Family Britain, 1951 1957
Few things generate a more powerful sentimental feeling in my otherwise black heart than a historian rescuing the voices of forgotten average people from oblivion. So this second volume in Kynaston's Tales of a New Jerusalem cycle, intended to trace the course of everyday Britain from 1945 to 1978, often through the writings of the non-notable or the now-obscure, had a powerful effect. Nevertheless, it was also a sad book, because “[t]here seem to ...more
'Family Britain 1951-1957' is history at eye-level;
700 pages covering 7 years, you get a lot of detail on the
thoughts and activities of everyday life.
Major events are covered, but through the eyes of
the public's perspective, the 1953 coronation of the Queen,
the first national implementation of Nuclear power plants,
national strikes, the Suez Canal crisis.
Though it's more the items that are closer to living
that fill the pages: new housing, the sporting events that
touch everyone, going to the mo ...more
Two things are worth noting about Kynaston's technique. Firstly structure. Family Britain (like its predeces ...more
Although all of the major political events are covered, and we are introduced to fledgling politicians who will come to dominate the scene in ...more
Though compared to the previous and first volume of Kynaston’s Britain books, I found this disappointingly pedestrian. Maybe this was the fault of history or maybe the relative easement of austerity makes for ...more
Kynaston does a wonderful job of integrating the actual diaries of everyday people into the narrative, so we learn how a Yorkshire shopgirl viewed the death of King George VI ("They've taken all the good shows off the telly."), a London housewife's view of her new government- built suburban house, and so on ...more
We start with Churchill's re-election, and end with the Suez crisis. It is extraordinary, 60 years later, what a low level impact the latter made upon the public. Those who gave it any thought at all considered it to be a resounding triumph, rather than the end of an Empire.
Sandwiched in between we have accounts of myxamatosis, the introduction of commercial TV and adverts, latent racism, blatant homophobia, Teddy Boys, Rock n Roll, washing machines, high rise flats, a ...more
Drawing on a vast range of primary sources, this narrative history of 1951-7 inevitably dwells heavily on the most reliable and fruitful material; interviews and surveys from Mass Obser ...more
This is the second volume of Tales of a New Jerusalem, a series of books pulling together the findings of Mass-Observation and various other sources to create a detailed, almost week-by-week popular history of Britain. (The first volume covers 1945-51, and the third 1957-59; Kynaston's plan is to take it up to Margaret Thatcher's election in 1979.) It's a tremendous piece of work, but I'll stipulate up front that it has limitations - although the title r ...more
Leading up to that point, Kynaston continues to spin a magnificent narrative based on diary extracts, opinion polls and vox pops from the time which se ...more
It covers most aspects of life from politics, family life, food and drink, music, theatre, cinema and lifestyles and prevalent attitudes amongst the population.
This information, mostly based on contemporary interviews and diaries, is both expansive and gives a very accurate picture of the way it was in a very readable style.
This period was in many senses the parent of the current era, with many ...more
In America we associate the end of WWII as a period of immense prosperity and opportunity and social change. 'Austerity Britan' - which I read during the height of the 2009 financial crisis - reveals the prosperity America enjoyed was still far from
The impact of television looms very large here but some of the conclu ...more