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Masters of the Post: The Authorized History of the Royal Mail Hardcover – 3 Nov 2011

4.6 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 880 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (3 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846143241
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846143243
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.2 x 5.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 388,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


An authorised and comprehensive account of an institution that was long held to be the best of its kind in the world. Campbell-Smith's book is vast, monumentally detailed, sharply observant of personalities and wittily readable. (Michael Binyon Times)

The Post Office is currently in difficulties and Duncan Campbell-Smith's thoughtful and well-written book helps provide an explanation of its present situation, placing it in the context of an impressive history of the Royal Mail. This book has much to offer the scholar and general reader alike. (Jeremy Black BBC History)

Highly valuable. An assured and fascinating account. (Martin Daunton Times Literary Supplement)

Some of the subjects Campbell-Smith is obliged to tackle would defy the liveliest pen to make them fascinating, but he has written a solid, brilliantly researched and sometimes drily witty account of an institution once again in the throws of dramatic reinvention. (Nicholas Rennison Times)

Duncan Campbell-Smith's account not only provides a wealth of information and insight. He has succeeded in presenting the often complex story in a clear and incisive style. All in all a highly recommended book. (AK Huggins The London Philatelist) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Duncan Campbell-Smith is a former Financial Times and Economist journalist whose career has also included working in the City and as a management consultant with McKinsey. He holds Visiting Senior Research Fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research and at the Centre for Contemporary British History at King's College, London. His previous books include Follow the Money: The Audit Commission, Public Money and the Management of Public Services, 1983-2008 (Penguin 2008).

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Purchased for my husband who worked for over 47 years for the Royal Mail, and he loved it. In his lifetime the changes have been extensive. Where once the postie had a job for life and was seen as a friendly face,who everyone knew, there is now the casual part time worker and the ever increasing pressure for more to be done in a shorter period of time. This is a wonderful book to dip into with good illustrations and photographs. He is enjoying it immensely and for him a nostalgic trip down memory lane. An enjoyable book not only because of his personal experiences but how the Royal Mail's development and progress illustrates the changes in our own lives. A beautiful book and well worth buying.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is excellent. The early part, before 1900 relies on secondary sources, but meets the needs of the non specialist reader.

The later parts are supported by the author's research and personal interviews. The English is smooth and well written making reading a pleasure in itself. The insight it gives into the machinations of Governments of all persuasions, the at times co-operation and at other times mendacity of the unions and the dead-hand of the civil service legacy have never been so well expressed. There are copious references which will be invaluable to future researchers of the later period.

There is one very big criticism. The binding is shoddy. It is the worst example of early paper-back binding in flimsy boards. The plates are grouped in sections. Before I got to the first set of plates they had fallen out. With some persuasion Amazon replaced my copy. (I did not read it for 4 months after buying, so was outside the 30 day return policy). The binding will not stand-up to multiple readings, and could make its frequent use as a reference work difficult.

An excellent book ruined by its binding. Shame on you Penguin, and an insult to Allen Lane's (the imprint) memory!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I ordered this book because I have always been fascinated by the mail service and wanted to learn a bit more about the "dean" of European postal services and how the mail worked in times past. And the book did not disappoint: it offers a very comprehensive review of the evolution of the British postal service since its early days in the Elizabethan era and the first "organized" civilian post office, in the XVII century. It also has a good number of maps and illustrations. It explains in detail how the mail worked in the pre-railroad era and in Victorian times, you would be amazed to learn delivery times for the mail in mid-XIX Century in most of the British Isles were not unlike in our days, with next-day delivery often available. Of course, this required a huge organisation with nearly half a million people employed.

The chapters that deal with the XX century post devote a lot of attention by matters that relate to trade unionism and labour relations, but you can skim these if, as in my case, you are not that interested in the history of British industrial relations.

The only thing I maybe found missing from the book is some more information about how international mail worked in earlier times, the set up of post offices across the british Empire and the relation between Royal Mail and the post offices in other overseas British Territories...I give it 5 stars nevertheless because the author makes it explicit that he is going to focus on the set up of the Royal Mail in the British Isles, and this he does very well! international and empire mail possibly deserve another book on its own.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
'Masters of the Post' reveals itself a genuinely high quality product from Penguin imprint Allen Lane. Physically, the book's spine, the photographs, the print quality, the maps and more .. ooze considerably better than expected production values in this ever more 'quantity .. not quality' age. A passion for their books I must admit. So to the actual content...

And it is here where the book must lose a star rating. For it is, inescapably over 800+ densely written pages long and does suffer a little from a certain 'wordiness' in it's entirety.

Yet, though the chapters are all very carefully and chronologically sign-posted for easy reference ... while serious types who might want to 'go postal' will no doubt revel in the detail ..

.. For casual / interested readers who desire to know what is, in effect, five centuries of British postal history from Henry VIII onwards will ultimately find that ...

... The propensity of this book towards exhaustively detailing the seemingly interminable 20th /21st Century union machinations / negotiations .. does somehow skewer the whole historical perspective in favour of a pretty serious modern 'political' agenda regarding: the sad decline and 'interesting' future of the Post Office..

Again, the 'authorised' tone might scare a few people off for that reason.

However, purchased this book for very precise reasons ...

When I was young, I was ever so passionate about stamps .. (but as the author candidly admits .. and does provide a smart summary of how it all began .. it is beyond the brief of this book and you should really search elsewhere).
For the last 20 years of my life, I have always wondered how they truly got the post to those brave souls who fought in The Great War and WWII.
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