradicate slums, deflect revolution, improve the health of the nation and eliminate social inequality. So what went wrong - and can it be put right?

Lynsey Hanley addresses these questions in this fascinating and often passionate account of a century of policy, ideology, greed and incompetence. What gives the book its edge, though, is the intermingling of formal history with the first hand experiences of Hanley and four generations of her family.

My only criticism is that the author doesn't really look the development of council housing in rural areas and small towns; but perhaps that's another story.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A FORGOTTEN ASPECT OF THE WELFARE STATE, 26 Feb. 2012
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I enjoyed Lynsey Hanley's social history of the council estate in modern Britain,and agreed with much that she said.I cannot believe that we would allow those other tenets of the Welfare State-namely the NHS and the education system to deteriorate to such a degree as we have allowed social housing to reach in the first part of the 21st century. Council estates still have a stigma-though aways have. They are undesireable places where undesireable people,but what makes people become the lowest part of society. They are the easiest people to push around, as Lynsey says of the education system on council estates no expectations are encouraged,so they will continue to play to the role that society has given them.The future certainly does not look encouraging with the restriction and cap on housing benefit, the reduction of benefits, and the general hopelessness of people at the bottom of the pile for whatever reason.
Lynsey Hanley gives a personal view of life on council estates both in Birmingham and London. Her views are also her own based on experience,contact and background reading on the subject.
The book makes you think about the aspect of social housing-sounds better than council estates.-and for those who have never lived on council estates a glimpse into what life is like-though the concepts are pushed through the likes of Waterloo Road and Shameless,do people strive to live upto the stereotype.
This is required reading for those who want to know what has happened to social housing over the last fifty years from Bevan to Pickles
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars eye-opening for me, 7 Dec. 2010
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As a foreigner living, working and studying in the UK in mostly well-to-do circles, my limited one-sided understanding of council estates before reading this book was that, the people living in there were lazy, that they rely on state benefits, watch TV all day and are leeches of the society.

This book has really opened my eyes about the circumstances people living on estates found themselves to be in, and made it clear that while individuals have responsibilities of their lives, their environment can trap them in and make it extremely hard to get out, and that pure meritocracy is a lie.

I found out about this book from a research project on the media portrayal of 'chavs' and this book provided a really good background. I recommend it to anyone doing research on Britain's underclass. I also recommend it to anyone holding prejudice against people living on estates. It's easy to fear and hold prejudices against something you don't know, and some understanding can help with that.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social History par excellence, 9 April 2009
By 
R. A. Langham "Rob Langham" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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A fascinating trawl through the history of social housing provision in the UK since the construction of the historic Boundary Estate in Bethnal Green in 1893. Hanley's account really comes to life in the book's pivotal chapter, "Slums in the Sky" with shocking tales of corner cutting and well meaning modernism. Erno Goldfinger - rehabilitated in some quarters in recent years - is firmly back in the Naughty Seat although a one bedroom apartment in his Trellick Tower will still set you back over £400,000.

The book is polemical and comes across as more passionate as a result. The Conservative administration of Harold Macmillan is blamed for many of the ills. The book could perhaps have done with a little more international material - "La Haine" and Chicago's Cabrini Green are mentioned and it is crying out for an index, but overall, this is essential reading. Hanley's most interesting question revolves around the stigma of council housing - why are we embarrassed to have our homes provided for by the state when there is no such outcast status associated with free education or health? That Mrs. Thatcher was a great brainwasher.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insight into Council Estate Living, 15 May 2009
By 
J. Wood "nelson reader" (Lancashire UK) - See all my reviews
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Gives an insight into the author's experiences of living on council estates. Also provides details of the historical origins of council houses, the more recent sales of properties to tenants, and the wholesale transfers to registered social landlords. Plenty to think about, for example in 1979 almost half the UK population lived in council properties, and the income gap between rich and poor was at it's narrowest ever. 99.9% of the book is well written, just 3 or 4 paragraphs that I had trouble with.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, 9 Mar. 2011
A very interesting book that mixes social history with the personal experience of the author on the subject of the UK's council housing estates. The author grew up on an estate on the edge of Birmingham and then as an adult lived on an estate in inner London, so knows all too well the difficulties faced by residents of these areas.

The book looks at the history of council houses, from the slum clearances, the building of estates, then towerblock, and Thatcher's selling off the stock with "Right to Buy". The historical parts, although fairly familiar to me, were interesting and I was particularly interested in the parts about Modernist architecture, a style I have a soft-spot for in terms of public buildings (my uni was a notable example), but is so wrong for homes. However, where the book really came alive was the part about her childhood, how she always felt different from other in her estate school, and how her horizons were broadened doing her A levels at a college with a mixture of social classes - this made me think about the tragedy of so many children being written off so young. The author also raised the thought-provoking point about why has state-provided housing become so stigmatised, whilst we don't feel the same about state schools or healthcare.

On the whole, I agree with her opinions, although her comments about large families waiting for houses rankled me a bit as whilst I agree there shouldn't be such shame in council housing, I do believe that since the housing shortage in the South is well-known that there needs to be some personal responsibility. Also she doesn't have any real solutions to the genuine problem families that exist on these estates and glosses over this. The optimistic note the book ends on, having been written a couple of years ago, now seems naive given the current Government.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You do need to read this., 27 Mar. 2007
By 
A. Miles (Al Khor, Qatar) - See all my reviews
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This is an important book which illuminates the lie of the New Labour meritocracy deal - in short, how can one aspire to a better lifestyle when conditions conspire to make you unaware that anything better might exist, and simultaneously rob you of any opportunity to succeed?

In my time I've lived and taught on sink estates, and if anything Hanley understates the case - I've worked with kids in The North East who at 18 had never been further than the end of the street, and moreover didn't feel any urge to. Hanley captures this well with her 'wall' metaphor.

However, worthy as it is, the mix of personal history, invective and evidence that Hanley presents is indigestible - she isn't really readable. Not the point, of course, but still so.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and highly readable insight into the social housing history in the UK, 17 Feb. 2013
By 
marge (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Estates: An Intimate History (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by a friend after extolling the virtues of Owen Jones' Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class. I hadn't any specific expectation of the direction it would take or its scope but I found it enlightening, sobering, fascinating and depressing in equal measures. I've rarely read a book that's captured so readably the issues she addresses with regards to both the experience of growing up on an estate and her personal journey and the policies, plans and political climate which influenced the development of state housing and its eventual decline from public and policy favour.
A must read for anyone interested in why estates are judged so negatively, why there's a crisis in housing and how the optimism of great thinkers can be sidelined by the realities of commercialism. It's not a hopeless tale but if people don't heed the lessons it shares, it could be. One to pass round to others after reading.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You gotta go there to come back, 1 Sept. 2007
By 
Bob Sherunkle (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is a fascinating view of life on council estates. Lynsey Hanley grew up on a vast estate in Birmingham, and now lives in Tower Hamlets. (It appears that part of her motivation for staying in the Tower Hamlets estate is to become an agent of change.) Her key arguments are:
-There is a common view that most people who live on Council estates are by nature anti-social. She argues that the condition of many estates is a factor encouraging anti-social behaviour. If you have been dumped in sub-standard housing on the edge of town, what motivation do you have to be a model citizen?
-Public housing is not necessarily bad. Some other European countries achieve a better standard than the UK. (However, she overlooks the banlieux of Paris, which manage to achieve racial ghettos as effectively as anywhere in this country.)
-Generally council houses are better to live in than council flats
-Architects and planners are past masters at producing award-winning monstrosities which they themselves would not live in (other than as a publicity stunt)
[These last two are not new views and are definitely not rocket science. However, it does absolutely no harm to emphasise them.]

The strongest metaphor in the book is "the wall in the head", which was originally used to describe the cultural conflict between East and West Germans long after the Berlin Wall disappeared.

There is an extensive explanation of how the provision of municipal housing paralleled the rise and fall of the Welfare State overall.

A challenging view, which makes you question your assumptions as to why council estates are the way they are.
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Estates: An Intimate History
Estates: An Intimate History by Lynsey Hanley (Paperback - 31 May 2012)
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