231 of 240 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Austerity Britain 1945-1951 (Hardcover)
One of the best history books I have ever read. Whilst 700+ pages is daunting this is well written and very readable. Kynaston mixes the big events with tales of everyday living with quotes from Mass Observation, the pollsters of the day.
Most histories of the 1940s cover the war years and end with smiling faces celebrating VE day in May 1945. A return to normality would take several years. What followed was bleak austerity that is hard to belive from the comforts of 2007 that we so take for granted.
The author places events together so you can read events as they would have appeared in the newspapers of the day, or heard on the radio (only 20,000 TVs, and all of those within 3 miles of Alexandra Palace!). So Hiroshima, the Labour landslide election and people taking their first holidays - day trips to Blackpool, rather than holidays abroad - all take place within a few weeks in 1945. In the process the book debunks a few theories. Churchill's rebuff was not the lurch to the left dreamt of by some but a practical belief that Labour would deliver better housing and health services. Politicians and were trusted about as much they are today and promises of a brave new world were treated with apathy and disdain, not surprising when rationing was even more stringent than it had been in the war years.
Many of us have relations who lived through this period yet this age seems very distant and completely alien to modern society. There but 4 indian restaurants in the whole of Britain and no package tours, and certainly no ipods, computers, starbucks or playstations. If your grandparents say that those days were tough believe them but if they hark back to the good old days beware rose tinted glasses. The picture painted for the ordinary family is bleak and the figures presented for housing conditions and facilities at the time of the 1951 Census take some believing. The well intentioned clearance of slums and replacement by tower blocks was understandable but there was no consultation. All the surveys of the day showed that families wanted houses with garden andn not flats. Sixty years on we still have the legacy of that policy.
If you have the vaguest interest in the history of this period then this is the book for you. Thoroughly recommended.
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Initial post: 16 Dec 2009 11:55:03 GMT
M. Owen says:
"Many of us have relations who lived through this period..." Hey, I lived through it myself! Kynaston's account of industry and labour relations is truly shocking; things may not be perfect now but we've come a long way.
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