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Estates: An Intimate History

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  195 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Lynsey Hanley was born and raised just outside of Birmingham on what was then the largest council estate in Europe, and she has lived for years on an estate in London's East End. Writing with passion, humour and a sense of history, she recounts the rise of social housing a century ago, its adoption as a fundamental right by leaders of the social welfare state in the mid-ce ...more
ebook, 272 pages
Published November 1st 2012 by Granta Books (first published September 28th 2007)
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Rachel Stevenson
Excellent deconstruction of the construction of public housing, with a lot of private history, recollection and musings thrown in. The chapter entitled: The Wall In The Head, about how living in an insular society can lead you to believe that anything outside of this society is either irrelevant or too complicated for you and your life, which struck a chord with my non-council house dwelling but Doncastrian beginnings. Hansley is not bovvered, er, bothered about being left or right wing or even ...more
Nick Harleigh-bell
This book irritated me. Some bits, I utterly agreed with - the selling-out of communities and demonization of the working classes - other bits I considered sentimental pish - you *can* grow up on an estate, be successful and not feel alienated - or at least no more alienated than anyone else who listened to The Smiths... All in all - it's OK. (I'm also reading someone's Housing PhD thesis right now, though - this might also have something to do with my dislike of the book's "thinness")
Memoir, social history, and, most definitely, polemic, Hanley's book should be required reading for anybody seeking public office either at local or national level.

A sense of an opportunity wasted, when Bevan's longterm vision for national housing was sacrificed for short term political gain and quantity overcome the quality he demanded, informs the political thrust of the book. The cold, dead hand of Modernism added to the mix didn't help either.

No political party from the 1950s onwards came
A fascinating trawl through the history of social housing provision in the UK since the construction of the historic Boundary Estate in Bethnal Green in 1893. Hanley's account really comes to life in the book's pivotal chapter, "Slums in the Sky" with shocking tales of corner cutting and well meaning modernism. Erno Goldfinger - rehabilitated in some quarters in recent years - is firmly back in the Naughty Seat although a one bedroom apartment in his Trellick Tower will still set you back over 4 ...more
Tanya Jones
If I had my way, this book would be compulsory reading for anyone involved in housing. I was lucky; I grew up in a well-built council house, and benefited indirectly from the right-to-buy scheme, but this book was invaluable in reminding me about the council housing residents that weren't so lucky.

I read this book soon after watching Jonathan Meades' documentary on Modernism, and felt this book provided what his documentary lacked; the voice of those who had to live in the buildings that sprang
Holly Cruise
A brief but illuminating combination of personal memoir and history of the council estate, Hanley tackles the subject with passion, a slice of wit and a sense of urgency. Perhaps the book's shortness is a testament to its writer's strongly held view that something needs to be done about the alienating power of design and the government's stubbornness when it comes to engaging with one of the most basic needs of its citizens.

The prose can meander a bit at times, but mostly it is precise and evoca
Lars Williams
This was an enjoyable book, a mixture of memoir (the author's experience growing up in a large estate outside Birmingham)and social history. I grew up in two very different council houses, so the topic had some personal relevance to me. I now know why the pre-war semi I lived in till the age of 8 was so spacious and solidly built, compared to the flimsy '80s new-town estate we moved to later. Lynsey Hanley gives a good account of housing policy in this country, looking at the social attitudes to ...more
May 04, 2008 Rose added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rose by: Daily Telegraph Seven
Shelves: 2008
I enjoyed learning more about a part of our society's history that, despite its importance, is often overlooked; a history that is depressing for the constant bad decisions by people who didn't actually have to live in the estates they designed. It shows vividly how the small problems with a building, whether a substandard nut on a gas line or using newspaper where concrete should be, can lead to apparently solid buildings either falling apart in the blink of an eye, or remaining sound only to b ...more
Paul Fleckney
I enjoyed reading this book, it is an interesting account of the author's various experiences with housing in its many forms coupled with a detailed history of the rise and fall of public housing in Britain from the Second World War to the present day. Ms Hanley presents some well constructed arguments and introduced me to some new ways of thinking about this issue.

This is not an academically rigorous book which can be both an advantage in terms of its ease of readability and a hindrance with r
Putting together lots of personal experience and facts about social housing in Britain, Lynsey Hanley has compiled an interesting, both factual and emotional insight into history, planning, politics and the reality of social housing for people living in estates. Only in the last chapter, in which she has a look into future options and describes her own hopes for social housing, it feels like she digresses from her findings and results of her analysis from earlier chapters in favour of some kind ...more
Steven Suttie
I bought this book by the recommendation of Owen Jones in his book "Chavs."

This is an excellent work by Lynsey Hanley. This is a book about council estates, how they came about, how they were designed, and how they were received by the first tenants, and how things started going wrong.

Normally, this type of book would be written by a social studies professor who might have visited a few estates whilst researching and analysing data. But the author of this excellent book grew up on a council esta
This is a mixture of personal account of growing up on an estate, housing policy and history. I didn't much care for it the first time I read it, but it's grown on me steadily as I've reread it.

On the second reading I realised that the balance between the personal memoir, the reflections on social housing in other countries, the role of housing in a total cultural-dynamic enviroment worked well for me - it was just professionally I wanted to resist the responsibility that she was thrusting on ev
Alan Fricker
Both a societal and personal history. Living near one of the estates featured in Family and kinship in the East End and working in Newham which was a major builder of tower blocks I thought I would have the benefit of having seen some of the places Hanley talks about. I had not anticipated that she would have grown up in Solihull and attended the same college as me (all be it the year after I left). Even without those personal points of contact this is well worth reading to try and understand ho ...more
Interesting and pleasant read. De-demonizing council housing tenants for their poverty, only to put the blame entirely on the architects for their design.
Housing Estates in Britain started off as a great idea that rapidly went wrong. Putting people in an isolated spot with schools and shopping centres together was a recipe for stigma and alienation. Lynsey Hanley writes a great book filled with facts and personal stories. A great read if you are curious about society and why people turn out the way they do.
Jon Gordon
Interesting read and a good companion piece to Chavs. Potted history of the rise of public housing followed by the political marginalization of estates by successive governments. The author has interspersed this with her own memories and history and there are some excellent observations here.
Andrew Wallace
A poignant account of the author's experience of living in council (public) housing in the UK. She provides a sober insight into the psychological, social and material barriers created by housing inequality and delivers an unflinching critique of postwar planning and architectural trends.
There are two excellent chapters full of well researched history and ideology which take up about half the book, however I found the introductory memoir part long winded, and the closing chapters were rather mild. Worth a skim tho, a nice easy well written read.
Jason Neylon
A real insight into how one of the great utopian schemes turned sour. Instead of hearing politicians scoring points about people who live on estates this explains the struggles they face and how their environment has created "a wall in the head".
A tremendous little book documenting the political and planning disasters of the last hundred years which have trapped the British underclass in council estates written by someone who broke through 'the wall' and escaped.
A good social history of council estate housing in Britain. The author grew up on one - as I did, and why I read this - and has some interesting personal accounts to add to the sometimes dry academic speak.
Andrew Doran
As much a personal story as the story of council estates. Fascinating reading and has got me thinking about my attitudes towards estates and the people that find themselves living in them.
Oct 07, 2007 George rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Someone who works in public housing like me or anthropologists or urban planners.
Good subject but often gets bogged down in dry writing. Personal reflections and experiences in the book are great, but the historical parts get a bit mind numbing.
Darran Mclaughlin
Good book. I could really identify with what she was saying because, like the author, I managed to escape my council estate upbringing and get an education.
Rachella Sinclair
Hanley's concept of the wall in the head was a life-changing revelation for me. i've read this book twice and will probably read again.
Terry Clague
'Council housing, once the cherished centrepiece of Bevanite socialism, took just twnety years for successive governments to pick apart.'
Titus Hjelm
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British writer and journalist (born 1976).
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“Council housing, once the cherished centrepiece of Bevanite socialism, took just twenty years for successive governments to pick apart.” 1 likes
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