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Customer Review

45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable history of post war Britain, 15 Aug. 2007
This review is from: AUSTERITY BRITAIN 1945 - 51 (Hardcover)
I read a review in The Sunday Times when the book first came out. I thought it was a suitably obscure subject and asked the library to get me a copy. In then became a bestseller and I was told that the waiting list was 54 and I was 27.

I then read better reviews and they said it was a great book. I was born in 1950 so that period of history is of interest to me as I believed it shaped the1950s and 1960s and some of the attitudes still prevail today.

The book is a great review of British life in its every aspect and the thinking of the time. We had won the war but the peace was tougher than the war for a lot of people. Rationing went on for years and the old attitudes in society did not break down quickly enough.

I did not start to take notice of what was going on in society until about 1963 and the attitudes that are set out in this book certainly prevailed for thr next twenty years. All the old threadbare cliches of privilege and what society was all about still existed.

In 1946 the National Trust had a meeting and one of their representatives said about Montacute House in somerset that the public could not of course be admitted to the house because they smelt. There was two minutes dead silence.

People did smell in 1946 if you read about their washing an living conditions.

Housing was a big priority then as now Neil Kinnock's family moved in November 1947 to a new two bed-roomed prefab on a council estate in Nant-y Bwch " It was like moving to Beverly Hills he recalled " It had a fridge, a bath, central heating and a smokeless grate... and people used to come just to look at it.

The BBC was holding up standards as always and banned in 1948 jokes about lavatories, effeminacy in men, immorality of any kind.Extreme care should be taken about certain references such as pre natal influences(e.g. his mother was frightened by a donkey and marital infidelity.

The public's views on extra marital sex were recorded. One taxi proprietor said "I may say my wife and I have dropped one or two people who weren't playing the game ,we didn't think they were worth knowing."

It is an interesting old fashioned view that you would ostracise people for immorality. You would be ploughing a lonely furrow now if you did that.

In economic terms there was lot of price fixing and when proper competition came later British industry were not up to it because they had had such cosy arrangements.

There were standards to be maintained and a lot of people saw themselves as gentleman and had a code " Shoes have laces", "motor cars are black" "jelly is not officer's food". People believed this stuff.

Price fixing was everywhere between such companies as Lyons and Wall's in ice creams. Selling was a gentleman's existence with Sheffield operating as a big cartel. Orders were reported to the respective trade and association committee and at the end the day they would tell you what prices to quote. The price fixing was incredible.

British industry was not prepared to follow the American gospel of productivity and the 3 Ss standardisation, simplification specialisation.

In education only those who passed the eleven plus were deemed fit for a decent education and people like Cliff Richard did not pass and neither did John Prescott and the author said did not get the bike and thereafter never quite forgave the world.

All these attitudes were alive and well right through my teens in the sixties and well into the seventies. Some of them are still around now sixty years later.

If you want to understand present day Britain this is the book for you and at 632 pages before you get to the notes and index it is a hefty read but well worth it.

I will be quoting it to all those who think today's problems are some how unique.

We have seen it all before.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 30 Jun 2008 17:52:43 BDT
Amytris Faus says:
I didn't get the bike either!
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Review Details



Peter Wade

Location: Colchester England

Top Reviewer Ranking: 5,830