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A History of Modern Britain

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Presents the story of how the great political visions of New Jerusalem or a second Elizabethan Age, rival idealisms, came to be defeated by a culture of consumerism, celebrity and self-gratification. This book follows various political and economic stories, and deals with topics which include comedy, cars, Sixties anarchists, oil-men and punks.


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Presents the story of how the great political visions of New Jerusalem or a second Elizabethan Age, rival idealisms, came to be defeated by a culture of consumerism, celebrity and self-gratification. This book follows various political and economic stories, and deals with topics which include comedy, cars, Sixties anarchists, oil-men and punks.

30 review for A History of Modern Britain

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    In many ways this is quite a conservative history of modern Britain. My knowledge of that history isn’t brilliant, and so this did serve the purpose I read it for – to get a thumbnail overview. That said, it must be remembered this is written by a journalist, rather than an historian and I think that shows. So, what does that mean? I think people might well disagree with me that this was conservative – I mean, there are places where he clearly supports the path taken by the Labour Party over the In many ways this is quite a conservative history of modern Britain. My knowledge of that history isn’t brilliant, and so this did serve the purpose I read it for – to get a thumbnail overview. That said, it must be remembered this is written by a journalist, rather than an historian and I think that shows. So, what does that mean? I think people might well disagree with me that this was conservative – I mean, there are places where he clearly supports the path taken by the Labour Party over the Conservatives – but that isn’t really what I mean. There are also parts where he is literally quite conservative – particularly in his rather standard attack on the move to more progressive education practices from the 1960s onward. What is never acknowledged in these rants – they do tend to be rants, unfortunately – is that from about the 1960s on mass education started to really ‘bite’. This meant that entire groups of people whose families had never before been educated were now being educated. He mentions that the upper classes were still being educated in pretty much the same way as they always had been – but that is precisely my point. The upper classes were arriving at school with academic capital that simply wasn’t available to the others in society confronting mass education. That teachers found they needed to ‘start where the students were at’ and to present ‘student-centred lessons’ is so often, by conservatives at least, presented as the root of all evil – but in fact, what else could have been done? The fact is that what is so often advocated as traditional values or common sense approaches to education could not be either in the case of the students affected in this entirely new world. Tradition is hardly relevant in a completely new situation. But even this is not really the conservatism I’m referring to. Another aspect of it is the book's very close focus on the history of great men (and woman – given Thatcher) as the kind of history that truly deserves attention. The vast majority of this book is a telling of the story of the governing of Britain. And this is fine – this is one of the things I was hoping to get out of the book – but it really does position the book fairly squarely in a particular genre of history telling. The idea that history is really the story of the great and powerful. Now, some may argue that he talks of the influence of music and fashion and the arts (particularly drama and humour) and that these add detail to the overall picture being presented. My concern is that these would, being generous, account for only under a third of the total narrative presented here (I would need to check, but I would suspect I'm being incredibly generous). And again, even in the story of the lower middle class boys going on to become The Beatles, say, we haven’t really left the realm of the great and powerful, have we? There is a nice bit which I think shows what this book could have been. Following the war there was a severe shortage of housing. At the same time, as Van Morrison would say, “all the soldiers came marching home / Love looks in their eyes.” Britain witnessed both a housing shortage and a baby boom. So, people were forced to live with their parents and in-laws – and so Marr speculates this might help to explain the popularity of the mother-in-law joke well into the 1970s. That is the sort of thing that makes an interesting history – life situations that directly impact on the kinds of lives that can be lived in a society and therefore that help to explain the national character. However, there was far too little of this. Too much time was spent looking at the decline of the Empire, obviously important, but perhaps not really something that gives as much insight into the British character as is often believed. This history is also conservative in quite another way. I got the impression the whole way though that how things turned out was being presented by the author as the only way things could have turned out. The Thatcher revolution was not overturned by the Labour Party once it came to power in any meaningful sense, and so the Thatcher revolution must have been both necessary and inevitable. I'm not really arguing with this, but more with what he does then in leading up to the Thatcher revolution. He uses it to explain the previous history of Britain – which is either progressing by moving towards this inevitable revolution or pointlessly acting as a counter-revolutionary force whenever it seems to be backsliding away from the vision splendid that would be Thatcher's Britain. Such post-hoc explanations make for good stories – all that journalists are finally interested in, as they tell you themselves – but I feel they make for quite poor histories. Like I said, I was looking for a book that gave me a helicopter view of the history of modern Britain. And that is what I got with this one. This starts virtually at the end of the Second World War and ends with Gordon Brown. It is a quick read, for what it sets out to do. But there is no question it could have been so much more.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Szplug

    Thrift stores fucking rock. Somebody ditches a mint condition of a relatively new publication like this, and I get to snatch it up for a buck ninety-nine. Skip the daily trip to Starbucks and it slides right by the budget counter. That's one of the Friday evening rituals after work—hit the used-book section at the Double-V and peruse the shelves for that sweet find that flicks the switch sending an I wanna DANCE! tingle coursing up and down the leg. My heart belches and my facial muscles spring Thrift stores fucking rock. Somebody ditches a mint condition of a relatively new publication like this, and I get to snatch it up for a buck ninety-nine. Skip the daily trip to Starbucks and it slides right by the budget counter. That's one of the Friday evening rituals after work—hit the used-book section at the Double-V and peruse the shelves for that sweet find that flicks the switch sending an I wanna DANCE! tingle coursing up and down the leg. My heart belches and my facial muscles spring into action, etching that shit-eating grin onto my features and leaving me ruing the fact that I've no one beside me to fist punch. Life's a trip, que no? There's no other people, past or present, whose history fascinates and entertains me more than that of the good old British—not even the motherloving Romans and their supertsar Caesars. God bless those islanders, each and every one. Paternal nation to my country—and a more involved parent than that confusing and distant hussy, Mère France—and packed with legions of cherub-cheeked island eccentrics who masterfully combined Anglo-Saxon practicality, Norman cunning, and Celtic alcoholism into creating that madcap marvel which saw handlebar-mustachioed blokes in smart-looking short trousers and those helmets that resemble an overlarge dinner plate set beneath a nicely-trimmed half cantaloupe setting up shop across the four corners of the globe. One of the more enjoyable modern history books I've read in the past, oh, half-decade was Kenneth Morgan's The People's Peace: Britain Since 1945 , which concluded with the Thatcher New Right running out of steam and sharpening the knives; now I've got Marr's take on the same period, with the bonus of getting an insider's goods upon the government gaffs and political preening of the subsequent leaderships of John Major and the Boy Wonder himself, Tony Blair: the New New Right armored by its pumpkin tan, all straightening ties whilst colliding with freshly-scrubbed lampposts and New Labour flouncing into Downing with the lopsided glee of a half-cut popinjay. Furthermore, I'm sure Marr will update my understanding of British culture loping towards and away from the millennial turn—that magical temporal marker that may have been detectable within the gleaming mote in Enoch Powell's eye when he issued his grim foreboding of Rivers of Blood. Well, now it's done. Marr is an enjoyable guide—a touch glib at times, a tad shallow in his analysis and/or understanding of the manner in which events transpired, but what the hell; dude's covering an immense and prodigiously busy time period overseeing the transition of Great Britain from the empire upon which the sun never set to one in which ol' Big Yellah settles into the sack in somewhat less than an hour (I think; whatever). I was impressed enough that I'm going to get to his earlier effort—covering the era from roughly the turn of the century through to the Second World War—as soon as I locate a nice and cheap copy on the shelves of one of my local haunts during another Friday espy-and-buy.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Smith

    As the Brexit debate continues to rage across Great Britain, I thought it a good time to refresh my knowledge (and memory) of the key events impacting my homeland throughout, and just prior to, my lifetime. Andrew Marr is a political commentator I’ve always much admired and I’d caught the tail end of the BBC serialisation of this book when it was aired in 2007, always thereafter wishing that I’d tuned in from the beginning. The book picks up events from the end of World War II in Europe and take As the Brexit debate continues to rage across Great Britain, I thought it a good time to refresh my knowledge (and memory) of the key events impacting my homeland throughout, and just prior to, my lifetime. Andrew Marr is a political commentator I’ve always much admired and I’d caught the tail end of the BBC serialisation of this book when it was aired in 2007, always thereafter wishing that I’d tuned in from the beginning. The book picks up events from the end of World War II in Europe and takes us through to the end of Tony Blair’s reign as Prime Minister. There’s quite a bit of politics here, as you might expect, but plenty of other topics are covered too, including: fashion, sport, music, scientific discoveries and much more. The first thing that struck me is just how much changed in such a relatively short space of time. In the 1940’s GB was in a terrible state, having hocked ourselves up to the eyeballs to finance the war effort; rationing wasn’t to end until 1954, not long before I was born! People were in the mood for something new, and this eventually heralded the hedonism of the Swinging Sixties. The seventies were a time I do remember but it’s sobering to realise that many of the major world events simply passed me by, so focussed was I on my own small world. In the eighties and nineties, I do recall being a bit more tuned in to what was going on around me, but not fully so, and certainly not into the political shenanigans of the day. That said, I was aware of Thatcher and the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentinian troops and the subsequent short war was probably the first time I paid close attention to the evening news bulletins. Beyond this, the events covered in this book feel a little more familiar but there’s still quite a few political connections I’d missed and lots of detail that was new to me. It’s not a book that seeks to delve in the minutiae, rather it provides an overview and a context for the events and cultural changes of the day. I found it completely fascinating and brilliantly observed by Marr. The final thing that struck me is just how much has changed since this book was published. The financial crash of 2008 came just after and much has changed in Britain and across the world since. When my son, currently aged 22, looks back on the first 60 years of his life will he be as surprised as I am at the rate of change (I was tempted to say ‘progress’ but I’m not sure that’s necessarily the right word)? Time, as they say, will tell.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alkire

    Ok history. This reread was neither here nor there. But, I doubt I’ll reread again. The topic is interesting as I have never known much about Britain after 1945 except for the fact they had an empire hangover. It’s a fairly comprehensive history covering political, social and some cultural history. I actually stopped reading after The Thatcher ouster as the book was published in 2009 and as a matter of philosophy I don’t feel that any history should deal with events younger than 20 years of the Ok history. This reread was neither here nor there. But, I doubt I’ll reread again. The topic is interesting as I have never known much about Britain after 1945 except for the fact they had an empire hangover. It’s a fairly comprehensive history covering political, social and some cultural history. I actually stopped reading after The Thatcher ouster as the book was published in 2009 and as a matter of philosophy I don’t feel that any history should deal with events younger than 20 years of the publication date. To do otherwise risks losing distance and perspective and veers towards current event polemics which quickly become dated. The writing is ok, it’s readable in part and stultifying at others. I would recommend browsing this work for the headings which grab your interest. Otherwise, reading through the whole thing may be an exercise in patience. I can’t comment adequately on the author’s analysis of modern British history since I don’t know enough, but it seems standard based on what little I know. I suspect the author has Tory sympathies, but I could be wrong. Anyway, it would be a good enough introduction to Britain post WWII.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Fox

    This book proved to be a surprisingly readable history of post-1945 Britain. While the book itself focused more strongly upon politics than social history, there were still rather good sections devoted to what set, say, the population of Britain in the 50s apart from the population in Britain today. While at times the book was a bit verbose and dry, for the most part Andrew Marr kept the tone remarkably accessible, and extensively quoted primary sources. The wry British humor is out in force when This book proved to be a surprisingly readable history of post-1945 Britain. While the book itself focused more strongly upon politics than social history, there were still rather good sections devoted to what set, say, the population of Britain in the 50s apart from the population in Britain today. While at times the book was a bit verbose and dry, for the most part Andrew Marr kept the tone remarkably accessible, and extensively quoted primary sources. The wry British humor is out in force when describing certain politicians, and a few times I had to do a double-take when coming upon some unexpected wit. This was precisely the book I was looking for in terms of historical content. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an overview of British history, though not necessarily for lighter reading. I would also recommend that anyone wishing to read it get it in hard cover or paperback format as opposed to an e-book, it would be far more easily readable and referenced in physical form.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ian

    In the UK Andrew Marr is a well-known political journalist and TV presenter, and doubtless some people will question the content of this book on the basis it was not written by a professional historian. Personally I think there is plenty of solid research in here, and the author also brings a journalist’s writing skills to the text. Marr’s background does show through in a couple of ways though. Although he does cover social trends and the life of ordinary Britons, the bulk of the book is taken u In the UK Andrew Marr is a well-known political journalist and TV presenter, and doubtless some people will question the content of this book on the basis it was not written by a professional historian. Personally I think there is plenty of solid research in here, and the author also brings a journalist’s writing skills to the text. Marr’s background does show through in a couple of ways though. Although he does cover social trends and the life of ordinary Britons, the bulk of the book is taken up with political figures; who held power, what they tried to achieve with what success, and what challenges they faced. The author is also quite fond of a political anecdote. I didn’t have any problem with that, the anecdotes livened up the book. The author does his best to be politically neutral throughout, though he gives the impression he doesn’t think much of Tony Blair. On the whole I thought he gave a fair assessment of each of the major political leaders on post-war Britain. We get a vivid picture of the extraordinary cast of larger than life personalities that made up the core of the Atlee cabinet – Bevin, Bevan, Cripps, Morrison and Dalton. I read with frustration of the missed opportunities of the Wilson government in the 60s, which led on to the chaos of 1970s Britain followed by the reaction of Thatcherism in the 80s and the astonishing explosion of excess and showy consumption at the end of that decade, perfectly captured at the time by the comedian Harry Enfield and his “Loadsamoney” character. One of the biggest themes for me was the chronically troubled nature of Britain’s relationship with the Common Market/EEC/EC/EU. Basically, the same debates that we hear today, about sovereignty, the ECJ, and economic impact, have been going on since the fifties. Euroscepticism has always loomed large in British attitudes. Away from politics, the description of ordinary life in the last 1940s is particularly compelling, and there is also some good stuff about the sixties (including a memorable quote from Michael Caine, about his mother’s reaction to her first sight of a girl wearing a mini-skirt). This 10th anniversary edition adds in a chapter covering the Scottish Independence and “Brexit” referendums, but the additional chapter has a slightly hurried feel to it. I also noticed one surprising factual error right at the end of the original text, where the former LibDem Leader, the late Charles Kennedy, was wrongly described as MP for the Western Isles, something that was never the case. A minor mistake, but whenever I see that sort of error it makes me wonder what else might have crept in, that I don’t know about. Overall though, I found this a fascinating read.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sherene

    This was a long and dense read, and yet thoroughly enjoyable in the richness of its detail, without belabouring too much any point or time in the period covered. Andrew Marr is incredibly neutral and fair in his assessment of various governments and their achievements and shortfalls. His journalistic style and sense of humour prevent the text from turning too academic and keeps the book eminently readable. This book is an ambitious feat and it has inspired me to dig deeper into many of the topic This was a long and dense read, and yet thoroughly enjoyable in the richness of its detail, without belabouring too much any point or time in the period covered. Andrew Marr is incredibly neutral and fair in his assessment of various governments and their achievements and shortfalls. His journalistic style and sense of humour prevent the text from turning too academic and keeps the book eminently readable. This book is an ambitious feat and it has inspired me to dig deeper into many of the topics discussed. It was fascinating for me to understand better the themes that have had a direct effect on modern life and politics - the rise of consumerism, US-UK relations, various economic & monetary policies etc. Also, it was great to know more about the emergence of British music, fashion, theatre, travel, celebrity-craze and cars. Particularly of interest to me was the change in the nature and pace of immigration in the UK over the decades and the various degrees of receptiveness to outsiders the British society has shown. I now appreciate how dramatic the shifts have been over the past decade and a half - I now realise I was part of an unprecedented wave. It couldn't be a better time for me to pick up this book. Personally, I have applied for naturalisation as a citizen in this country and it seemed appropriate for me to catch up on recent historical events in the UK. Furthermore, in these interesting times in British politics post-Brexit, it really helps to read through the modern history of Britain with balanced socio-political commentary on all the dynamics leading to the disastrous / momentous event. Furthermore, the book covers a period from post-war era to nearly Summer 2007 which was when I first visited London, to then move here the following year. It is almost eery that AM finishes the book talking about the next big challenge for the UK - climate change, a topic that still most leaders are evasive about, in light of other more urgent challenges the country has faced in recent times - the financial crisis, increasing inequality, public sector and NHS at breaking point wrt capacity, terrorism, etc. I would love for Andrew to write another book in a few years, picking up where he left off!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Neil Pearson

    I was somewhat wary that a history so close to my own life would really hit the mark - especially one focused solely on one country. How wrong I was! This book was fascinating from start to finish. Marr covers pretty much everything from the final days of World War 2 up until before Tony Blair stood down. What I probably enjoyed the most was how it added characters to all the events. Too often you hear about the change in education or the rise and fall of unions but this book makes a point of sh I was somewhat wary that a history so close to my own life would really hit the mark - especially one focused solely on one country. How wrong I was! This book was fascinating from start to finish. Marr covers pretty much everything from the final days of World War 2 up until before Tony Blair stood down. What I probably enjoyed the most was how it added characters to all the events. Too often you hear about the change in education or the rise and fall of unions but this book makes a point of shining a light on the personalities of the politicians and people involved in these events. At times it reminds me of the political machinations of Rome at the end of the republic, which is probably how politics has always worked. It's not just about the movers and shakers though, we get to hear how the average brit changed over several decades in terms of health, wealth, appearance and attitudes. Some may find certain parts less interesting (especially if they aren't bothered about fashion and music) but I'd be amazed if there wasn't something in the book that was of interest to most readers. Marr has a great narrative style and his wit shines throughout. The narration by Toby Longworth is excellent - he really makes an effort to sound like Andrew Marr and does some pretty good impressions of historical figures too. Just be aware that there is an abridged version which is only 7 hours as opposed to 25 hours!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    This was a quick tour through political & social history of Britain since WW2. It's not a dry academic book - Andrew Marr writes in an easy, almost conversational way, freely sharing his opinions. I learned plenty of stuff that I should really have known already (like, what was the Suez crisis?). Unfortunately I listened to the abridged audio book which was just too compressed, so the narrative seemed to jump around and was a bit disjointed. (But it was still long enough for Marr's narration, com This was a quick tour through political & social history of Britain since WW2. It's not a dry academic book - Andrew Marr writes in an easy, almost conversational way, freely sharing his opinions. I learned plenty of stuff that I should really have known already (like, what was the Suez crisis?). Unfortunately I listened to the abridged audio book which was just too compressed, so the narrative seemed to jump around and was a bit disjointed. (But it was still long enough for Marr's narration, complete with dodgy impersonations, to become slightly annoying.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fadoju

    I think Andrew Marr should have titled the book A history of Modern British Government. The Book was just talking about past british government and their policies. It will make a good text book for A level History and Political students than for ordinary people or immigrants who wants to learn about the Beauty of the Isle of Britain.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Fish

    It's always slightly awkward when you read books out of order, but when the narrative flow and the order of production fail to coincide it leaves one with a choice: honour the chronology and suffer the perceived literary degradation, or honour the creation order and cope with time flowing backwards. I prefer my history forwards, so when I came to read Andrew Marr's books I chose to read the newer The Making of Modern Britain before its precursor. Surprisingly for a journalist of Marr's standing, It's always slightly awkward when you read books out of order, but when the narrative flow and the order of production fail to coincide it leaves one with a choice: honour the chronology and suffer the perceived literary degradation, or honour the creation order and cope with time flowing backwards. I prefer my history forwards, so when I came to read Andrew Marr's books I chose to read the newer The Making of Modern Britain before its precursor. Surprisingly for a journalist of Marr's standing, the difference in quality between the two books is striking. It's not that History is a bad book, but particularly in the early stages the mechanics of its construction are vastly more readily apparent, especially where it comes to Marr's attempts to avoid accusation of left or right-wing bias (he won't, of course, but he does attempt it) by juxtaposing attacks on one side with attacks on the other. This approach gradually drifts until, by the time he gets to the tenure of Margaret Thatcher, he either - depending on your own bias - fails to find anything much positive to say or reverts to BBC type. So, despite his clear statement of how the policies of Heath, Wilson and Callaghan made Thatcherism all but inevitable, he still sees the implied necessary medicine as an attempt to kill the body politic. Equally, he approaches the Blair/Brown years with the preconceived view of a Brownite. So Brown's motives are invariably held up to be noble and we are led to believe that ever-growing spending was both necessary and a good thing - understandable for a product of an organisation reliant on public largesse, but hardly the considered position we expect from a historian. Whether Marr would have taken the same line writing after the credit crunch is hard to say. And there is also something of a selectivity in what Marr chooses to write about. Obviously, a single volume covering the last fifty years is never going to tread as much ground as Dominic Sandbrook will in a likely ten volumes, but it's hard not to feel that some of the selectivity is itself a political choice. So the Westland helicopter affair, which was little more than an embarrassment for Margaret Thatcher, gets over a page, whilst the loans for peerages scandal, which may well have been a criminal act, gets less than a paragraph; the IRA actions in Mainland Britain are reported, but the campaign carried out by unionists in Southern Ireland is ignored. Even the handling of something as recent and contentious as the Iraq War is twisted by selection, with Hutton's report allowed to stand alone as the definitive account of what happened and no mention of the follow-up Butler report at all. Whitewashing the history of something which was regarded as a whitewash to the extent that you don't report that people considered it a whitewash, you might say. But despite the selective view, a thinner book can have its own value: the softer focus can bring out details which would be buried in noise in more comprehensive accounts, or elements separated by time can be drawn together in a way that renders their relationship more obvious. So Marr makes more of the problems of decolonization and its impact on the career of Enoch Powell and shows how Callaghan's unscrupulous attack on Wilson and Castle's union policies in the late 1960s would make his own Winter of Discontent almost inevitable a decade later. Comparing to the Making of Modern Britain, one thing that is notable is that the balance of politics and social history has shifted. Here, the politics dominates, perhaps because our times are more densely political than those which went before, perhaps simply because earlier political issues have become vaguer and harder to relate to. The rise and fall of the postwar political consensus is a story still germane to our struggles today, the wrangles over the future of India seem more a settled argument. Whatever the issues of balance and content, Marr's writing remains easy on the eye. For those who want an accessible summation of the last fifty years, this would seem a reasonable place to start. It should, however, be taken with a pinch of salt and as a stopgap before Sandbrook catches up.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    In this tie-in to the 2007 BBC series by political journalist Andrew Marr, essentially we get to look on as politics gives way to shopping in postwar UK. Taking us from Clem Attlee's stunning win over the wartime Tory government and using politics as his grammar as he plots along the way to the last days of the Blair government, Andrew Marr gives us a look at the various tectonic shifts that have formed a highly different country in 2007, when this book was written, to that of 1945. (Of course, In this tie-in to the 2007 BBC series by political journalist Andrew Marr, essentially we get to look on as politics gives way to shopping in postwar UK. Taking us from Clem Attlee's stunning win over the wartime Tory government and using politics as his grammar as he plots along the way to the last days of the Blair government, Andrew Marr gives us a look at the various tectonic shifts that have formed a highly different country in 2007, when this book was written, to that of 1945. (Of course, they don't call it a "political history", because that would be death to sales and/or viewers, but that's what it is, albeit with a couple of asides about pop/rock music and fashion that are almost Henry Fielding-like digressions). Where Marr is best is when he is bringing the more memorable political figures of this period to life. He dissects some of the internal rifts within the Attlee and Wilson cabinets, muses on the rather surprising success of the friendless Ted Heath, gets to the nub of what made Thatcher such a force to be reckoned with (her hubris, which was also why what brought her crashing down), what a mess Suez was for everyone concerned, what a media-savvy riven-hearted dog's breakfast New Labour turned out to be and, most importantly, just how much Euroscepticism there has always been on both sides of the political fence, leading us to more understanding of the suicidal impulse behind Brexit and the willingness to believe just about anything in order to attain the fondly-held dream of more British "freedom". Indeed, Marr also takes a look at the poorly-organised and rushed negotiations on getting Britain into the Common Market, which leads one to wonder whether the negotiations to get out now are likely to founder on this "odd man out" autonomy too. Not to mention the issues of Gibraltar, Scotland and Northern Ireland. How on earth Cameron felt all this was worth a gamble is going to be a question for the ages (maybe even for another edition of this book), but on the other hand perhaps this heightened insularity is true democracy after all, although I for one wouldn't be happy letting the Leave camp claim that until I hear just a couple of arguments that haven't been sewn together from long-discredited campaign ads or the bleatings of the wilfully mendacious Boris Johnson and/or Nigel Farage. And there are plenty there, if people actually look, but plenty more for not just leaping off lemming-like into poorly-planned self-exile. Ahem, back to this edition of this book. Along the way, during the 60-odd years this book covers, the old imperial power that was this sceptre'd isle is forced to re-examine its global influence, while occasionally striking on some novel movements to pass around to the others in the class (Beatles, monetarism, the "third way"). It has its moments, although many of them seem to have help from a deus ex machina (North Sea oil, the Falklands, bad accounting by the Treasury) and bumbles along for a while in a postwar death grip between old school Tories and firebrand socialists, giving up the last vestiges of its Empire and focusing on the things it can still give the world. It doesn't do so badly, ingenuity and scientific/mathematical prowess still forming part of its inheritance and legacy. Marr has the touch of a one-time leftie who wants you to know he has put away childish things. This works because he can be both bipartisan and snotty about the various leaders. In fact, none of them come off particularly well in the end. They all overreach (Eden, Thatcher, Heath, Callaghan, Blair) or overequivocate (Attlee, Wilson, Major). Indeed John Major seems to come off better than most because he is seen as a surprise package in every sense of the word, dancing the Euro dance much more nimbly than most if not all of his predecessors. This is a well-written and readable account, but perhaps suffers a little from the lack of a narrative arc, tending to meander chronologically at times. The events of 2016, what with Brexit etc. probably would have given it just that narrative arc. And whither from here?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gavin Smith

    I found the first half of A History of Modern Britain a bit lightweight and slightly frustrating. There was a little too much focus on Westminster personality politics and pop culture fluff (which occasionally suffered from tinges of baby boomer vanity). The political dimension is unsurprising considering the author's background but feels a little too much like a Reader's Digest style regurgitation of the various politicians' memoirs and biographies. There's a lack of any real statistical analys I found the first half of A History of Modern Britain a bit lightweight and slightly frustrating. There was a little too much focus on Westminster personality politics and pop culture fluff (which occasionally suffered from tinges of baby boomer vanity). The political dimension is unsurprising considering the author's background but feels a little too much like a Reader's Digest style regurgitation of the various politicians' memoirs and biographies. There's a lack of any real statistical analysis that robs the early section of any genuine opportunity for insight beyond the soap opera aspects of secret deals and personal feuds in the backrooms of Parliament. Some of the most glaring omissions of hard data include; voting statistics and how various regions of the country voted in the many elections covered, information on average earnings or the prices of landmark items, and even things like unemployment statistics. Whether this focus on 'narrative' politics shows a bias from the book, the BBC, or British political life in general, it certainly leaves some noticeable gaps in this volume. Fortunately, the last two sections, covering the late seventies to the early two-thousands, really come to life. It's surely no coincidence that the best writing in the book covers the time when Marr reached adulthood and began his career as a journalist. (He started as a trainee at The Scotsman in 1981.) There still isn't an abundance of statistical analysis but there is more here than before. I particularly enjoyed Marr's account of Neil Kinnock's fight to reform the Labour Party and his positive reappraisal of John Major's time as Prime Minister. The balanced coverage of Margaret Thatcher's time in office was refreshing and surprising, particularly given the usual extremes the Iron Lady often inspires. Publishing this book in 2007, Marr probably hadn't had enough time to properly analyze the historical impact of Blair, and certainly not for Gordon Brown, but he can't really be blamed for that and he does a great job describing Blair's rise and fall. Overall, this is a pretty great big-picture sketch of post war British history. It covers the major events and major players in a great deal of depth. My only complaint is with the title. It may have been more suitably named A Political History of Modern Britain.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    From WWII to the aftermath of Gulf War II, From Churchill to Blair. The book covers all of my life and a few years. My political awareness of general elections goes back to Wilson's first government. It was interesting to read through so much history and try to put my memories in. The writing style makes the book and easy (if long) read, and some of the connections it uncovers are fascinating. "There is nothing new under the sun" - even the sixties, even the eighties. Especially 'New Labour'. I e From WWII to the aftermath of Gulf War II, From Churchill to Blair. The book covers all of my life and a few years. My political awareness of general elections goes back to Wilson's first government. It was interesting to read through so much history and try to put my memories in. The writing style makes the book and easy (if long) read, and some of the connections it uncovers are fascinating. "There is nothing new under the sun" - even the sixties, even the eighties. Especially 'New Labour'. I especially like the fact that the recent years are treated in the same style as the earlier years. I was expecting the style and intensity to change, if it had I would have been disappointed. Almost all politicians set out to do one thing and end up doing something different, and sometimes being remembered for something else - completely different. There are also some excellent insights into popular culture - its not all politics. I would recommend you read this book if you get the chance, if only to flesh out your memories. Britain has changed unrecognisably in the last 50 years, and the rate of change is increasing. It's good to take a few hours to find out where we came from and how we got here.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Emily Richards

    I have always been a fan of Andrew Marr. I admire his eloquence and wit, and his rich bed of knowledge with which he uses to formulate engaging political criticism. Well known journalist and presenter of his own Andrew Marr Show, he always strives to get to the heart of the matter but most politicians are so wrapped up in their own red tape that they frequently go off tangent and produce monologues that dodge and dive the real issues at stake. It would be refreshing to get a 'yes' or a 'no' repl I have always been a fan of Andrew Marr. I admire his eloquence and wit, and his rich bed of knowledge with which he uses to formulate engaging political criticism. Well known journalist and presenter of his own Andrew Marr Show, he always strives to get to the heart of the matter but most politicians are so wrapped up in their own red tape that they frequently go off tangent and produce monologues that dodge and dive the real issues at stake. It would be refreshing to get a 'yes' or a 'no' reply every once in a while. This book is a glimpse of Marr's learnings of modern Britain. The good, the bad and the ugly. Marr takes us on a journey from the early 1900s to the present day (well it was published in 2007) and much has happened since. However, the significance of politics, migration, freedom and consumerism in post-war Britain has changed this country for ever. For all its flaws, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. There is hope in democracy although our government has a long way to go to help tackle major issues and make the best decisions.

  16. 4 out of 5

    S.P.

    From the modest Clem Atlee (with, as Winston Churchill would say, much to be modest about...) to the troubles around the Iraq war and the political coup that removed Tony Blair from power, Andrew Marr does not miss a any events that have shaped our modern nation in this dense, concise and humorous account of the last 60 years in politics (well mostly politics). It mirrors the television programme of the same name, but contains much more information as you would expect from the format. It should From the modest Clem Atlee (with, as Winston Churchill would say, much to be modest about...) to the troubles around the Iraq war and the political coup that removed Tony Blair from power, Andrew Marr does not miss a any events that have shaped our modern nation in this dense, concise and humorous account of the last 60 years in politics (well mostly politics). It mirrors the television programme of the same name, but contains much more information as you would expect from the format. It should be a standard text for every (British) school child – recent history is every much as important to our national character as the Tudors, Victorians or the Battle of Britain and this book cleverly brings together the important events and intrigues of our post-imperial island. It took me a while to get through its 629 pages but I did not begrudge a single paragraph.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I have hesitated in reviewing this. In terms of how comprehensive it is I would be toying between 2/3 stars. In terms of its scope, and in drawing links and themes across successive administrations, it is 4/5 stars. While I like the breadth, my personal preference is for analytical depth - although I would rather have breadth (with additional social commentary and analysis, even) as well as increased depth. I would gladly have whizzed through a tome three, even four, times the size for that. As I have hesitated in reviewing this. In terms of how comprehensive it is I would be toying between 2/3 stars. In terms of its scope, and in drawing links and themes across successive administrations, it is 4/5 stars. While I like the breadth, my personal preference is for analytical depth - although I would rather have breadth (with additional social commentary and analysis, even) as well as increased depth. I would gladly have whizzed through a tome three, even four, times the size for that. As it was, however, it was an interesting read and certainly gave me a clear oversight of British political history of the time. So, basing my star rating on what the book actually is - as well as the fact that it has rekindled my interests and sparked a desire to read about many of the issues in greater depth - it is 4 (3.5) stars.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lysergius

    A superb review of the history of Britain from the Second World War. Having lived through most of the period covered by the book it is interesting to compare notes with Mr. Marr. While tending more to the Corelli Barnett school of British history and its long list of lost opportunities, I must confess to finding Marr's work accessible and good to read. He lays the right stress on the right issues, yet his oversights and lack of insight in certain areas betray his upbringing and personal viewpoin A superb review of the history of Britain from the Second World War. Having lived through most of the period covered by the book it is interesting to compare notes with Mr. Marr. While tending more to the Corelli Barnett school of British history and its long list of lost opportunities, I must confess to finding Marr's work accessible and good to read. He lays the right stress on the right issues, yet his oversights and lack of insight in certain areas betray his upbringing and personal viewpoint since no history is truly objective. That said, this is a book well worth reading if you you wish to undertsand the forces at work behind modern Britain.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    The book kept me intrigued and glued for the first part of the British story after the Second World War till the 1960's, but then it started to read like a political story of Britain which I found difficult to follow. There was far too much focus on politicians for my taste. More analysis and less personality focus would have been better in my opinion as Andrew Marr has an interesting view on events. I don't know what kept him from elaborating more?

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nick Harriss

    An excellent telling of the story of post-war Britain. I read this having watched the very entertaining TV series by the author on the same topic. Although not comprehensive, it provides a good balance between depth and brevity. Re-read (well re-listened as I got it in audiobook). Still very good,however the Dominic Sandbrook series of modern histories fill in a lot of the gaps, so I would recommend the latter once you have finished this.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lucy J Jeynes

    This book was very helpful in filling in a strange vacuum of knowledge post 1945 which has always embarrassed me....what exactly happened re Suez? How did we end up with the power cuts and the 3 day week? All this and more, with balance.. enough facts to fill the gaps, yet brief enough on each episode to retain the attention. Should not have reached my age without knowing some of this stuff.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Louise O'Donnell

    The book is written in the voice of Andrew Marr, and to me that is a good thing - like his TV persona, the book is intelligent, witty, pretty independent politically, great access to the inner thought and opinions of political insiders. Full of great insights into how the British political landscape has formed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    Having specialised in post 1945 Britain for a masters I was sceptical whether this would add anything but it did. A brilliant mixture of the texture of how people lived and political commentary all told in the crisp style that makes Andew Marr such a pleasure as a writer and commentator.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    My first foray into the world of political history is Andrew Marr's A HISTORY OF MODERN BRITAIN, a companion piece to his MAKING OF MODERN BRITAIN (which covers the first half of the 20th century). I had no idea what to expect from this, but I found it hugely useful: it's an educational read, dense with information, that nevertheless manages to be funny, erudite, well-researched, and fair. Marr goes out of his way to avoid political bias and always tries to present all sides of a particular stor My first foray into the world of political history is Andrew Marr's A HISTORY OF MODERN BRITAIN, a companion piece to his MAKING OF MODERN BRITAIN (which covers the first half of the 20th century). I had no idea what to expect from this, but I found it hugely useful: it's an educational read, dense with information, that nevertheless manages to be funny, erudite, well-researched, and fair. Marr goes out of his way to avoid political bias and always tries to present all sides of a particular story or event. Things begin with Clement Attlee in 1945 and go through right up until the last days of Tony Blair's leadership in the late 2000s. Marr explores all of the hot potatoes in the political world, as well as explaining complex (to me, at least) financial situations, culture, trends, fashions, industry and technology. The miners' strikes are covered in depth as are all of the disasters and wars and Empire dismantling. It's the kind of book I read at speed and as I finished it I was left wanting more. An invaluable read for anyone wanting to get an understanding of Britain and its place in modern history.

  25. 5 out of 5

    David Bisset

    Recent history with verve and sharp commentary It is a strange phenomenon as recent events become part of history. Andrew Matt is a superb guide. His objectivity is impeccable, but he is never dull. Professionally he has interviewed many politicians - and it shows! No one will agree with everything he says, but reading this book is an enlightening experience. His epilogue taking the story as far as Brexit is truly memorable.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Ellwood

    Very good book. As with his preceding, Making of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr comes up with a beguiling mix of the usual political events of the post-war period, and a nicely-chosen sprinkling of non-political moments. Whether the invention of the Mini, or the fate of James Bond’s testicles in Casino Royale: it’s easy to see how they fit in as embodiments of the change engulfing Britain after the war. I liked his sub-theme of the rise of consumerism. I don’t know whether he is the first to present Very good book. As with his preceding, Making of Modern Britain, Andrew Marr comes up with a beguiling mix of the usual political events of the post-war period, and a nicely-chosen sprinkling of non-political moments. Whether the invention of the Mini, or the fate of James Bond’s testicles in Casino Royale: it’s easy to see how they fit in as embodiments of the change engulfing Britain after the war. I liked his sub-theme of the rise of consumerism. I don’t know whether he is the first to present the twentieth century that way, but it scarcely matters. It’s a compelling way of seeing it, the gentle upswell of shopping as the most basic driver of national aspiration, not socialism or Tory toffs. That, incidentally, is why the rise of the Mini is a good choice. It’s not just that it was iconic; its very design embodies the rise of the proletariat, that’s the point. It’s refreshing to take in AM’s journalistic delivery, as opposed to the sometimes drier fare of your regular historian. You might think it’s a bit of a stretch for example to enlist James Bond’s balls as a metaphor of national humiliation: but in context it really does make entire sense. For example, his analysis of the Sixties incorporates a lot of these qualities: “Why do the sixties seem to matter so much? Why is it that on television, in magazine articles, net debates, in books and in conversation, so much time is spent on a few events, involving a tiny number of people in a few places? […] The truth is we have never really left the sixties. We have simply repeated them, and that goes for those who were only born later. […] The essence of British culture in the early twenty first century, from drug abuse to the background music of our lives, the celebrity-obsessed media to swift changes of fashion, the pretence of classlessness, the car dependency, was all set down first between around 1958 and 1968”. This is no more than a quick extract from several pages of powerfully convincing narrative, at which I found myself intoning “by George, he’s got it” at regular intervals. Clever you, Mr Marr. Unwittingly, he also comes up with a lot of brilliantly foresighted comment. Unwittingly, because he wrote it in 2007 and could not possibly guess what aspects were to become national obsessions a decade later, and which would simply fall away. In the former category for example, his passing comment on Europe: “Had Britain been involved from the start as even the French wanted, the EEC, eventually the EU, would have developed differently. There would certainly have been less emphasis on agricultural protection and more on free trade. ‘Europe might have been a little less mystical and a little more open, perhaps more democratic, though this is difficult in so many languages. At any rate, the moment passed.” Calm, business-like and non-partisan. And, very likely, smack on. Underpinning that is another aspect that I warmed to – the sheer sense of continuity discernible throughout the book. In fact, discernible in the books, because many of the more important themes have their roots in the pre-war years and first appear in his earlier volume too. It’s fascinating to watch them evolve; and to realise that they are still swirling around under our feet right now. Europe is one of them for sure, immigration another. So, more generally, is the rise of the working man, quickly to transmute within this volume into the rise of the working person. A really important element of society in the 21st century, which he chronicles so well, is the demise of Edwardian male elitism and the rise of what might loosely be called democracy, but which might also turn out to become a rather messy tyranny of the (plebeian) majority. AM even quotes Burke on this subject (“Your representative owes you […] his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion”). You can’t help feeling that – a decade after the book closes – that subtle and wise view is being still further buried under a torrent of populism, tweeting and bar-room trolling in online newspapers. One quote is instructive. In discussing the early years of Margaret Thatcher’s ascendancy he quotes from her own memoir: “No one who lived through austerity, who can remember snoek, Spam and utility clothing, could mistake the petty jealousies, minor tyrannies, ill-neighbourliness and sheer sourness of those years for idealism and equality”. My point here is that she was talking about the real austerity of the 1950s, not the version which parades under that name in 2016, and which people complain about as they leave for their second overseas holiday! But the line is unbroken all the same: from people who still thought that elders and betters deserved automatic respect, to today’s view that we’re all victims and it must all be the toffs’ fault somehow. Fine piece of work. Despite its length – some 600 pages – I found myself wishing he had treated many of his topics in a tad more depth; and I’d love to see a future edition which took a look at the Gordon Brown and Cameron years too. But for the moment, it’s still a super summary of how we got here.

  27. 4 out of 5

    MichaelK

    This will probably be the thickest book I read this year. Similar to my experience reading 'Cameron at 10' last year, learning about modern British history made me feel like I was at that bit of an SFF novel where a character learns about the background of their world and how the current crises have come about. Britain's confused relationships with America and continental Europe are a major thread throughout our post-WW2 history. Major catastrophes such as the Second World War cause major changes: This will probably be the thickest book I read this year. Similar to my experience reading 'Cameron at 10' last year, learning about modern British history made me feel like I was at that bit of an SFF novel where a character learns about the background of their world and how the current crises have come about. Britain's confused relationships with America and continental Europe are a major thread throughout our post-WW2 history. Major catastrophes such as the Second World War cause major changes: class barriers had been broken down as people from all backgrounds came to together to either fight and die as soldiers, or worked together on the home front. The different classes began to understand their differences were mainly material, and there was greater awareness of poverty and a desire to do something about it. Government wartime control of health, transport, food (the diets of a lot of poor people actually improved during the war years - the meager rations they received were more food than they could have afforded before the war), and other industries, combined with the wartime ideals of Britons all working together to help each other out and fight a common enemy, was like a trial run for socialism. And so, after the war, there was landslide victory for Attlee's Labour party, who had campaigned along the lines of (I'm paraphrasing), "Let's use state planning, which helped us win the fight against fascism, to win the fight against poverty and illness." The Attlee government created the NHS and massively expanded the welfare state, causing a huge increase in living standards across the country. It is a shame such a government would probably not have been elected if it weren't for the horrors of World War 2. (The First World War had a similar effect: in its immediate aftermath, the government extended suffrage and embarked on a huge social housing policy, to make the country "fit for heroes who had won the war" - without these policies, many of the soldiers would have returned from the war to live in slums and been unable to vote for their government.) Reading about how the Attlee government was made possible by WW2, I now understand (and further abhor) the 'Lexit' argument that did the rounds a bit back in 2016: the Left should vote for Brexit because it will be a disaster that would force the country to come together in crisis, and make a leftwing government more likely as a result. Even among those ostensibly on the right, those that think No-Deal Brexit would be a disaster in the short term seem to think the cost is worth it if in the longer term the country is brought together through hardship. How often is the Blitz and WW2 mentioned in discussions of Brexit? We survived the Blitz, we can survive Brexit! Brexit will be tough, but it'll bring some wartime spirit to the country and bring us together! Are the people craving Brexit and the (idealised) wartime spirit really craving a socialist government, without realizing it or wanting to realize it? Britain was triumphant in WW2, but it was ruined economically and literally. Post-war governments were not honest with the electorate about how weak the country was after war: they had a "don't talk about it in front of the children/voters" approach. They didn't want to ruin the triumphant, positive mood winning the war had instilled in the populace. The crumbling British Empire was no longer a superpower, and was dependent on American aid for years after the war. To keep the aid coming, Britain became the more subservient partner in the "special relationship". Having defeated an extremely racist ideology in World War 2, with a lot of help from colonial soldiers, the British government thought of Britain as the opposite of the Nazis, i.e. not racist (obviously, there was a lot of racism in Britain). British citizenship was extended across the colonies: colonial subjects were now British citizens who could move to Britain if they so wished, and would be welcomed with open arms. There was also plenty of work that needed doing to rebuild the country. This was essentially freedom of movement across the commonwealth; however, transport was expensive so not as many people could afford as would do today. Nevertheless, a lot of people did come. One of the first ships of immigrants to arrive was the HMT Empire Windrush, from which the Windrush Generation gets its name. Symbolically, the ship was a re-purposed Germany Navy Troopship captured during the war. Knowing this, reflect on the recent Windrush scandal and what it says about the current state of our nation. The Suez Crisis of 1956 is often seen as the time when Britain proved to the world that it was no longer a superpower. The Egyptian president nationalized the Suez Canal, which had been under Anglo-French control. The British and the French wanted to invade to retake the canal, but America and the USSR had other ideas. Both knew that if the British and French were kept out of Egypt, all of the old colonial powers would be out of the Middle East, leaving it open for them to influence. It was the only time during the Cold War that America sided with the USSR against its supposed allies. International pressure and domestic anti-war protest led to the invasion force being withdrawn before they had recaptured the canal. Britain and France humiliated on the world stage. The French government learnt from this that America could not be trusted: they would betray their allies in a heartbeat if it benefited them. France turned away from the US to focus on its continental allies, to build what would become the EU. Britain was unsure what to do: it was stung by the betrayal, but had been dependent on America since WW2 and wanted to maintain the "special relationship". British governments since WW2 have been divided over whether Britain should be closer to America, or closer to Europe, and this constant division has meant that Britain has never been as close as it could have been with either. When Britain was first trying to join the EEC (which became the EU), it was blocked twice, with the French president De Gaulle being the most vocal opponent of Britain joining. The European nations were worried that Britain was too close to America, the Betrayer, and would be a Trojan horse for American interests in Europe. They were also deeply concerned about Britain dragging the Commonwealth into Europe with it, especially with the 'freedom of movement' mentioned above (tighter immigration controls were later introduced). Continental Europe was more racist than Britain, and didn't want all those non-white, non-European people from Britain's colonies getting to the mainland. Britain joined the EEC in the 70s, under the Conservative government of Edward Heath. The next Labour government held a referendum on whether the populace actually wanted to be in it (the referendum had been Tony Benn's idea: he wanted Britain out). The campaigns on both sides focused on how food pricing was affected by membership: both sides claimed their option would result in cheaper food. Prior to joining, Britain had imported most of its food from the Commonwealth, now it was getting it from the continent. The Yes campaigners said European food was cheaper; the No, that Commonwealth food would be cheaper. Neither campaign really talked about the ways the EEC was planning to develop and grow over the decades, becoming increasingly a federal Europe. Neither side seemed to think that was important. Both Labour and Conservatives were divided over EEC membership: neither was a 100% Yes or No party. (I spoke to a man from New Zealand the other week, who said that a lot of people in New Zealand and Australia had been disappointed when Britain went closer to Europe and away from the Commonwealth. Their trade with Britain decreased, and they had to find new markets to sell their food.) Many Brexit supporters have said they would have voted No in 1975 had the campaigns mentioned the plans of a closer union; many felt betrayed and lied to, when the EEC became more than a trading arrangement: when it became the EU. Britain's early years in the EEC coincided with a bunch of other major changes to the country, which in some minds were causally linked to EEC membership. Decimalization of currency meant coins such as shillings and farthings, which went back to Anglo-Saxon times, were replaced by the more rational system of pounds and pence we have today - Britain's history and tradition was being eroded, thought some, leaving them with a sense of alienation. Industries declined and industrial strife increased. The government went to the IMF for a loan to help its finances. The oil crisis of '73 and '79 caused huge disruptions, especially when combined with the more frequent strikes... leading to the Winter of Discontent, and the election of Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher's reforms were... divisive, to say the least. Paradoxically, she privatized a lot of public services, while also increasing central government control of others and removed powers from local authorities. Prior to the Thatcher years, local elections had been about the local candidates and how they would use local powers to improve local areas. As local powers were taken away by central government, local elections increasingly became a proxy vote on the government in power. She crushed the unions and allowed industries to die. The state would interfere less in business: the Market would reign. Mass unemployment arrived in modern Britain for the first time: this shifted power away from workers towards employers. When employment is high, workers are in demand and have greater power to push for better pay: when there's always a significant number of people unemployed but wanting a job... well, we can just hire one of the other people if you don't want low pay. Mass debt also arrived. Right to Buy meant council tenants could buy their homes at a massively reduced price. The deregulated financial sector was happy to lend mortgage money. Britain's obsession with house prices and house buying was born. At the time Thatcher came to power, a greater proportion of Brits lived in social housing than in many communist countries. Now it's less than 20% and there are endless headlines about the housing crisis. The government doesn't build much social housing, and the private sector is incentivised to build and sell slowly to keep prices high. While Thatcher had been pro-Europe to start with, she increasingly became anti-Europe during her time in office, as the federal project accelerated. The big disagreement came over the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) - the different European currencies would work towards maintaining agreed exchange rates with the German Deutcshmark through monetary policy: this would make the planned transition to a single currency easier. Thatcher hated this idea, but the Treasury and much of her party was broadly in favour, which combined with the Poll Tax fiasco brought about her downfall. Thus, the Conservative party divide between what would become Leavers and Remainers grew, and soon it would grow again. In 1992, Germany was going through an economic boom after reunification. Britain, not so booming, was struggling to keep the pound up to the value of the Deutschmark. The German government didn't want to ruin the boom because it needed money to help former East Germany. John Major's government kept pushing up interest rates until homeowners and businesses were in danger of defaulting. Major wanted to ride out the storm, keep Britain in the ERM, so the country could be at the heart of the developing union. But it was not to be. The government cracked, and Britain exited the ERM on Black Wednesday.- 16th September 1992. Economic recovery followed, and the Conservative Eurosceptics became more confident. In its aftermath, the Referendum Party was founded, which had a single policy: hold a referendum of Britain's membership of the EU. Tony Blair's New Labour easily beat the humiliated Conservatives, winning the largest majority in Labour's history. But there were problems. Labour had been out of power for two decades: the new ministers had no experience of government and made a lot of mistakes. Blair took to courting all the newspapers, telling them what they wanted to hear, which inevitably turned them against him when the lie was revealed. Blair wanted to bring Britain closer to Europe, have Britain join the Euro, but struggled to balance his European aspirations with his courting of the anti-EU press. Lies, half-truths, and twisted truths became increasingly common from politicians: outright lying to the press and the electorate was being normalized among the political class. Blair got the nickname Bliar. Oof, this is a long post isn't it? This book ends in 2007, with Blair's resignation and some descriptions of recent changes to Britain, which we're so accustomed to now it felt that they were once new. Increasing surveillance through CCTV. Increasing concerns about data protection - who buys our personal data, and is this important? Increasing Internet usage - Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, warned in 2006 that it could be used to spread disinformation and undermine democracy. Immigration was increasingly becoming a major political issue: refugees from the Middle East were fleeing conflicts (which Britain was a part of) and settling in Britain, more people from Europe were coming over here. Islamophobia had become more common since 9/11 and 7/7. Politicians were often talking about the long term and economic benefits of immigration, while neglecting to mention the short term costs: the extra burden on public services, and worsening the housing crisis (to homeowners this was a good thing since it meant higher house prices). Since mass unemployment had arrived with Thatcher, the idea that 'immigrants are stealing our jobs' became more common and more convincing... (A more recent paperback edition continues the story to 2017.) Knowing the historical context for our current affairs is important, and as you can probably tell I learnt a lot from this book and enjoyed it. Marr's writing flows well and he has come great turns of phrase. My main quibble is that he gets obsessed with the Westminster drama: with the characters and their relationships to each other, which often feels like fluff and filler. This is probably his training as a Westminster journalist at work. The news is what the politicians are doing and saying; the history is what the politicians did and said. I would have preferred more emphasis on how the country as a whole changed. When lands beyond Westminster are mentioned, it is usually because the people in Westminster have to respond to events there. There's plenty of description of the drama around passing legislation, but comparatively little about how the legislation affected the country. This prevents him from being too critical of any politician's actual record and legacy. Criticisms are typically leveled at their character, and how they interacted with colleagues. There are segments on topics outside of Westminster, but they read like he would much rather get back to Westminster. It sometimes feels more like 'A History of Modern Westminster and its Occasional Relations with Other Lands, with Minor Digressions onto Other Topics'. This makes the book feel broad but shallow. That's fine, I guess: there's plenty of suggestions for further reading in the notes. I did enjoy this book a lot, though I do feel a slight disappointment that it isn't the book I wanted it to be, but that book would never have written by Andrew Marr: he's a journalist, not a historian.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris Best

    I did it, it took me three years, but I did it

  29. 4 out of 5

    Converse

    Andrew Marr, a British journalist, has written a history of Britain from 1945 to roughly 2008. As other reviewers noted, the book is heavy on political, particularly Parliamentary, history. But it also covers such matters as the British economy, the changes in popular culture such as the development of rock and roll in the 1960s, and the drastic reduction in union power in the Thatcher years. The earlier chapters tend to have relatively more material on social and cultural matters, such as live Andrew Marr, a British journalist, has written a history of Britain from 1945 to roughly 2008. As other reviewers noted, the book is heavy on political, particularly Parliamentary, history. But it also covers such matters as the British economy, the changes in popular culture such as the development of rock and roll in the 1960s, and the drastic reduction in union power in the Thatcher years. The earlier chapters tend to have relatively more material on social and cultural matters, such as live theater in Britain. Marr's big theme is that Britain has become a less communal society and people have become less interested in party politics. Marr sees two governments, the Atlee government in 1945 and the Thatcher government starting in 1979, as being the most important ones. The inclinations of the two could not be more different, with the Labor Atlee government inclined to nationalize industries and extend government services, while the Thatcher government did the reverse. Unlike all other British governments in the period, these governments tended to face issues head on. Marr's least favorite government seems to be Harold MacMillian, whom he sees as someone always trying to avoid hard choices and keep things quiet, no matter the long term cost. During this period, Britain was economically dependent upon the United States. The realization of the extent of this dependence was not recognized by politicians until the Suez Crisis of 1956, in which the British, in conjunction with France and Isreal, responded militarily to the Gamal Nasser's seizure of the canal. The United States government used its economic power to force a British withdrawal, a policy which seems in retrospect to have resulted in the worst possible outcome for the United States as well as France and Britain in terms of its effect on the Middle East. Another example of Britain's dependence upon the United States is its nuclear detterent, which was begun more in order to retain Britain's role as a great power in comparison with the United States than as a response to a perceived Soviet threat. Here again Britain was eventually revealed to be dependent on the United States, as the British deterrent depends upon American missiles deployed in nuclear submarines of American design. The counterpoint to Britian's attitude to the United States has been its response to an increasingly unified western Europe. Britain was a late joiner to what has become the European Union. I was surprised to learn that resistence to integration with Europe was originally stronger in the Labor than in the Convervative Party, though both parties had and have skeptics about the matter. The recent problems with the Euro seem to me to suggest that the skeptics have a point, at least to a point. Britain's late entry meant that it had to accept policies, in particular over agricultural subsidies, which were against its interests. The 1970s were a political turing point in Britain as in the United States with regard to economic policy. The emphasis on state control and nationalization of industry, broadly accepted over the last 25 years, was discredited (not always fairly or relevantly) in a period marked by labor strife, currency devaluations, and the need to request a loan from the International Monetary Fund. These developments made possible the rise of a lasseiz faire group in the Conservative Party, a group which Margaret Thatcher joined. After Thatcher began governing, union power was greatly reduced, and many state run industries such as telecommunications were privatized. After a long and very public struggle, the Labor Party eventually accepted these changes. Marr emphasizes how a politician's success depends to a great extent on events outside his or her control. Both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair had good luck at crucial times early on in their years as Prime Minister. I noticed, but curiously the author didn't explicitly suggest, that the judgement of prime ministers seems to decline if they win a second or third election; perhaps this is because they develop a sense of infallability.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Silvia

    This actually is an updated edition from 2017, Amazon's information is misleading. A very insightful, often funny read. It was long, but never felt too long. I also liked how it includes quite a lot about society in general and not just great men (and women).

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