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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 22 May 2012
I really enjoyed this book.It is social hiostory written in an academic,but readable style.The aspect which struck me,and supports the quotation that'history repeats itself'was the frighteningly similar scenario that the Thirties have withthe present financial,economical and social landscape.The hostil;ity over immigration, and the fears for 'our'jobs, the woolly political thinking over what is the best course of action,the curtailment and ceasation of benefits,and generally to the muddled and many-sided view of what the economic consequences of particular actions will be,the only new problem is the question of the Euro,though substitute for the emergence of a powerful and armed Germany, and the stage is set for total conflict.
This book is important reading for all interested in the development of thought and responses in thwe United Kingdom. Some of the comments beggar belief that they were ever made-the role of women, and what they were fit for, the pro motor lobby that classed pedestrians as a necessary evil,but certainly legislation should not be designed to protect them.One has to remember that the incidents that are written about only occured some eighty years ago-a person's life span-Technology has made great strides, but as the British human race made such great strides in that period-I wonder.
An excellent and well researched book that isreadable to the laymam, but includes historical significance for the student of history.
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on 25 September 2011
This is a book that I had wanted to read since it was first published in hardback but, with other priorities interfering, I only got round to buying a copy in paperback a couple of weeks ago. The small plus is that I saved myself a `few bob'. The much greater minus comes from being denied until now the enjoyment of a well-written and impressively researched work, illustrating a decade that we routinely recognise as the time of the Jarrow hunger march; the abdication; appeasement; Munich and, during its closing months, the declaration of war against Germany. Of course, all these events are covered in some detail, but Ms Gardiner gives us so much more too.
The book begins in hauntingly sad vein with the Glen cinema disaster in Paisley that claimed the lives of seventy-one children on the last day of 1929. It was a horrible start to the new decade for the town where the effects of the depression were being severely felt, just as they were in other parts of West Scotland, Wales and various industrial locations in England. Ms Gardiner goes on to detail the indignities suffered by the increasingly large numbers of unemployed and also how those in work found themselves subject to the constraints of a low-wage economy. As the book progresses the reader may well find it hard to stem a rising sense of disbelief at the callous decisions made by some of those in power - at parliamentary and local level - when dealing with increasing numbers of the poor. The sheer poverty involved and the ungenerous attitude of the state toward giving financial relief is thoroughly reported but one personal illustration stuck in my mind: A new mother in an unemployed household stated that when their baby was born she and her husband borrowed a mattress from neighbours and spread newspapers on it. She used to feed the baby on a bottle of warm water and put the baby to bed in a drawer. Nappies were made from newspaper. But, when she appeared before the Public Assistance Committee and was asked if the baby was being breast fed, she made the mistake of saying yes. As a result, the committee promptly cut a proportion of the allowance the couple received for their child. - Such small snippets of first-hand testimony can say more than an entire chapter. I expect everyone who reads this book will find some comment or recollection that similarly stays with them.
Throughout, the book illustrates events by using the various voices of individuals who experienced life during the decade, from the poorest upwards through the social scale. The hunger marches are well covered, (I had no idea of how many marches there were - the media these days tend only to mention the Jarrow march), and there is a fascinating look at those lucky enough to be able to leave the slums and afford the rent to live on some of the new council housing estates being built at the time. - Unfortunately, there were also many who could not afford the move. In addition, it was interesting to read of the efforts made by builders and building societies to persuade families, many just a fraction better-off financially, that they could achieve the dream of owner-occupation. For some the dream had an unhappy ending, but it was this aspiration to home ownership that gave birth to many of the suburbs with which we are now so familiar.
I have given here only a passing glimpse of what can be found in the book. (The paperback version runs to 766 pages, excluding photographs, bibliography and index).The full list of subjects covered is astounding. There is an impressive section on the British people's reaction to - and in many cases action in - the Spanish Civil War. Many regarded affairs in Spain as foreshadowing the `big one' they knew, in their heart of hearts, would be coming one day. Indeed, as I have already mentioned, all the major events of the decade are here. But what I found perhaps more interesting were the sections dealing with the more commonplace and personal occurrences in people's lives.
Leisure pursuits; the fight for paid holidays; the annual seaside vacation with the guesthouse landlady; the holiday camp; the pub - all have their place here. As does the growth of the' Health and Fitness' mentality and the popularity of the lido. Cinema attendance and radio listening habits are examined and much more. In short, you think of it and the odds are that it is covered to a greater or lesser extent somewhere in this book.
I was left with the impression that people in general during the thirties - some as a result of their own harsh lives, others through hearing with foreboding what was happening in Europe - were much more politically aware than we as a nation are today. What surprised me though was to see the parallels, albeit in diluted form, of those times with today. Here we are teetering on the brink of another depression; politicians as a group are about as ineffectual as ever and, yet again, the great British public has to bear the burden of the desperate attempt to nurture health back into our economy.
Ms Gardiner has marshalled the vast amount of source material used for the `The Thirties' to great effect, resulting in a well organised series of chapters producing an easy to read book that deserves recognition as the definitive popular account of the decade
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After the Roaring Twenties, the Thirties is often considered a depressing (it has even been called a morbid) decade. It has the spectre of unemployment, hunger marches and slum housing hanging over it; war approaching and the remains of an aristocracy which was clinging to a lifestyle that would change forever after WWII. Juliet Gardiner takes on the daunting task of giving an intimate history of this decade and she does so beautifully. She does not shy away from the unpleasant facts of poverty and a massive class divide, but the book is certainly not depressing. She paints a picture of a country with all its habits, problems and pleasures and she does so brilliantly, linking everything to both the previous decade and the approaching war. As well as all the huge issues - politics, the war in Spain and unemployment - the book examines leisure, the growing cinema, home ownership and growing car ownership (the part about the amount of people killed in car accidents, where an incredulous MP stands up and asks what all the fuss is about, is worth buying the book for alone - totally amazing and I had no idea what a debt we all owe Hore Belisha for tackling the problem with such zeal). This is a wonderful, entertaining and absorbing read. I read the kindle edition and it was edited beautifully. Excellent read and I am looking forward to reading her book on The Blitz, which I have since downloaded.
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on 22 April 2011
This review is based on my reading of the Kindle version, and I think it is appropriate to add that if this book had not been available as an e-book, then I probably would not have purchased it. I certainly would not have read the book from cover to cover as I did with the Kindle version, as the delight with the neat tablet is being able to dip into the book so quickly.

I have read a few of the reviews, and on balance, it appears that it is very difficult to write a historic book that is both a joy to read and is also completely accurate. I have great admiration for anybody who is willing to take history by the scruff of the neck and drag it kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century. Hence the five stars given to this work.
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on 22 March 2010
I brought it as a present for my mother, who is from that era, she found it a fascinating review and one that brought back good and bad memories of a different England, whilst also providing an insight into events that happened, but which she only remembered one aspect of. This is the advantage of waiting a few decades before trying to encapsulate an era or trying to give a rounded view of events, you can more fully judge and give an overview based on multiple inputs. With a tongue slightly in the cheek she reported that it was heavier than she might have liked for bedtime reading, perhaps I should have waited for it to come out in paperback?
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on 17 December 2014
Great book, if somewhat heavy going in places, just glad I was not born until the end of 30`s. Gave me some understanding of my parents younger life, and I now appreciate how terribly hard it was for my Grandparents. Thank my lucky stars for their endurance.
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on 11 March 2017
Excellent read. Statistics neatly sewn into the narrative.
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on 4 May 2017
Kindle version, but no illustrations.
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on 5 April 2010
Juliet Gardiner's work is a heavyweight in every sense, but the strain on the arms is well worth the effort. Her book is rightly sub-titled an intimate study for that is precisely what it is. We often tend to view the Thirties as little more than a dull prelude to the following decade but Ms Gardiner's work takes us into territory that is usually glossed over because we all know what happened next. Because of its length many may find this a daunting book but Ms Gardiner shares with many contemporary historians an easy facility with words and the text flows smoothly and the sheer volume of the work ceases to be a deterrent if it ever was. For this reader there was a pleasing absence of polemic - the author does not, as so many are wont to do, seek to take sides and and treats such emotive issues as re-armament and the Spanish Civil War as phenomena to be explained rather than preached. After reading the book I was not only better informed but also felt much wiser.
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on 6 July 2010
I really enjoy a big fat history book and I really enjoyed this one! From the beautiful enigmatic picture on the front jacket (I want to be that woman) to the satifying length of the text, everything was a delight.

Although the Thirties is not really a "forgotten" decade, it does rather get missed out between both World Wars other than some kind of sunlit uplands where everyone wore beautiful clothes and looked and danced like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers or was downtrodden and poor like the Jarrow Marchers. Both extremes are examined here as well as everyday life for the majority of people and very interesting it is too.

I love Juliet Gardiner's books and look forward to the next one!
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