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4.3 out of 5 stars
A History of Modern Britain
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 28 July 2008
This book's great advantage is that Marr was trained a journalist, not a historian. So his pace is rapid, his prose snappy and it doesn't get boring. Even in the boring bits.

This does focus a lot on the politics, but, unlike some other reviewers, I rather liked the divergences into fashion or food or theatre. I find that always brings history to life rather more than politicians in suits talking about things.

There are mistakes in the book that I spotted, which suggests there are likely to be rather more that I didn't. Sloppy, but not terminal. And let that not spoil too much what is an excellent run through the history of the last sixty years. If you are looking for an entertaining, single volume history that is readable throughout, this is the one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 July 2010
Getting this for my Birthday, I was dreading that it was just a rehash & a promotion of the series on TV.
Indeed, it has many similarities, but there is enough fresh in here to make full use of the different medium.

As something of a history & politics buff, I found his assessment of most of our post-war leaders to be fair & frank & that he is not as pessimistic as some historians have been about this period (e.g. The Very Bloody History of Britain: 1945-Now). Considering his ending moral as well (that all political careers end in failure) the book has a freshness & authenticity coupled with a sense of idealism (rather than cynicism) that often pervades political writings.

One criticism that I'm not sure many listeners will be aware of though is that Marr appears to have quite a fondness for Thatcher. This comes over especially in his pronouncement that only 'only the 1945-51 Labour Administration & Thatcher's first two terms really dealt successfully with Britain's problems'. I note that he omits Blair's first term.
Minor quibble though this is, I am a Thatcherite & am aware that not everyone thinks her policies were good - in fact most are divided on the subject altogether.

That being said, one criticism I don't uphold is that this is purely 'political history' - it may concentrate on that as his specialty, but there are also many elements of social, cultural & even comedic history which keep the narrative interesting.

And, best of all, Andrew Marr passes the test of being both a good narrator AND a good author (which is so rarely achieved in this format). And for that, I would say that this book (in any format) is a worthwhile purchase & is easy to absorb, while not compromising on facts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 December 2009
With this book, what you see is indeed what you get - a history of Britain from the end of the Second World War to the Blair years.

It is a brave, or foolhardy, person who takes on the unenviable task of interpreting modern history because it is difficult to get a proper perspective on the significance of events and their implications and increasingly more difficult the closer to the present you get.

Andrew Marr has, I think, made as good a stab at it as anyone could and he has done it in an entertaining and incisive style which evokes, perhaps not alto-gether deservedly, a sense of authority. There is no doubt that he has drawn excellent portraits of the major political players of the period and his analysis of political and economic events seems wonderfully insightful.

As a child of the sixties (I was a student in my early twenties in London in the mid to late sixties), I cannot say that his assessment of society at the time entirely rings true for me. He has not, I think, captured the mood of confidence which existed at the time and the almost universal belief that Harold Wilson's 'technological fix' would provide us with Pandora's Box. Nothing seemed impossible and the sky was the limit so long as we relied upon the power of human resourcefulness. There was therefore tremendously positive feelings that the future was rosy and things would just get better and better. In fact, when the bitter truth that this was not so came home to roost with a vengeance in the mid 70s, it was an extremely depressing time for us sixties hopefuls.

I feel I have gone on far too long about my little bit of nit-picking, because overall this book is an excellent read, interprets events superbly and with just the right amount of wicked and sceptical humour, and provides much enlightenment into modern times. Above all, it is a work of masterful scholarship.

I do not think that anybody could have done it better....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 24 April 2009
I bought this book because I was interested in finding out a bit more about the country that I live in. All-in-all it did what I asked, but as the title suggests, the more recent events (from the 1970s onwards) are covered in far greater detail than those that go before it.

Overall, a good read. Though be warned, reviews elsewhere have poured scorn on this book for being essentially a modern political histoty of the UK. Of course it is! What do you expect from the man who was the BBCs chief political correspondant for years and now has the Sunday AM show to present.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2010
I could only wish that History book`s were written like this when I went to school, then maybe I would have got more out of the subject, insted of all those dates of King`s & Queen`s. This is a History book about us "normal" people, the things that went on that we cared about, that had a direct consequence to our lives (young and old). There is also a little humor spesd in the book, a little satire that makes it enjoyable to read. I found that the 600 pages were read too quicky, a good book!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 13 January 2009
Andrew Marr's companion piece to his excellent television series is a well-told, mainly political history, of Britain from the end of World War II until the end of Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister.

The tale is told mainly through the prism of Prime Ministers from Atlee to Blair and the key figures, policies, successes and failures of their governments.

I thought that Marr did a good job of remaining impartial, as a good journalist should. He of course has the benefit of hindsight and can look back at the outcome of policies and events judging the effect that they have had over the years.

Where he chooses to stray from a narrow political view of Britain (battery farming, Minis, pop music, fashion, shopping habits) I thought he added to the overall context of how Britain has developed over the last half-century plus, although more of these snippets would have been welcome.

On the negative side the book's editing team clearly struggled as it is littered with typos and the occasional minor factual error.

On the plus side, Marr has taken what could be a dry subject and made it readable, educational, interesting and occasionally funny.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 January 2011
This is a truly wonderful account of the political, social and economic changes in Britain since the Second World War. Marr explains how Britain's international influence diminished as its Empire of colonies wound up and how the domestic post war political consensus gradually dissolved as free market economics and progressive social liberalism transformed how we perceived ourselves and behaved as a nation. All the great political players are analysed in some depth, from an impressive array of historical and contemporary sources, as are pivotal events such as the Labour landslide of 1945, the Suez crisis, the 1960s, the fall of Keynesian economics in the 1970s, Thatcher's ruthless destruction of leftist politics and union power, the emergence of global challenges like terrorism and economic instability and the ultimate failure of New Labour to achieve its political objectives on public service reform. As one would expect from a brilliant journalist, Marr's writing is crystal clear and eloquent, a treasure trove of anecdotes, quotes and insights.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2009
When a schoolboy, and I am now eighty, I did not enjoy history or geography for that matter and looking back it was probably the then dull presentations. As I matured and have been fortunate to have travelled extensively abroad it has made me feel these two subjects are probably as important as any in life. Oh that Marr had been one of my tutors in my formative years.
WL
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book was updated for its paperback release and having read it carefully I suspect that many of the errors referred to by other reviewers were removed at that point. Having lived out of Britain for a sizeable chunk of my adult life, I found that I had much to learn from the pages - several large gaps in my knowledge were filled in.

I found it difficult to detect any signs of bias, and Andrew Marr's easy writing style made it a pleasure to read. This is almost as far removed from the dry history textbook that I wrestled with as a young student as it is possible to be. For anyone wanting a crash course on British modern history, this could not be bettered. Well researched and referenced, this deserves to become a standard.
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