No Such Thing as Society: A History of Britain in the 1980s Paperback – 16 Sep 2010
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It was a wild, wild decade: strong politics, riots, revival, bad hair, great comedy, some dreadful music, lurid newspapers and a war or two. The Margaret Thatcher rollercoaster carried so many of us into today's Britain, with so many bumps and shrieks, that it needs a writer of cool judgement and a reporter who misses nothing to tell its story. Andy McSmith has managed it, ranging from barcodes to TVam, feminism to Torvill and Dean, and Sloane Rangers to flying pickets. It's hard to see how this account could be bettered. (Andrew Marr)
McSmith has a sharp eye for a revealing story. (The Sunday Times)
(McSmith) presents his views and his recollections clearly, accurately and accessibly in a very readable, social document. (The Scotsman)
A fine account of the decade. (Independent on Sunday)
A rollicking read. (Metro)
....an enjoyable romp through the decade. (The Spectator)
A rollicking read. (Metro East Midlands)
(McSmith) has crafted an entertaining popular history. (Spectator)
A brilliant new history of that most turbulent of decades: the 1980s.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
No such thing as society. Andy McSmith
This book, from Independent writer Andy McSmith, is designed to be a portrait of Britain (or to be more honest, England) in the 1980's. It is questionable whether it can be called a history as such, as, firstly, too many actors on the national stage at that time are still with us, and, secondly, as we are only now moving year by year to the release of official papers under the 30 year rule.
But as a portrait of a period still fresh in the mind of many, it is a useful volume. If, like me, you accept the theory of 'long wave' economic cycles driven by technological change, it shows how the 1980's, at home and across the globe, was a decade marked by the ebbing of the old economy and the growth of the new replacement.
In the UK such change was inevitable, but the pace of that change was still largely determined by human and institutional agencies. In the UK that mean only one person, one who stalks every chapter of this book, Margaret Thatcher. Like Lloyd George before she came into political life as a provincial outsider and walked largely alone. Like Lloyd George she too became a dynamic force for changem if not for the general good.
She remade the UK in a new image. She rode the surf of technological change with firm, but limited conviction. The very shape of the country has altered as a result, McSmith omits, oddly, the one appearance that above all, typified this - the iconic 'walk on the wasteland' where, handbagged and in unsuitable shoes, she strode over the ruins of a collapsed heavy engineering works that only a decade before was one of the largest suppliers of steel and iron making plant in the world.Read more ›
McSmith claims that "after ten years of upheaval and bewildering change, the British decided that they would rather there was such a thing as society and turned to less driven, more conciliatory leaders, who did not alarm them with that kind of thought." They did no such thing. It was sections of the Conservative Party which forced Thatcher from office not the British people.The essence of Thatcher's complaint was that some people believed the world owed them a living and made no attempt to earn a living themselves. Twenty years later the coalition government is grappling with the same problem of changing the culture of welfare dependency which remains an obstacle to self-help, enterprise and the reduction of the public debt.Read more ›
First, and most seriously, his selection of material is totally lacking in discrimination. The first job of the historian is to select from the multitude of events those of genuine importance; McSmith seems more interested in trying to squeeze in as much of what happened as possible. Often the things that fall out are the more significant but less eye-catching. So, for example, the index references Westwood (Vivienne) but not Westland (Helicopters). Judging by the space allocated to each topic, anyone with no knowledge of the decade would assume that The Young Ones was as important as the miners' strike; the New Romantics as important as the Brixton Riots; and Live Aid probably more important than all of them. Perhaps a dedicated postmodernist would want to claim exactly that, but McSmith doesn't come across as a postmodernist, so I assume he was just being unselective.
Secondly, when he does cover a topic he summarises what happened well enough, but doesn't really offer much explanation of why it happened in the way it did. So, for example, to really understand the way that the Labour Party imploded in the first half of the decade, you need to go quite a long way back into the 1970s, and understand its changing relationship with the unions and other trends on the radical left. McSmith touches on this, but the 70s is a bit outside his remit. So you need to know a bit already about some of the topics covered before you can really get the best from this work.
Finally, there's not a great deal of new research on show.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
McSmith's brilliant narrative account uncovers the truth behind the decade that changed Britain forever. Read morePublished 13 months ago by AMX
a fascinating analysis of and insight into a period of exceptional changePublished 16 months ago by R. K. Jacobson
Paints a perfect all round picture of the 80's and Thatcher. I am studying A level history and doing my coursework on Maggie so this has been brilliant at enriching my knowledge... Read morePublished on 5 July 2013 by Daniel
The old joke is that if you remember the 1960s you can't have been there. For me this applies to the 1980s not as a joke but as a reality. Read morePublished on 12 May 2013 by P. S. Briggs
More a primer, organised by particular topics, than a linear history, although Mrs. Thatcher's political trajectory from triumphant bringer of change to deposed leader is the... Read morePublished on 18 April 2013 by Guy
An emphatically left-wing view of the 1980s. Nevertheless packed with detail and worth the read, if you've already lived through the period as an adult, and are thus in a position... Read morePublished on 27 Feb. 2013 by D Hargreaves
I browsed through a copy of this at a friend's house. The inaccuracies and spurious arguments, simply from a cursory glance, which I can remember include:
1. Read more
This is an easy to read book of an eventful decade. Having grown up through it I must admit at the time I did not think that much of it. Read morePublished on 20 Nov. 2012 by Nicodemus
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