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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Politics of Confusion, 31 Oct 2013
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This review is from: Bang!: A History of Britain in the 1980s (Kindle Edition)
At 81, I look back on the eighties with clear memories. I was busy in those days and, like most people around me. kept up with the news. I knew most of what was 'going on' but this book has set me back on my heels to realise what a struggle for POWER existed and what kind of people were fighting it out. We have everything here, in brief within a lengthy book that is needed to cover it all- turmoil in the Labour party, trade unionists with an arrogance hard to believe, Militant Tendency and the Gang of Four, Thatcher and Howe, Wets and Dries, the Irish sore, Protest and 'Rent a Mob' and so on and so on. It is all here and a very good read. I found some sections rather dense when I was out of my comfort zone - in my case on economics and financial complexities like Monetarism but the book could not be more comprehensive within its size. It's a good few hours read but it's time well spent.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Good (mainly political and economic) History of the 1980s, 4 Mar 2013
Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980s by Graham Stewart is a very good book mainly dealing with politics and economics between the run-up to the general election of 1979 to the removal of Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister in late 1990. It is well-written, informative, detailed and opinionated and tries to explain the story of Britain in the turbulent 1980s when the country politically, economically and socially changed dramtically. Although it does have some chapters dealing with culture etc it is however, at heart a political and economic history of the period. All in all a very good book dealing with a decade that for better or worse changed Britain.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but not for Thatcher-haters, 4 April 2013
By 
Philip J. Coggan (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Bang!: A History of Britain in the 1980s (Kindle Edition)
A wideranging review of Britain in the 1980s, in the style of Dominic Sandbrook's popular post-war histories (Mr Sandbrook has just reached 1979). Strong meat for Thatcher-haters since the book gives the iron lady credit for reviving the British economy, while admitting to her faults (such as the poll tax). There is plenty on popular culture too, and of course on significant factors such as the offshore oil industry and the changes on Fleet Street.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Naff title but good content, 22 Feb 2014
By 
F Henwood "The bookworm that turned" (London) - See all my reviews
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It is extraordinary to think that nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the end of the 1980s. The recent death of the woman who personified it - does she need to be named? - reminded me that she literally belonged to another time. My miserable, self-absorbed adolescence spanned those years. Now, as middle-age creeps up on me, I read this book and it took me back. I lived in a different country back then in the 1980s and this book shows us what kind of country it was.

Of course the centrepiece of this book has to be Mrs Thatcher and her administration. The book offers a defence of her economic record, not in a strident, preachy tone that we used to associate with the woman herself but in moderate, understated voice. For instance, reducing the tax rate on high earners did in fact increase tax take overall. The same goes for some of the proposed alternatives to her polices. The putative remedy to stemming manufacturing decline, the imposition of capital controls, did nothing to halt decline of French manufacturing, for instance: the country maintained them throughout the 1980s when Britain abolished them in 1980, but France ended the decade with around 20 per cent of its economy accounting for manufacturing, a similar percentage to Britain's. However, he concedes that her government's attempt to inaugurate a purist form of monetarism in the early 1980s, by controlling the money supply and hence inflation, foundered because her economists could not even decide on what money actually was! In the aggregate, Thatcher left us richer in 1990 than we were in 1979. But the author is too sanguine about those who did not partake in the overall increase in wealth and prosperity in the 1980s, and the short-termism of corporate, city culture which continues to be a bane for this country. Thatcher's authoritarianism and curtailment of civil liberties are simply not mentioned.

I don't agree with all of the analysis - I think that the standard explanation of the Soviet Union's demise offered here, i.e. that it buckled in attempting to match the West's arms build-up in the 1980s, is much overstated, an explanation which has a retrospective plausibility but ignores the fact that few commentators - including Thatcher herself - foresaw the collapse of the Soviet Union. On the other hand, he introduces some important nuances that deserve to influence the polarised debate about her legacy. It is often said for example (e.g. by George Galloway) that Thatcher divided the country. But the country was already divided at the advent of her government, and many of her opponents, like the leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, were hardly less divisive than she was. Her opponents did not have a monopoly of the moral high ground.

Culture - high and popular - is not neglected and the author has a broadminded approach, free of the sort of screechy, panicky tones emitted by the right-wing popular press. For from being a sterile decade, the decade had much going for it, with a far broader spectrum of creative talent emanating from these years than sometimes supposed. The pages on bands such as Madness and The Smiths are particularly good.

He notes that if Britons had been able to switch seamlessly between media coverage of 1979 and 1990, they would have found that the staples the 1970s, of national decline, inflation, strikes, social disorder, `states of emergency', the threat of nuclear holocaust, had been transformed beyond all recognition. Much of this was the outcome of developments that had nothing to do with Thatcher and for which she cannot take credit. But the picture that I sometimes get from some of those who remember the 1970s as some sort of golden age before Thatcher ruined everything is somewhat challenged by this book. This does not mean the Thatcher era was an inevitable development. Had Callaghan called an election in 1978, he would probably have won it and Thatcher would probably have been purged as leader by her own party, given the fact that she had not established her dominance over the party rank and file at the time. Awareness of the exigencies of history means that this is not a triumphalist account; the rise of Margaret Thatcher was not foreordained.

I think that this book should appeal to anyone who remembers the 80s or is interested in those years, unless of course you absolutely hate Thatcher and consider her the personification of evil. On the other hand, cultural conservatives and former associates of Mary Whitehouse will search in vain for fulminations against homosexuals, casual sex and drug-taking ( they will hate his positive assessment of the government's Don't Die of Ignorance HIV/AIDS, the success of which was predicated on a tolerant, pragmatic approach to people's sexual behaviour). Overall, the book is a nuanced account of the 1980s, written from an economic and social liberal's standpoint, which leaves these years open to other interpretations of Thatcher's record, not necessarily friendly ones.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bang! A History of Britain in the 1980's, 8 Sep 2013
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Articulate and in-depth analysis based on solid research, this is a brilliant narrative on the 1980's. A must read for anyone wishing to understand the social and economic transformation of Britain during a tumultuous decade.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive account of the decade, 19 Jan 2013
Graham Stewart's masterly survey of the 1980s covers all the key political, economic, cultural and social elements of the decade - with the ever present figure of Margaret Thatcher never far from its narrative. He not only reminds readers of the highs and lows but also brings new insights and analysis of a period which will divide politicians between those who view it as the best of times and those who saw it as the worst. At the same time, he provides vignettes from his research which ensure that it remains highly readable and accessible from beginning to end.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read, 23 Mar 2013
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i give this book 5 stars....it was fascinating to see the era that i grew up in disected as history....the author demonstrates an amazing depth of knowledge by analysing all manner of events and trends eg the falklands war, the theatre scene, all manner of social phenomena etc.... a fascinating read
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4.0 out of 5 stars BANG A HISTORY OF BRITAIN IN THE 1980'S, 30 April 2014
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This is a well written account of the period and contains quite a lot of detail which older people who can remember these events will particularly enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Overview of the Thatcher Years, 2 Mar 2014
By 
Richard Clayton (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The book preupposes a little interest and knowledge of british politics but regardless, this is an excellent and detailed description of the events of the 80s that shaped a generation and left a deep impact on Great Britain and arguably the rest of the world too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars british life in the shadow of the Bomb, 10 Aug 2013
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Excellent and informative history of this period in British history. Will definitely act as a reference point for future historians who will consider Britain's role in Cold War politics and its associated ideologies.
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