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Austerity Britain, 1945-1951 Hardcover – May 13, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
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From The New Yorker
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What particularly stands out is how much different the nation was back then. The Britain that emerges from these pages is a nation driven by an industrial economy, with an overwhelmingly white and predominantly male workforce in physically demanding jobs producing a quarter of the world's manufactured goods. The everyday lives of these Britons was different as well, lacking not only the modern conveniences that the author notes early in the text but even many of the basics of prewar life, basics which had been sacrificed to the exigencies of war. Kynaston notes their growing frustration with ongoing scarcity, a frustration that illustrated the gulf between their harsh realities and the idealistic dreams of government planners that is a persistent theme of the book.
Richly detailed, superbly written, and supplemented with excellent photographs, Kynaston's book is an outstanding account of postwar Britain.Read more ›
It is not a pretty story. Post-war England was drab, lacking many basics, watching its empire dissolve, and driven by a strong, centralized plan to restore the economy that changed the basic way people looked at business and government. And, with the continuing pressures of rebuilding the rest of Europe, the threat of further communist expansion, and the rise of American power, perhaps Britain went too far in moving towards a benevolent but often clumsy and experimental form of socialism. It would be almost another forty years and the decisions of the Thatcher government, that saw the maturity and, in some cases, the reversal of this social and cultural experiment.
This is a long, dense and colorful book, full of first-person details and observations, many of them from the surveys and observations of the government itself. Chapters focus on various aspects of the cultural and social revolution, in the classroom, on the factory floor, in the (mine) pits, in the shops, in the media, and more.Read more ›
All in all, I derived some enjoyment from this book because of my interest in the time period. However, I did not feel able to award more than three stars because of a couple of serious criticisms: Firstly (and I admit this is a matter of personal taste), I thought the focus on the politics of the period was given too much emphasis over other aspects of social life. Secondly, and far more importantly, the structure and organization of this fairly lengthy work is abominable. In any give chapter, the author will speak of some particular general topic (such as rationing) and then, within a paragraph or so, suddenly switch to something like the divorce rate in a specified year, and then, just as suddenly and haphazardly, go onto something just as radically different. These same topics will then get visited and re-visited dozens of times (the order of change from one to the other differing from chapter to chapter) without any sort of logical linkage. I might have enjoyed this work very much had not the disorganization made reading it so very laborious to plod through.
While the individual details are interesting, the lack of context leave the reader in something of a muddle, very much a case of being unable to see the forest for the trees. And while the quotes from individuals, famous and ordinary, from the period do offer interesting insight, after a while one gets the impression that Kynaston is determined to include a quote from every single person who ever lived in or visited Britain during those years. It really does get to be overkill after a while.
And once one has finally slogged through the 600-plus pages, the final frustration is that the book simply ends. No conclusion, no summary, no particular historical event or context to mark the end of the period. It just... stops. One is left with the impression that no editor ever came anywhere near this book before it was sent off to the printers.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent with detailed chapters on indusries, rationing and home life.Published 6 months ago by Denise A. bletsos
A little difficult to understand since many of the references to individuals on radio and early TV in Britain are not known to Americans. Read morePublished 7 months ago by JLH
Fascinating. I grew up in Liverpool and was 17 when WW2 ended in 1945. His description of the period 1945-1951 is spot on. Read morePublished 9 months ago by C. Irwin
A mass of information, and now and then something absolutely divertingPublished 9 months ago by noone
Fantastic!! I plan to follow upon the next two books. My husband lived in the U>K> as boy during WWII and was fascinated byit and the hardships endured after the victory. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Kindle Customer
First, the book was in good condition.(It was a 2nd hand paperback and came from somewhere in London). It was recommended by a friend, a bibliophile, a lawyer. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Audrey Tien
Compelling social history that creates a deep feeling for Britain in the immediate post war years. Highly recommended, and I look forward to reading the rest of the seriesPublished 12 months ago by Fitzclan