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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 25 December 2010
For those of us of a certain age - around the 40 mark - this book will resonate and illuminate a turbulent time in our history, a time when the country changed beyond all recognition, a time when old values clashed against the new permissive society that split Britain apart like a packet of Spangles. This superb, and timely book, charts the decline of the Heath government between the years 1970-74, in all its arrogant glory, as Britain collapsed from within.
For me, the Seventies were a great time, Doctor Who, Battle & Action comic and dozens of war films - what more could a boy wish for?
However, whilst I was enjoying watching and reading Jerry getting a bashing, Britain was falling apart at the seems; riots in Ireland, race tensions between black and white, corruption in the higher echelons of government, football hooliganism on the terraces and the explosion of pornography and of Mary Whitehouse - a combination definitely not made in heaven.
Apart from the above, the Seventies also saw a boom in the areas of feminism and the book reflects that with a cutting chapter on the rise of militant feminist doctrine - showing that birds who read books made a telling and lasting impression on the decade that taste forgot.
Dominic Sandbrook has done men and women of my age a great service with State of Emergency, as it fills in the gaps that Warlord and Commando left out; how industrial relations hit an all time low, how Don Revie cocked up the England team and how Metro Land took over suburbia. Dotted throughout the book are mentions of TV shows, records and films that serve to remind the reader `oh yeah, I remember that...' every couple of pages or so, a clever idea that bonds the writer with the reader.
So, if you like your history with passion, humour and cutting edge insight, this is the book for you. The Seventies have been rightly pilloried in the past but this book puts the record straight - they really were a bizarre time to live through, especially for the adults.
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on 19 July 2017
A great book, thoroughly readable yet without for one moment compromising academic standards.I'd recommend this to anyone who was there or anyone wanting to know what really went on in the first half of the seventies. The previous pair on the fifties, and sixties and the book covering the latter half of the seventies are just as good. Now Mr Sandbrook -how about starting on the eighties?
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If witnessing some political events is like `watching a car crash', then reading this brilliant, compelling account of the 1970s is like reliving something similar but on a far grander scale. Perhaps an unstoppable volcanic lava flow or the meteor strike that's supposed to have wiped out the dinosaurs?

This is a combined review of Dominic Sandbrook's spectacularly good two-volume history of the 1970s. State of Emergency: The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974 covers the Heath years; Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 picks up the story at Wilson's return in 1974 and journeys through the Callaghan years until Thatcher steps through the door of Number 10. Both volumes are excellent, five-star books; fascinating, highly entertaining and extremely readable. My only complaint might be that they caused me too many late nights; even though we now know the ending, the story is a political thriller of the highest order and `the next page' has an irresistible draw. `Seasons in the Sun', the second volume, is even better than the first.

At a combined 1450 pages of quite small typeface, plus notes and index, this is a wonderfully comprehensive account. The author has captured the spirit and detail of the time perfectly, which is all the more remarkable for someone not born until 1974. If you're old enough to remember all or part of the decade you'll experience nostalgia, regret or relief at its passing, mixed according to political taste.

You will be left in no doubt that the 1970s was a very political decade, not only for professional politicians but also in the workplace, in higher education, some schools and even in television drama and light entertainment. Perhaps two-thirds of the two volumes are directly concerned with politics; the rest gives us an insightful tour of changing social attitudes, environmentalism, feminism, immigration, education, football hooliganism, music from prog rock to punk rock and popular television.

`Jaw-dropping' is an over-used term, but there were some times when for me that was literally true. The account of Harold Wilson's second, brief spell in office is almost incredible; hilarious and at the same time deeply worrying that this was how our country's government `functioned'. Similarly, the Heath government's legendary policy `U-turn' contains its own surprises, in how little of a `U-turn' in Heath's own beliefs it actually represented and that most of those politicians who would later be the leading free-market radicals went along seemingly without complaint.

The review title is from chapter 15 in `State of Emergency', describing the final collapse of the Heath government's hapless attempts to control pay and inflation, but it could have been equally well applied to the crumbling of Callaghan's efforts five years later. Whatever your politics, you'll find many surprises and probably pause to reassess your lists of political heroes and villains as the crises grind on through inflation, strikes, power blackouts and wage controls towards a funding crisis, the IMF bailout and ultimately the Winter of Discontent, which is covered in all its bitter, freezing details, and the election of 1979.

Both books are highly recommended, I hope the author continues into the 1980s in a future volume.
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on 3 October 2010
This is yet another of a sequence of histories of the 1970s that seem to have appeared in great numbers recently. In a sense this is hardly surprising as the generation born in the late 60s and early 70s is now approaching the reflective phase of the middle-aged. Like the current reviewer, Dominic Sandbrook has warm memories of the early Jon Pertwee Doctor Who serials, of the first chain restaurants, of the first glimmerings of the celebrity culture that would come to dominate the 1990s.

My 1970s consists mainly of action men, Thunderbird toys, yearning for a chopper bicycle, Berni Inns, and looking forward to watching Carry On films on television. The appeal of these books to an audience in their late 30s or early 40s, is placing the period of your earliest memory is within some wider political and social context. It forms the latest part of an impressive trilogy of it can 20th century history. This book, like its equally compelling predecessors, excels at balancing the demands of politics, culture and wider society.

Unlike other popular histories of the 1970s, the mix and Sandbrook`s book has a much closer focus: it focuses upon the what I would call high 70s - the period between 1970 and 1974, of the IRA bombing campaigns on the mainland, of the three-day week, of the miners' strike which brought down the Heath government. It moves effortlessly from discussing George Best to the power blackouts that ironically interrupted my viewing of union-themed Dr Who `The Monster of Peladon'. The book is lavishly illustrated with many black-and-white photographs that are extremely evocative, and also many of the cartoons by artists such as Michael Cummings from the daily express of the period which seem to characterise a certain brashness and gargoyle like quality. This almost conspires to make the figure of Heath the tragic centre of the narrative.

The close focus of the volume really works, Sandbrook is an evocative writer, and he does justice to a period which rewards close attention. For good or ill, the seeds of society that we have become were sown in the 1960s and 70s, and its crises are our crises. When Dominic Sandbrook progresses to the even more fragmented and opaque period of the end of the 70s, and the early 1980s, I will be first in line to purchase his further book.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
It's unusual to find a history book that's written with this much style and punch. There are plenty of weakly constructed books that can fill you in on all the facts, but which will send you to sleep in the process. And there also exist highly readable books, which due to factual wavering, lack authority.

This is neither: a totally watertight, very gripping, beautifully described history of the first four years of the seventies. Every generalisation is accurately measured, every story elegantly told. Just enough period detail, just enough historical perspective, and you actually look forward to getting back to the grim years of 1970-174. A really astounding achievement. Can't wait to order the previous two now!
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on 23 September 2012
I was a child in the early 1970s, the period this book covers, and so whilst some of this was familiar to me, most of it was not. And anyway, when you're a kid, eating by candlelight and reading books under the bedclothes with a torch is exciting rather than a complete pain - my poor parents trying to keep a normal life! It's a complete immersion in early 1970s culture and politics. Nothing's missed - even football and television are covered to make sure you have a grasp of the country as a whole. I found it hard to get into at first but once I was gripped, fairly romped through to the end, so if that's your first response too, persist. I think I didn't immediately respond to the way he was organising his material, but once you get into the swing, it does work.

I particularly liked his fairness. Even as I reached the end of the book, I realised that I've no idea about his politics. That's not to say he lets people get away with things - all sides come in for criticism at some stage or another. But it's probably the best kind of historian to read, unless you know you want polemic. If you're wondering if this tells you anything about Scotland in the 1970s, the answer is no - as with lots of historical overviews, it's mostly about England, though because of the events of the period, Northern Ireland is extensively (and to my mind well) covered. But it's a very good general overview, particularly if you're looking for something to help you understand the politics of the crazy four years that was 1970 to 1974.
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VINE VOICEon 4 October 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
State of Emergency - The Way We Were is a fascinating read. It took me a little while to get into his style, which seemed rather sporadic at first, moving from one subject to another speedily. But after a while I got used to such juxtapositions as notes from a 12 year old Essex schoolgirl's diary and the catastrophic events unfolding in Northern Ireland. Huge social changes such as the pill becoming available to unmarried girls are discussed alongside the continued growth in material prosperity for most of the nation.

He spends a deal of time discussing the Heath administration, which is really his central theme, and eventually gets characterized as incompetent and contradictory, but also extremely unlucky. Sandbrook has a good look at the dominant political personalities of the era such as Enoch Powell, Harold Wilson and Roy Jenkins but also some such as Douglas Hurd and Margaret Thatcher whose era had not yet come.

I would recommend this book as an interestingly written study of the years of my youth, which I was too young to take in fully at the time. It is wordy and detailed but gives an excellent perspective on some of the most important historical events that took place in the nation during those years. I recommend it to you!
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VINE VOICEon 19 October 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
You've heard of, or at least spied Never Had It So Good and White Heat on the racks. Now, following those concentric studies of Britain from the mid-50s onwards, Dominic Sandbrook has delivered, in State of Emergency, on the first half of the 1970s. In terms of bravery in scope and scale, the author is arguably second to none, but steps truly into his own league thanks to a hugely engaging narrative flow and a sense for pace, all powered by that trademark (impeccable) research. Once you're inside that front cover you can almost smell the cold and sense the constricting gloom of that most conflicted of decades.

Granted, State of Emergency is no beach read, and it's fair to say the author won't be threatening sales of Spangly Space Hoppers of My Childhood any time soon, but neither is Sandbrook ever stodgy or droll. In the introduction the author himself admits that this is a politics-heavy investigation, but that's not in any way to suggest this is a bland read; it's just, as he points out, the early 70s were defined by a huge sense of political upheaval, and that is what must underlie all that prevails. Yet, it's not, as they say, what you do, but the way that you do it: Riffing straight across otherwise disparate subjects to present an engaging cross-section of society in motion, the author can play on the rise of Michael Caine to the iconic, call by on the demise of the church and perfectly illuminate the bitter separation of generational divorce as it relates to urban renewal, all without missing a beat and complete with killer quotes. He's that good.

I can't begin to imagine how Sandbrook pulls these books together, but he does it with brilliance. Highly recommended.
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on 21 October 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
An interesting read covering my formative years aged 6 to 10 although it is a lot gloomier than I remember with strikes and power cuts along with inflation and unemployment. The book is long consisting of 720 pages and covers Edward Heath's time in government from mid 1970 to February 1974 revisiting and examining his premiership which has parallels to that of Gordon Brown.

It also explores the social history of the time as well as the inovations and culture. I found the writing a little dry in places and some of the humour of the period seems to have passed the author by, but this is a detailed and well researched study of a period of time often neglected or dismissed. It requires commitment but rewards with memories and revalations especially for those of us that lived through the period
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on 29 September 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is the third in a series of British social and political histories of the later twentieth century. It is a heavy tome both physically and intellectually but is well worth the effort required to delve into it. The writing is very good and it is well illustrated with photographs of the era, a time that many of us remember well as one of struggle and compromise, social change and social deprivation. It also had some good music and some good times. You will find all of that here.
This is not just a work for academics, sociologists and historians, but also for anyone with the time and energy to commit to this book and that wants a fuller understanding of just what our country when through during those turbulent and trying years.
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