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Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars fun but it is history?, 20 Mar. 2012
This review is from: A History of Modern Britain (Hardcover)
Andrew Marr's book is based on a premise which is only half true. The first half, that the way of life in the UK had changed dramatically in the fifty years since the end of the Second World War, is something most people would agree with. The second half, that these changes are the result of the assiduous work of our political leaders, is mush less credible. What has changed our life is science and technology, exploited by business interests, not political tinkering. What science can build, politics can only demolish. Look at lifestyle of the different classes of people in the rest of Europe, the Americas, the cities of the far east - not so different from Britain or from each other, except maybe for the very poor. If UK politicians made our lifestyle, did those politicians rule the whole world, then?

But if politicians didn't build our modern lifestyle, what did they do? They provided raw material for our media, that's what. And this is what Mr Marr's book is: a review of fifty year's of political leaders and headlines in the UK media. Can we call this history? History suggests some analysis, a move to understanding what happened, why and what its effects were. Mr Marr doesn't quite get there. As a journalist, he provides the quick shallow analysis of the opinion columns or a BBC2 or Discovery channel programme. The county's ex-leaders are brought to cartoon-level life by throwing a few adjectives, chosen more or less at random, in front of their names, and the resulting caricatures act as they logically would, and with effects Mr Marr revels in over-exaggerating. A good story, but not much relevance to the search for truth.

Mr Marr ends his book with a hopeful appeal for us all to take more interest in politics. Let us hope he is ignored. The vast masses demonstrate a sense of wisdom in their belief that it matters little who runs the country, as long as it is not run drastically badly. Democracy is not a system for choosing good a government; it is a method to get rid of a really bad one. So unless a British Hitler rises from obscurity, the public will give our political milieu the scant attention it deserves. Long live indifference!

All the same, A History of Modern Britain is not a bad nook at all, given what it is. As someone who was born just when Mr Marr picks up the story, it was an indulgent nostalgia trip. Seen through tinted glasses, in this case slightly blue. To be consumed with a large dose of salt, but enjoyable all the same.
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