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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 31 March 2008
I originally bought this book after hearing about the TV programme and reading the reviews on here and also because I thought it would be a good education for me.

As I neared the end of the book I re-read the reviews here and was somewhat surprised to see some 1 and 2 star reviews, although on reading them I did agree with some of their content.

Overall the book as far as what I hoped to get out of it was 5 stars. Very readable and a great review of politics from 1945 until 2006.

However I do have some comments about it. I didn't quite understand the infrequent dips into non-political issues e.g. fashion in the 1960s. Although I can understand that this was an important backdrop to the political situation (more liberal rules etc) the 'dipping' was a little inconsistent, almost as if either Andrew Marr or the publisher had said 'Nice book can you do a few non-political bits please?'. I did enjoy the 'dips' but wonder whether the book would be better without them, or with more of them? On balance they could probably have been worked in within the theme of the politics hence my title for my review - the book shoudl be A Political History of Modern Britain.

I was also a bit disappointed that more detail was not given to decimalisation (a couple of lines) which as an 11 year old I remember very clearly - surely that was a political hot potato worthy of more discussion?

As for the reviewer who complained it was like A-level History, well I didn't do that and for me the depth of the writing was enough, but I accept that perhaps the book is very superficial, though I have to say highly enjoyable.

These comments would not have made me drop a star in my rating, but the appalling typos I am afraid do, so 4 not 5.

Well worth reading though despite my tiny reservations.
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on 5 December 2008
I liked this book, and as an overview of the post war to modern day period, it's pretty acceptable but I was surprised at how much of his comments/narrative were seemingly only evidenced by politician's own memoirs. Not greatly partisan sources!! I was also annoyed by the sheer volume of typos - Had someone shot the editor? Perhaps after this performance they should have! I also found his forays into pop music and fashion quaintly embarrassing! My final comment, though not necessarily a criticism was how much more interesting and accurate (for me) his comments and observations etc appeared to be from 79 onwards, which I assume was when he became more closely involved with events through his journalism.
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on 26 May 2007
This is easy to read, general history for the average person in the street like me who has a broad interest in the life of the country but who hasn't got the background to read the "proper" histories. I love this because I can dip in and out, or I can read it in linear chunks. I love the style which is chatty and friendly. And the period interests me because it is really before I was around, so I see the echoes of it but never experienced these things for myself. A lot changed in Britain post war, and I didn't really appreciated how much until I read this.

I can't really comment on the absolute accuracy, and I'm sure it isn't definitive, but it is approachable. It's like a Bryson book of science rather than a Hawking, but with history.

It's quite bit and heavy in hardbook though, but if that is my principle complaint then take this as an unqualified recommendation!
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on 9 July 2008
This is an enjoyable, easy-to-read overview of postwar Britain but Marr does seem to get away with some shockingly wooly points that would have caused my history teacher's red pen to run out of ink!

The first chapters, about Britain's politics immediately after WW2 up to the 60s I thought were excellent, but as soon as he gets into economics, pop music etc it does become pretty sloppy tabloid generalisation. As a typical upper-middle class BBC journo and well-known chum of Gordon Brown he's also painfully PC, especially jarring in a history book, re. the unqualified good of multiculturalism, the NHS and welfare state, the liberal reforms of the 60s onwards etc. There's also a very sniffy attitude to the developments of business, the UK economy and consumerism.

Also it would be really useful in a future edition to occasionally include in the margins what year he's talking about. In an overview, thematic history it's very hard to follow exactly when specific things are happening, and Marr rarely gives any dates in his text.

Then there's the typos - I'm not that much of a pedant but I was seeing a glaring one every few pages! In a history book from a respected BBC journo this is really poor, and does make you wonder if some of the facts and quotes are in fact accurate, given that there was so little scrutiny in the editing process.
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on 14 June 2007
Quite clearly, Andrew Marr's television series - A History of Modern Britain, is a triumph and makes for entertaining viewing. The book which accompanies the series does the programmes justice. Readers should not be put off by its bulk as the book is compulsive and offers a very accessible insight to the key events and personalities which have shaped Britain since 1945. The book's style is witty and easy to read yet offers new ideas and opinions which will interest those with a more serious interest in the subject.

The period is in places a controversial and complex one, but Marr teases out a fine story of our times; adeptly combining Britain's political story with a more lighter social history with references to James Bond, game shows and television programmes. Although, a populist history, Marr does offer interesting insights and reassessments of key personalities of the era. In particular his reassessments of Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher gives much food for thought.

I would have no hesitation in recommending this history to anyone with an interest in our recent history as it is extremely accessible and enjoyable. Alongside this book, I would recommend the Dominic Sandbrook books - Never Had it so Good and White Heat - on Britain in the 1960's, which are equally entertaining and interesting.

A fine read!!!
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on 12 January 2009
Andrew Marr, ex-editor of the Independent and more lately the BBC's political editor, has set himself a sizeable task: to cover the political and social development of Britain from the post-war government to (more or less) the present day in a single volume. Or perhaps not so great an endeavour when you consider that Eric Hobsbawm covers almost the whole of the twentieth century in "Age of Extremes".

But Marr isn't Hobsbawm, which isn't a criticism, because I think he does an excellent job of covering the period and in a much more accessible (and some would say less biased) way than the eminent historian. He manages a double handed trick: to give enough hard detail about events to make the read credible but also to use "softer" material - what we wore, ate, listened to and did in our free time - to deliver a flavour of each era. It's all straight reporting - Marr resists the urge to drop any personal anecdotes he might picked up during his long career as a political journalist - but it's all the better for that. We don't really need yet another "insiders" account of the Blair years. Politically, Marr maintains an admirable neutrality, or in plainer words, I can't tell from this book what his politics are, although I felt he soft pedals some aspects of the Thatcher years, in particular the long term effects of the mass unemployment unleashed at that time and Nigel Lawson's fairly cynical engineering of a boom in house prices in good time for the 1987 election. We are suffering the after effects of both still and as the point of history is hindsight, I don't think Marr would have been out of order to apply some here. He also, as a Scot, can't stop himself from having a whinge about oil, nationalism and the duplicity of southerners, but as an English person who lived in Scotland for 25 years, I'm allowed to feel weary when I hear the old arguments rehashed yet again.

Summary: an excellent overview of interesting times for a reader who wants a mixture of facts and social overview.
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on 1 August 2009
OK, in 600 pages you're not going to get the full comprehensive history of post-war Britain. What you do get is a page-turner that keeps you interested, informed and entertained throughout. From the immediate pre-war period until the end of the Blair years Marr provides a terrific insight not only into the formative and influential events but very enjoyable insights into and mini biographies of the personalities and players that have shaped them.
The style is very engaging and you can hear Marr as you read. Very highly recommended, especially I think, if you are in your 50s or older and can relate to the times, events and the personalities.
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on 26 May 2016
This is a stimulating, interesting and informative read. The book covers most of my life. It was fascinating to have the author's views on people and events that I've lived through or been told about.
As a political commentary it is thorough if you're looking for a standard analysis of the period. It would have been enhanced by giving some space to a left wing or Marxist critique. It remained slightly right of centre, as you would expect from this author. This meant there was insufficient space on the impact of policies on people marginalised by those policies or of the divide between those with power and wealth, and those struggling to make ends meet. Class as an issue was hardly mentioned, nor was the attainment gap between children of the rich and poor.
I enjoyed the earlier chapters best. They focussed on politics, but also on wider cultural issues. They attempted to draw connections across the whole spectrum of life rather than the narrow focus on politics. It was interesting to debate with the book - and later with others - some of Marr's descriptions of culture in the 50s and 60s. Sadly, as the book went on everything but politics was left alone.
Is it a history of Britain or English or indeed Westminster politics? I think it descended into Westminster politics. As a Scot, I felt we were hardly at the races. I'm not sure how people from Northern Ireland, Wales or the regions of England felt.
An interesting read, but there is more to be said about the period.
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VINE VOICEon 28 July 2008
This book's great advantage is that Marr was trained a journalist, not a historian. So his pace is rapid, his prose snappy and it doesn't get boring. Even in the boring bits.

This does focus a lot on the politics, but, unlike some other reviewers, I rather liked the divergences into fashion or food or theatre. I find that always brings history to life rather more than politicians in suits talking about things.

There are mistakes in the book that I spotted, which suggests there are likely to be rather more that I didn't. Sloppy, but not terminal. And let that not spoil too much what is an excellent run through the history of the last sixty years. If you are looking for an entertaining, single volume history that is readable throughout, this is the one.
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on 12 July 2012
Like a lot of reviewers I enjoyed travelling down memory lane and revisiting the politics of the era in the Britain I grew up in (mid fifties to 1971). I hoped to learn what I missed out on 1971-77 and then some insight into the Thatcher years where I was living in London and the post years 1981 onwards. I did not mind the context of fashion/music/popular culture. I think coming into the bright lights of the sixties these were powerful influences on youth culture and much resented by the generation who had austerity of the depression then the war and post war years. But populist did strike me as a descriptor for this book and I was a little taken aback to think it was set reading for schools. Probably because critical thinking it is not, there appears to be too much opinion and speculation diusguised as history. I found the Thatcher passages depressing in their predicatbility, particularly as Mr Marr appears to have caught well the malaise we face currently-world-wide not just Britain. That consumerism has overtaken and colonised politics. Thatcher and what she stood for and set free has a lot to do with that. I found the descriptions of the loss of industry such as the miners marginalised. I reflect on events such as the bravery of the women in the pickets who provided community support through food, shelter and emotional sustenance to families cracking under strain. Not perfect but better than anything celebreties from things such as Big Brother or cooking shows can offer. It also did little to give balance to Blair's term of office and his destruction of socialism for some nice fence sitting new labour that strangled the bollocks out of meaningful oposition to greed is good. Lastly, I guess I was dissapointed as I was expecting more critique of the media and the control of must of us by a few who are basically off to hell in a trolley and taking us all down with them. I almost gave this four stars for it being such a good read but I think it could have provided more useful an insight.
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