- Hardcover: 592 pages
- Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 May 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 057122136X
- ISBN-13: 978-0571221363
- Product Dimensions: 16 x 4.7 x 24.1 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 554,227 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies Hardcover – 7 May 2009
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The 1970s was the decade that formed my politics and Andy Beckett captures it perfectly. No-one will ever write a better biography of this decade that saw the twilight of social democracy and the beginning of the Thatcher/Reagan era which now too enters its twilight. I just couldn't put it down. --Ken Livingstone<br /><br />What makes this book such an evocative and riveting read is the archival record of an approaching thunderstorm, which he describes vividly and honestly. ... (A) compelling narrative. --Francis Wheen, Literary Review<br /><br />(A) beautifully written and hugely entertaining book. The author has the ability to make the prosaic seem exciting and some of his characters would be at home in a Victorian melodrama. --Roy Hattersley, Daily Telegraph
What makes this book such an evocative and riveting read is the archival record of an approaching thunderstorm, which he describes vividly and honestly. ... (A) compelling narrative. --Francis Wheen, Literary Review
(A) beautifully written and hugely entertaining book. The author has the ability to make the prosaic seem exciting and some of his characters would be at home in a Victorian melodrama. --Roy Hattersley, Daily Telegraph
(A) fabulous book.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
This book turned out to be a thoroughly and scrupulously researched history of that derided decade, mostly political but also touching on matters like pop festivals. It is a detailed analysis, with the benefit of hindsight, from the beginning of the Heath era to the beginning of the Thatcher one. Beckett's list of sources, including books, articles, and TV and radio broadcasts from the time, runs to no less than 25 pages, and the book took 5 years to write. He personally interviewed several major players of the era, including Ted Heath, Denis Healey, Jack Jones (recently deceased), and Arthur Scargill. These interviews, with fascinating descriptions of the characters 30 years on, are particularly delightful. So any idea that someone who had just turned 10 by the end of the decade is unsuited to write such a book must be rejected.
The book is in 4 parts, entitled Optimism, Shocks, New Possibilities, and The Reckoning. The chapter titles are sometimes obscure until the reader has read several pages; "The Great White Ghost" refers to Heath, "Margaret and the Austrians" refers to Thatcher's espousal of the so-called Austrian school of monetarism, while "William the Terrible", which completely mystified me until almost the end of the chapter, refers to the US Treasury Secretary in 1976.Read more ›
This is a fascinating book of political history with voices in the pages that have already passed from us. Beckett was insightful enough to realise that age might not necessarily prevent effective reflection and a sizeable chunk of the book is bolstered by the reflections of the late Sir Edward Heath - Beckett must have been one of the last people to interview Ted.
As I write this, the trade unionist Jack Jones has just passed away. Within these pages is an account of how Heath and Jones first met during the Spanish Civil War - Ted the observer, Jack the soldier. It's interesting to reflect on how the respect formed at that time possibly informed political and union negotiations thirty five years later.
I was delighted to discover well-written, insightful accounts of events that my in-laws had been involved with - events barely chronicled elsewhere but recognised by Beckett as being pivotal at the time.
This book was a long time in the writing and it shows - there are no woolly passages, no reverting to cliches. Andy Beckett diligently sought out the right people to speak to, revisited the scenes of events in an attempt to understand what happened years ago and to provide their modern context.
I loved this book. I can't imagine me writing that about many books of political history but it is true of this one.Read more ›
Andy Beckett doesn't just give us the politics: Harold Wilson in his Gannex mac, Grocer Heath's almost tragic mismatch between personality and belief, Sunny Jim Callaghan and a perhaps not yet quite Iron Lady, but certainly galvanised. He also takes us through social change like the rise of Women's Lib and Gay Lib and of environmentalism. Yet at the end of it all one wonders what it was that snapped Britain out of that left-wing consensus into (within a few years) a right-wing semi-consensus. Was it North Sea Oil? Was it just a "changing of the guard"? Or is all politics and economics simply a tidal sea in which trends wash in and wash out.
A very enjoyable and thought-provoking book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very well researched and written. Fascinating information contained within its pages, including the fact that the infamous IMF loan wasn't actually needed when the national... Read morePublished 2 months ago by sap59red
An excellent and thoughtful account, with some surprising and neglected details. I had never heard of the government-sponsored 7 day hippy free festival at Watchfield in 1975, the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Brougham
Great condition. Wonderful read. I could remember lots of it from the time. Although written from a gentle right wing stand point.Published 7 months ago by David Martin
This is an excellent history of the 1970s that does not try to copy Dominic Sandbrook's all-seeing survey of the same decade and cover everything. Read morePublished 14 months ago by F Henwood
Comprehensive and a real page turner. Beckett gives too much irrelevant padding out on occasion but it's rivetting mostly.Published 23 months ago by Andygof