Customer Review

58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Social History is fascinating!!, 18 July 2003
This review is from: The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin History) (Paperback)
I had two major preconceptions which this book has reduced to rubble. The first was that social history was boring; the second was that all working class movements were (disappointingly) lead or supported by the middle-classes, and once the middle-classes got what they wanted and put the brakes on the movements they led the workers collapsed. This led me to view the working class (from which I spring) as pliant, disordered and whimsical. However, this book has taught me: social history is not boring; and the working classes are not feckless, whimsical and slavish (at least not a majority at that time). This is the story of a whole way of life for the lower swathe of society being slowly and calculatedly ripped limb from limb then stitched back together by and for people who found it profitable for themselves to do so. However, the process was not acted on passive beings; hearteningly, the people upon whom some of the cruellest (sustained and systematic) acts in history (before the 20th Century) were perpetrated on fought back, and did a good deal to frustrate the aims of Authority. There was heroic resistance and a great deal of this resistance was led by the working classes themselves. The resisitance, by its nature, also developed political consciousnes, political involvement, and an admirable way of life that seems to have left this country now - returning home from work (12 - 14 hours in those days) and educating yourself. The story is well told, although admittedly it starts slowly and for those who have no interest in statistics they will find a few dull patches. Nevertheless, it is a vital, fascinating and inspiring work. We seldom hear of this period of history in ways other than 'the Nasty Bonaparte' and 'Hero Wellington'. It is envigorating to know that in Britain Wellington wasn't everybody's hero, that people thought for themsleves and were prepared to do something about their situation, nor was the war being fought viewed as a clean-cut good v evil duel adrumbating the wars of the Twentieth Century. Anecdotes, tales of sacrifice, notes on literary figures, cruelties of a ruthless ruling class, spies, dissemblers, controversies and daring conspiracies: there are other histories to be told; this book tells one of them and tells it very well.
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