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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A well-crafted history, 1 May 2012
Bill Purdue's book is probably the most literary of the three quality volumes on the history of Newcastle which I have read in the last few years. It sits comfortably alongside the more analytical compilation 'Newcastle upon Tyne: A modern history' edited by Colls & Lancaster (2001) and the rather more speculative 'Tyneside: A history of Newcastle and Gateshead from erliest times' by Moffat & Rosie (2005).

The strength of this book is its political dimension with a lot of detail on both the structure and personalities of local government since Tudor times. It was fascinating to trace the descent of those families commemorated in the street names of our great city: Blackett, Ellison, Ridley etc. It was a real gem to be informed of Charles I's enjoyment of golf in Shieldfield during his prolonged captivity in Newcastle. In the same genre, Purdue might have included the self-imposed exile of the great philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who worked as a lowly technician in the Clinical Research Unit based in the RVI and lived in Brandling Park during World War II. According to his biographer Ray Monk (1990), Wittgenstein was fixated on Western films. Undoubtedly he would have occasionally indulged his passion at the Jesmond cinema where I indulged my passion during teenage courting two decades later.

If there is a weakness in this book it is in the relatively scant treatment of education. The private grammar schools receive a modicum of attention, although I might have expected some mention of Collingwood, Nelson's second-in-command at Trafalgar and a former RGS pupil. Of the, now-obsolete, state grammar schools, there is a passing reference to Rutherford Grammar, serving West Newcastle, which the author's father attended, but nothing of my alma mater, Heaton Grammar School in the East, or St Cuthbert's RC. Also there is no record of the research and development achievements of the city's two respected universities. Are we not due a history of education in Newcastle?

Of factual errors, I can recall only one: Bob's wife in the Likely Lads TV series was Thelma not Hilda!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Out On the Toon, 5 Feb 2012
L. A. Hardy (Newcastle Upon Tyne) - See all my reviews
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I've lived in or near Newcastle for over half my life now and it's a wonderful city, but my knowledge of its history was sketchy at best, a fact which really needed remedying.

There are a number of histories out there, but I decided to go with Purdue's because it is one of the most recent. Purdue's pedigree is also an impressive one - lecturer at Northumbria University and the Open University. Unfortunately, this is where the book's one weakness lies: too many of the chapters read like uncorrected lecture notes bunged together to make up the page count. There is a tendency in one or two chapters to repeat information every few pages, almost as if you couldn't be expected to remember salient facts for more than a few seconds at a time. Having had to do the same thing with my own students merely confirms the book's origins for me.

That aside, this is a very interesting and thorough book, charting the city's story from prehistory to the modern day and covering politics, architecture, music, sport and religion period by period (where appropriate). Purdue's style is easy to read and there are some wonderful accompanying pictures. A chunky tome at 350 pages, this will keep you entertained and out of mischief for many hours.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Easy to read history of Newcastle, 9 Jan 2014
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This review is from: Newcastle: The Biography (Kindle Edition)
This book was easy to read giving lots of information suitable for history student and those just wanting an easy read.
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