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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 23 September 2012
I was a child in the early 1970s, the period this book covers, and so whilst some of this was familiar to me, most of it was not. And anyway, when you're a kid, eating by candlelight and reading books under the bedclothes with a torch is exciting rather than a complete pain - my poor parents trying to keep a normal life! It's a complete immersion in early 1970s culture and politics. Nothing's missed - even football and television are covered to make sure you have a grasp of the country as a whole. I found it hard to get into at first but once I was gripped, fairly romped through to the end, so if that's your first response too, persist. I think I didn't immediately respond to the way he was organising his material, but once you get into the swing, it does work.

I particularly liked his fairness. Even as I reached the end of the book, I realised that I've no idea about his politics. That's not to say he lets people get away with things - all sides come in for criticism at some stage or another. But it's probably the best kind of historian to read, unless you know you want polemic. If you're wondering if this tells you anything about Scotland in the 1970s, the answer is no - as with lots of historical overviews, it's mostly about England, though because of the events of the period, Northern Ireland is extensively (and to my mind well) covered. But it's a very good general overview, particularly if you're looking for something to help you understand the politics of the crazy four years that was 1970 to 1974.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Dominic Sandbrook has written a very big book about
a relatively narrow window in time : 'State Of Emergency.
The Way We Were : Britain, 1970-1974'. I note that the
author was born in Shropshire in 1974 and that he has
also written another book about the life and times of
this small island : 'White Heat : A History Of Britain
In The Swinging Sixties' (2006). I am old enough to have
known and survived both decades. 'State Of Emergency'
brought back a whole flood of memories (some less welcome
than others) to me. A list of names to raise smiles
and shivers in equal measure. David Bowie (Huzzah!);
Mary Whitehouse (Booo!); Arthur Scargill (If you picket it
never gets better!); Edward Heath (Yawn!); Harold Wilson (Aww!)

Mr Sandbrook's treatise provides a robust and insightful analysis of
his subject. The economic crisis; the rise of feminism; the Common Market
(groan!); the "permissive" society and all its (longed-for) little evils;
the gaudy excesses of glam rock; the three-day week and power cuts.

The English have never truly had an appetite for revolution.
We get a bit cross and upset for a while and admire or abhor
the few who dare to put their heads and hearts in the firing
line, then we revert to what we're best at. Grumbling.

The financial disasters of the last two years cast a long
shadow backwards in time. 'State Of Emengency' is a book which
resonates deeply with our current crisis. It is as clear
now as it was then : those who would rule us have as little
idea as we about how to pull us all out of the mess.
Come the revolution! I don't think so!

A fine book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
If witnessing some political events is like `watching a car crash', then reading this brilliant, compelling account of the 1970s is like reliving something similar but on a far grander scale. Perhaps an unstoppable volcanic lava flow or the meteor strike that's supposed to have wiped out the dinosaurs?

This is a combined review of Dominic Sandbrook's spectacularly good two-volume history of the 1970s. State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974 covers the Heath years; Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 picks up the story at Wilson's return in 1974 and journeys through the Callaghan years until Thatcher steps through the door of Number 10. Both volumes are excellent, five-star books; fascinating, highly entertaining and extremely readable. My only complaint might be that they caused me too many late nights; even though we now know the ending, the story is a political thriller of the highest order and `the next page' has an irresistible draw. `Seasons in the Sun', the second volume, is even better than the first.

At a combined 1450 pages of quite small typeface, plus notes and index, this is a wonderfully comprehensive account. The author has captured the spirit and detail of the time perfectly, which is all the more remarkable for someone not born until 1974. If you're old enough to remember all or part of the decade you'll experience nostalgia, regret or relief at its passing, mixed according to political taste.

You will be left in no doubt that the 1970s was a very political decade, not only for professional politicians but also in the workplace, in higher education, some schools and even in television drama and light entertainment. Perhaps two-thirds of the two volumes are directly concerned with politics; the rest gives us an insightful tour of changing social attitudes, environmentalism, feminism, immigration, education, football hooliganism, music from prog rock to punk rock and popular television.

`Jaw-dropping' is an over-used term, but there were some times when for me that was literally true. The account of Harold Wilson's second, brief spell in office is almost incredible; hilarious and at the same time deeply worrying that this was how our country's government `functioned'. Similarly, the Heath government's legendary policy `U-turn' contains its own surprises, in how little of a `U-turn' in Heath's own beliefs it actually represented and that most of those politicians who would later be the leading free-market radicals went along seemingly without complaint.

The review title is from chapter 15 in `State of Emergency', describing the final collapse of the Heath government's hapless attempts to control pay and inflation, but it could have been equally well applied to the crumbling of Callaghan's efforts five years later. Whatever your politics, you'll find many surprises and probably pause to reassess your lists of political heroes and villains as the crises grind on through inflation, strikes, power blackouts and wage controls towards a funding crisis, the IMF bailout and ultimately the Winter of Discontent, which is covered in all its bitter, freezing details, and the election of 1979.

Both books are highly recommended, I hope the author continues into the 1980s in a future volume.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 December 2010
For those of us of a certain age - around the 40 mark - this book will resonate and illuminate a turbulent time in our history, a time when the country changed beyond all recognition, a time when old values clashed against the new permissive society that split Britain apart like a packet of Spangles. This superb, and timely book, charts the decline of the Heath government between the years 1970-74, in all its arrogant glory, as Britain collapsed from within.
For me, the Seventies were a great time, Doctor Who, Battle & Action comic and dozens of war films - what more could a boy wish for?
However, whilst I was enjoying watching and reading Jerry getting a bashing, Britain was falling apart at the seems; riots in Ireland, race tensions between black and white, corruption in the higher echelons of government, football hooliganism on the terraces and the explosion of pornography and of Mary Whitehouse - a combination definitely not made in heaven.
Apart from the above, the Seventies also saw a boom in the areas of feminism and the book reflects that with a cutting chapter on the rise of militant feminist doctrine - showing that birds who read books made a telling and lasting impression on the decade that taste forgot.
Dominic Sandbrook has done men and women of my age a great service with State of Emergency, as it fills in the gaps that Warlord and Commando left out; how industrial relations hit an all time low, how Don Revie cocked up the England team and how Metro Land took over suburbia. Dotted throughout the book are mentions of TV shows, records and films that serve to remind the reader `oh yeah, I remember that...' every couple of pages or so, a clever idea that bonds the writer with the reader.
So, if you like your history with passion, humour and cutting edge insight, this is the book for you. The Seventies have been rightly pilloried in the past but this book puts the record straight - they really were a bizarre time to live through, especially for the adults.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 October 2010
This is yet another of a sequence of histories of the 1970s that seem to have appeared in great numbers recently. In a sense this is hardly surprising as the generation born in the late 60s and early 70s is now approaching the reflective phase of the middle-aged. Like the current reviewer, Dominic Sandbrook has warm memories of the early Jon Pertwee Doctor Who serials, of the first chain restaurants, of the first glimmerings of the celebrity culture that would come to dominate the 1990s.

My 1970s consists mainly of action men, Thunderbird toys, yearning for a chopper bicycle, Berni Inns, and looking forward to watching Carry On films on television. The appeal of these books to an audience in their late 30s or early 40s, is placing the period of your earliest memory is within some wider political and social context. It forms the latest part of an impressive trilogy of it can 20th century history. This book, like its equally compelling predecessors, excels at balancing the demands of politics, culture and wider society.

Unlike other popular histories of the 1970s, the mix and Sandbrook`s book has a much closer focus: it focuses upon the what I would call high 70s - the period between 1970 and 1974, of the IRA bombing campaigns on the mainland, of the three-day week, of the miners' strike which brought down the Heath government. It moves effortlessly from discussing George Best to the power blackouts that ironically interrupted my viewing of union-themed Dr Who `The Monster of Peladon'. The book is lavishly illustrated with many black-and-white photographs that are extremely evocative, and also many of the cartoons by artists such as Michael Cummings from the daily express of the period which seem to characterise a certain brashness and gargoyle like quality. This almost conspires to make the figure of Heath the tragic centre of the narrative.

The close focus of the volume really works, Sandbrook is an evocative writer, and he does justice to a period which rewards close attention. For good or ill, the seeds of society that we have become were sown in the 1960s and 70s, and its crises are our crises. When Dominic Sandbrook progresses to the even more fragmented and opaque period of the end of the 70s, and the early 1980s, I will be first in line to purchase his further book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )Verified Purchase
It's unusual to find a history book that's written with this much style and punch. There are plenty of weakly constructed books that can fill you in on all the facts, but which will send you to sleep in the process. And there also exist highly readable books, which due to factual wavering, lack authority.

This is neither: a totally watertight, very gripping, beautifully described history of the first four years of the seventies. Every generalisation is accurately measured, every story elegantly told. Just enough period detail, just enough historical perspective, and you actually look forward to getting back to the grim years of 1970-174. A really astounding achievement. Can't wait to order the previous two now!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2012
Bought this book for father, as a birthday present, as we have previously enjoyed Dominic Sandbrook's books of the 1960s. I had cheated and got it from the library so had read it but had seen the TV series first. Growing up as a teenager in the 1970s the book gives excellent historical context to the changes of the time linking them to politics, economics and social movements. Can't wait for the next book in what is turning out to be a masterpiece in popular (but certainly not dumbed down) history.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 October 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have not read Mr Sandbrook's other two books, covering the 50s and 60s, but will definitely be doing so now. This book covers four years 1970-74 and, whilst 700 pages seems a lot for four years, he needs every one of them. He focuses primarily on the political and economic scene, with the travails of the Heath government, but brings in sport, entertainment, sex, fashion and food. I found it both informative and illuminating but most of all, I found it hugely enjoyable, He is a very good writer and knows when to provide serious historical analysis and when a waspish comment from Kenneth Williams. Mr Sandbrook also doesn't let himself be too constrained by chronological order or his period - so he does drift about into the late 60s and as far as the early 80s. This just adds to the whole thing.

I really didn't know much about the three day week, about the miners' strikes, our entry into Europe or, well, much about the time at all (I was born in 1972). I do now.

This is great. If you have the slightest interest in the period, read it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 October 2012
One of the curious things about Dominic Sandbrook's whistle-stop tour through recent British history is that very little original research seems to be on offer. Unlike Andy Beckett (whose `When The Lights Went Out' covers much the same period) there are no fresh meetings with the participants in crucial events and no descriptions of the author heading out to once important, but now obscure parts, of the UK to see these sites from himself. As such these books are really a distillation of history. But what saves them from being like hearing the same bad joke twice is Sandbrook's mastery of his material and a fine, witty style.

So we have Edward Heath "lecturing the television cameras like some latter-day General De Gaulle"; radio DJs John Peel and Bob Harris "who liked to torment night owls with interminable progressive rock"; the special effect of a giant rat in Doctor Who being "one of the worst-realized monsters not merely in the show's history, but in the history of human entertainment"; while on the lack of success of would-be far right leader Andrew Fountaine, the author writes - "Somehow it said it all that Fountaine could not even win the support of his own mother, who heckled him during his public meetings." The book also includes the remarkable tale of Labour big-hitter Barbara Castle arriving at a Cabinet meeting in a trouser suit and exciting her male colleagues so much that then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Denis Healy, felt compelled to tuck her under his armpit. "It is hard to imagine," Sandbrook observes, "many of Edward Heath's ministers treating Margaret Thatcher in quite the same way."

This is essentially a swift trip through the chaotic events of Edward Heath's premiership, with other chapters investigating important topics such as racism, feminism, environmentalism, football and music. Despite the reputation he earned as a fervent slasher of public services with a wild desire to take on the Unions, Heath's government was actually the biggest spending of any post-war government at that point (remarkably, given what would happen later, Margaret Thatcher's Education was the biggest spending department) and he tried his absolute best to be conciliatory to the Unions. Unfortunately though a combination of circumstance, bad luck and his own faulty political antennae, it all exploded spectacularly in his strange granite face.

Reading this in 2010 (or 2011 as it now is, Happy New Year All!) one is struck by the parallels with recent events. A leader who lacks the common touch besieged by a huge Global economic downtown, a general election which didn't take place, a Liberal Party which is suddenly resurgent in the eventual election campaign, followed by an inconclusive result at the polls. I don't need to read the next volume to know what chaos lay ahead for Britain in 1974. Let's hope we're a bit luckier now.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This volume takes us into the early 70's and as I was a teenager then, this is an informative read about the state of the country when I was growing up. Very well researched and well written, there are once again lots of anecdotes, quotations and observations to make it yet an another enjoyable read in the series.
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