David Kynaston’s history of post-war Britain has so far taken us from the radically reforming Labour governments of the late 1940s in Austerity Britain and through the growing prosperity of Family Britain’s more placid 1950s. Now Modernity Britain 1957-62 sees the coming of a new Zeitgeist as Kynaston gets up close to a turbulent era in which the speed of social change accelerated.
The late 1950s to early 1960s was an action-packed, often dramatic time in which the contours of modern Britain began to take shape. These were the ‘never had it so good’ years, when the Carry On film series got going, and films like Room at the Top and the first soaps like Coronation Street and Z Cars brought the working class to the centre of the national frame; when CND galvanised the progressive middle class; when ‘youth’ emerged as a cultural force; when the Notting Hill riots made race and immigration an inescapable reality; and when ‘meritocracy’ became the buzz word of the day. In this period, the traditional norms of morality were perceived as under serious threat (Lady Chatterley’s Lover freely on sale after the famous case), and traditional working-class culture was changing (wakes weeks in decline, the end of the maximum wage for footballers). The greatest change, though, concerned urban redevelopment: city centres were being yanked into the age of the motor car, slum clearance was intensified, and the skyline became studded with brutalist high-rise blocks. Some of this transformation was necessary, but too much would destroy communities and leave a harsh, fateful legacy.
This profoundly important story of the transformation of Britain as it arrived at the brink of a new world is brilliantly told through diaries, letters newspapers and a rich haul of other sources and published in one magnificent paperback volume for the first time.
This superb history captures the birth pangs of modern Britain ... It is a part of Kynaston's huge achievement that such moments of insight and pleasure should accompany what has become a monumental history of our recent past * The Times * Richly detailed series ... Indefatigable, judicious, with a magpie's eye for detail and a lovely grasp of tone and balance, David Kynaston is one of the great chroniclers of our modern story ... Every paragraph contains some glittering nugget * Sunday Times * Triumphant ... A historian of peerless sensitivity and curiosity about the lives of individuals. His method is to immerse first himself, then his readers, in a deep quotidian fabric of the time, making every strand visible before gradually lifting his gaze and revealing the wider pattern * Financial Times * This compelling history of the nation is wise, funny, impeccably researched and beautifully written ... Not for one second does his writing sag under the weight of his research: if you asked him to plod, he simply wouldn't know how ... This latest volume will be every bit as addictive as its predecessors ... Like a great composer, Kynaston dots little melodies into the opening minutes which he later allows to swell into major themes ... The best way to review this book would be to take a leaf from Lewis Carroll and map it all out, word for word. As it is, you'll just have to save me the effort by reading it for yourself * Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday * An exciting read, containing moments of suspense and lengthy sections of analysis ... Kynaston's book makes salutary and urgent reading, suggesting that we might do well to live with half an eye on the Kynastons of the future * Lara Feigel, Observer * He is chewing his way through the giant lettuce-leaf of his chosen decades like a particularly thorough tortoise. Hares: watch out ... Kynaston is interested in getting the feel of life close up, and his range of sources is formidable * Spectator * Masterful ... Kynaston has an enviable ability to see both the trees and the wood, and patterns start to appear ... Kynaston's project is already being acclaimed as one of the great achievements of modern history, and this fourth instalment, with its entrancing mix of entertainment, erudition and enlightenment, will enhance its status further * Daily Telegraph * The latest volume of Kynaston's history of post-war Britain chronicles an era of tumultuous cultural, political, and commercial change - Harold Macmillan's 'never had it so good' years. * The Mail on Sunday *
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