- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (2 Jan. 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1848871465
- ISBN-13: 978-1848871465
- Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 14 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 308,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Bang!: A History of Britain in the 1980s Paperback – 2 Jan 2014
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Graham Stewart has done a terrific job. His book brings the decade vividly to life and convincingly places it in perspective... Stewart is a gifted writer. He possesses a novelist's ability to engage the reader's interest... Excellent -- Toby Young Mail on Sunday Superb... Throughout this carefully researched history, Stewart conjures the urban decay and collapsed industries of early-80s Britain. Rarely has history seemed so close to us, yet so far -- Ian Thomson Observer A thorough, well-marshalled overview of the politics of the 1980s --Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times
'Graham Stewart has done a terrific job. His book brings the decade vividly to life and convincingly places it in perspective... Excellent' Toby Young, Mail on SundaySee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
However, that book was exceptionally weak once it got to the more recent decades, the ones I remember. It gave no sense of the society, or of the times, that it was describing.
This is where this history, Bang!, really scores. Admittedly the author has over 400 pages to discuss various aspects of a single decade, but still...
From the absolutely necessary economic and fiscal, the battles with trade unions, the fuller ideological struggles, the Falklands conflict, the death of Fleet Street and the rise of Wapping, the UK becoming an oil producing economy and the effect it had on the rest of the economy. But it also touches on the pop music, TV and films, arts, social trends, architecture, even the state of charities during the decade. And while each of those subjects can only be treated fairly briefly even in a book dedicated to the decade, Graham Stewart manages to encompass these subjects but is also succinct. Even with all this included some things had to be left out, but what is included is a good representation of the decade.
This history successfully conveys a good deal of the 'mood' as well as the plain facts of the time.
For this alone I say that this is first rate.
Graham Stewart's Bang!: A History of Britain in the 1980s is, overall*, an excellent guide. He's as comfortable writing about monetarism as he is about Madness, as informative about the SDP as he is Sloane Rangers.
What's most startling is how much society has changed, mostly for the better - indeed, reading about the rampant sexism, racism and homophobia which prevailed at the time, re-inforced by the stodgily white, male trade unions, might shock those Corbynistas who appear to think that simply turning back the clock to pre-Thatcher would right all wrongs.
We think of the 1979 election as a turning point, with Mrs Thatcher's victory a decisive pivot away from the soggy, consensus 'Butskellism' politics of the 1950-70s. Yet that wasn't necessarily how it appeared at the time. In 1955, 74% of those polled by Gallup believed there were important differences between the Conservatives and Labour; in 1979, only 54% did so.
Some things don't change, though. Labour's chancellor Denis Healey described finding Tory costings in their 1979 manifesto as "like looking for a black cat in a dark coal cellar" -- a simile which will resonate with anyone who's tried to identify where the Tories' £12bn welfare cuts in their 2015 manifesto will be found.
As for the idea that the Tories are the party to trust with cracking down on welfare spending, well...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Birthday present, weighty paperback with very small font, however, a massive achievement and totemic work. Read morePublished on 24 Aug. 2014 by GermanGeoff
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.Published on 30 April 2014 by Kindle Customer
This book covered a lot of the events of the 80's but in my opinion missed a lot of important events. Read morePublished on 7 April 2014 by Christian William moyle
This book is around 75% politics and economics - fine for me, but others may be wary.
Written about as well as you feel it could be, Bang! is a great read. Read more
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... Read morePublished on 2 Mar. 2014 by Richard Clayton
This is a well-written, highly readable book which packs a lot into 450 pages. It's written by someone who is clearly an admirer of Mrs Thatcher (which have to confess I am not),... Read morePublished on 10 Jan. 2014 by George Smiley