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on 8 October 2015
This book was quite good, but I did not enjoy it as much as his others. It is quite serious in tone and very politically left wing. There are the usual interesting historical articles but I did find myself skimming through some of the more political parts.
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on 20 October 2012
I have to declare an immediate interest - I regard Stuart Maconie as one of the best broadcasters and chroniclers of everyday life currently around. He's incredibly witty and funny, and as always that is what makes this book sparkle. He also appears to be an incredibly nice bloke, a humane and sypathetic commentator, and someone who would provide unbeatable company down the pub. This is an interesting concept for a book, occupies a niche I've not seen filled before, and is written with Stuart's usual attractive blend of acute observation and accessible explanation of what in other hands would be dry historical context.

However I'm not sure why someone (presumably at the publishers) decided to add the subtitle "A People's History of Modern Britain" - as this simply points up a couple of weaknesses in the book. Namely that it's not really a "People's History", and it's not really "of Britain".

It's a series of explorations of aspects of everyday life which help shape the society we live in, each cleverly hung on the peg of a key date from each decade. However Maconie makes no bones about his personal perspective in all these areas, and his accounts are - by his own declaration - far from impartial. That makes for a fun read, but anyone expecting an authoritative reference book should look elsewhere. For example it makes a very pleasant change (as opposed to the usual tabloid agenda about immigration and race) to read a positive and truthful account of how those living in areas filled with people from around the world generally get on well with each other - because underneath all the cultural differences, most people wherever they're from are nice, considerate and decent. But there's a niggling doubt that Stuart really should have mentioned - even in passing - that not everything is rosy in every corner of multi-cultural Britain. That is also a fact of contemporary life, and Stuart does the noble cause of tolerance no favours by ignoring it.

And although all the themes explored apply to Britain as a whole, this is essentially a book about England. It's not just Maconie's slightly irritating tic of using the word "England" when he means "Britain" and vice versa, and it's not just that he makes only one single foray outside of England, to Snowdon. It's the fact that he appears disappointingly unaware of the different perspectives from different parts of the UK on almost every theme in the book. An obvious untold story, an unusual 'take' I've never seen chronicled, would be the reaction to 1966 in the bits of the UK outside England. Were people cheering on their neighbours? Were they in fact supporting Germany? Or - as I suspect - were they really not much bothered one way or the other? Same with the chapter on rambling and the 'right to roam' - there's literally no mention of the fact that this issue was pioneered under entirely separate legislation in Scotland.

The final chapter - the weakest of the book - illustrates the problem perfectly. In 100 years' time what will be remembered about the 1990's won't be a landslide election (what Stuart concentrates on), nor even the mass grief following a royal death. What the history books will record will be the end of 40 years of violence in Northern Ireland, and the biggest shake-up of the British constitution for 300 years in the form of devolution to Wales and Scotland. But because these aren't English phenomena, Stuart can't find even one word to mention them however fleetingly.

It's a shame, because despite all that I would heartily recommend this as an entertaining, insightful and very funny book by a gifted writer and top bloke.
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on 21 July 2011
I love Stuart Maconie's writing; it is intelligent, intellectual, articulate and very,very funny. I like the way he spares not the idiocies of the present day, the "dribbling" television programmes, the culture of unmerited celebrity and the generally weary folk he meets. This book is a fantastic ramble through history, geography and his own subject of sociology.Be warned, though; this author can reduce you to tears.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 30 March 2014
I very much enjoy Stuart Maconie's writing and though I may generally not agree with his musical taste (though he did introduce me to Gentle Giant), I have a lot of sympathy with his worldview as someone from a northern working class background who has to reconcile that with fairly middle class tastes in much of life, not to mention the odd latte.

For me, this is the weakest of his travel-ish books to date. It uses the theme of visiting locations relating to a key date in each decade of the twentieth century, and for some reason this just doesn't work as well as Pies and Prejudice, Adventures on the High Teas or Cider with Roadies. Perhaps I should have got a clue from the lack of a pun in the title. It just feels a little worthier, and less interested in the places themselves, driven as it is by historical and political events.

It's by no means a bad book, and I'm glad I read it - I'd recommend it to any Maconie fan - but certainly not the first one I'd recommend anyone to read.
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on 10 June 2012
Still reading this but so far each chapter has had at least one error that has leapt off the page, his style is still entertaining but the errors are beginning to get annoying- hopefully he picks his game up as the book progresses. So far we seem to be stuck firmly in England too, so the blurb seems a trifle mid-leading
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on 9 October 2013
I like Stuart Maconie's style of broadcasting and writing, sense of humour and in general, taste in music. I also thoroughly enjoyed the first two chapters of this book, particularly Stuart's colourful and humourous, travelogue-style reflections on the places he visited during the course of his writing. That was as far as I got however, due to the rapidly increasing influence of Stuart's personal political views on the subsequent chapters.

I have no interest in politics, but accept that in "a people's history", inclusion of political references is unavoidable. However, I was more than a little disappointed that Stuart missed the opportunity he set up so well in the first part, to make the book live up to its somewhat grandiose sub-title. In view of this, a more appropriate and less misleading sub-title might have been, "a northerner's personal view of modern British history".
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on 2 June 2014
Firstly, the title is a complete misnomer. This is not a history of modern Britain, more a rather pedestrian travelogue crossed with a particularly witless polemic.

The structure is of the book is deeply flawed. By cherry picking specific moments in history and looking at them in isolation you get no sense of the bigger picture, of the forces of history that drove these happenings to put them in context. What history there is is anecdotal, poorly researched and viewed through the distorting prism of Maconie's particular political worldview.

It is also disturbing quite how many members of society Mr Maconie disapproves... families, the modern working class, the middle class, the upper class, The Royal Family, Atheists the list goes on. Basically unless you are a middle aged lady in a tourist information shop, were a member of the (sainted) working class pre 1984 or live in Handsworth in Birmingham you are pretty written off often for the flimsiest pretexts. Like a one-man Daily Mail, Maconie doesn't need facts to build an argument, a simple glimpse of someone from a taxi window is enough to damn an entire population.

It's a shame, because when he puts aside his ideological baggage, Maconie can be a witty and engaging author with great turn of phrase. Unfortunately he hides this for much of the book behind a childish dogmatism and sanctimonious moralising.

Ultimately what made me really dislike this book though is the arrogance of an author who wraps up his own particular bigotry and ill-informed opinions as 'History' and then charges people for the privilege of reading them. I've no issue with people having strong opinions, but in future perhaps he could keep them to internet forums (and Amazon reviews) like everyone else.

If you want an excellent history of modern Britain the I recommend Anything by Dominic Sandbrook or Alwyn Turner who manage to be witty and engagingly readable whilst still being impeccably researched and well argued.
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on 24 December 2012
If you have already read Stuart Maconie's earlier books, particularly 'Pies and Prejudice' then you will know largely what to expect from this. The basis for this book is a fairly loose one, Maconie has taken a significant event from each decade of the 20th century and built a chapter around each one as a means of exploring Britain. He doesn't entirely stick to his own point in some chapters, but I find his meandering, informal style rather endearing. The book is well researched, well written and contains all the usual warmth and wit. It doesn't necessarily hang together that well as a whole piece and in places it felt more like reading a series of rather long blog posts than a book, but I enjoyed it all the same.
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on 29 July 2011
In his observations, Maconie has a knack of putting into words those small things about the modern English persona that most liberal, patriotic people over 30 odd years old are thinking. There are few specific links between Maconie's chosen Days that Made Britain and the modern however, in this work it is the sub-stories, humanity and the masterly yet common-sensical accounts of place and its relation to the turning points in social history that give Hope and Glory its humourous yet highly thought provoking quality.

Obviously meticulously researched (with no pretentions: Maconie cites Youtube on several occasions) readers with a sound knowledge of each historical day won't avoid thinking to themselves, 'Well, I never knew that'. At the same time, Maconie's accounts, stories and observations never come across as trivial. The sub-stories of each of his chosen days are well prosed, highly readable yet sometimes ironic ones of human endeavour, self-belief, unending determination and committment. Impressive is his ability throughout to salute and pay homage to the underdog, the common citizen, the people who make up the so called working or lower classes. Be assured. The title may appear at first too nationalistic but it is soon apparent that Maconie's hope and glory is rightly far removed from its imperialistic, 'holier than thou' connotations. Maconie presents and focuses on the hope and glory kicked and dragged into existence within the UK's borders and abroad. By suffragists, by the soldiers at the Somme and their women in the arms factories, by the general strikers, by the passengers of the Empire Windrush and their successors, by adventurers, by footballers and their fans, by the angry youth of the 1970s, by fans and consumers of rock & pop music. And his list goes on.

Maconie's chosen dates may be questioned. For example, there is inadequate reference to the second world war or a specific event from its duration. There are some excellent insights into sub-cultures, organisations and institutions but the impact of Americanism on Britain throughout the 20th century, although alluded, might have been covered in more detail.

Maconie makes clear his politics and attitudes without the ideological drivel. Yes, the book will appeal to the 'left-leaning' reader but at least Maconie doesn't shy away from shouting from the soapbox - commendable given that his day time employers profess to be an impartial public service. If the book raises eyebrows from centre-right and right-wing commentators concerned with the politics of BBC employees then so be it. Maconie and the people portrayed in Hope and Glory make debates such as these all the richer.

There are those who for practical reasons compare Maconie to other authors. This doesn't do him justice: Maconie is fast moving into the ranks of the mighty in terms of his travel writing and social/historical story-telling (seemingly fueled by caramel lattes and freakbeat). Bryson-ish but with the added observational fervour gleaned from his background as a sociology graduate and lecturer; Orwellian-ish without the scare-mongering but a fair way to go before he hoists aboard Orwell's ability to provoke and even impact on thought for the long-term; journalistic but sticking to the story with no self-promotion or delusions of grandeur. Importantly, these are examples of where Stuart Maconie differs. Be aware though not to get too giddy. Although this is an entertaining, humourous, provoking work the comparisons made to Bryson and Orwell in the cover reviews are at least a little premature.

Hope and Glory: The Days that Made Britain is not just a rallying call for the punk/Bragg/Weller/Live Aid/Guardian reading elements of the 1960s-born generation. This is a must read for anyone remotely interested in any aspect of British life or Britain's progress (and yes it was all progress) through the 20th century.
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on 18 April 2012
Having read his other books, and interested in his angle on the 20th Century, I was fascinated to see how his approach would handle this sweep across this period of history. I was not disappointed. He has a real ability to tell the story in an amusing, insightful and relevant way. Selecting an event per decade is a clever way of telling the story, but just a link into the decade, not a chapter on each event as such. Comparison's to Bill Bryson is not necessary, he deserves recognition for his own unique style. Overall a brilliant read, instructive and entertaining.
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