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Family Britain, 1951 1957

(Tales of a New Jerusalem #2)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  314 ratings  ·  56 reviews
As in Austerity Britain, an astonishing array of vivid, intimate and unselfconscious voices drive this narrative. The keen-eyed Nella Last shops assiduously at Barrow Market as austerity and rationing gradually give way to relative abundance; housewife Judy Haines, relishing the detail of suburban life, brings up her children in Chingford; and, the self-absorbed civil serv ...more
Paperback, 784 pages
Published May 3rd 2010 by Bloomsbury Publishing (first published November 2nd 2009)
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Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
Glossary here of obscure references in this book.

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
carl  theaker
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history

'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
Apr 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second part of Kynaston's epic account of Britain from 1945 to 1979. It starts with the conservatives winning the general election of 1951 (despite getting many fewer votes than Labour, Britain was a much more working class country then) and it ends with Suez. But politics is in the back seat for most of this journey, which delves into culture, education, sport, music and film.

Two things are worth noting about Kynaston's technique. Firstly structure. Family Britain (like its predeces
Dec 24, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second volume of David Kynaston’s social history of the “New Jerusalem” covers such areas as The Festival of Britain, end of rationing, emergence of new towns and the increasing importance of television. Before wrapping up with Suez and the resignation of Anthony Eden. Once again the lives of ‘normal’ people are paramount, with inclusion of diary entries from average members of the public giving a viewpoint not normally seen in history books. It’s a fascinating read with lots of interesting ...more
Marc Maitland
Aug 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second volume of Britain’s postwar history by David Kynaston. This volume covers the period 1951-57 (originally in two separate volumes: “A Certainty of Pace” and “A Thicker Cut”), and the period encompasses the first postwar Conservative government, starting with Churchill and ending with Eden’s post-Suez resignation at the beginning of 1958.

Although all of the major political events are covered, and we are introduced to fledgling politicians who will come to dominate the scene in
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the early 1950s Great Britain was a nation in transition. On the one hand it was still an imperial power, a workshop to much of the world, a land with a tradition-bound patriarchal society. Yet on the other it was seeing the first results of the many social and economic changes underway, with the clearing of the Victorian-era slums, the growing challenges of a multi-racial population, and the rapid proliferation of television just some of the signs pointing to the future that was to come. Thi ...more
Mar 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I was a big fan of Kynaston's earlier book in the series, Austerity Britain. In my opinion, Family Britain is just as good, and maybe even a bit better. Again, the book is less of a history book and more of a snapshot, or series of snapshots, of the culture during a certain period of time (1951-1957). What makes these books so special is that instead of focusing on major events, they let us see into the everyday lives of Britons of different classes. Family Britain touches on the end of rationin ...more
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating insight into my early teenage years documenting the constraints on my parents.
Ian Russell
It’s a brilliant concept for a history book, leading the reader along a short, linear time line and observes, with the minimal of historian analysis, the period in a collection of newspaper and magazine articles, and excerpts from personal diaries, some of which belong to ordinary citizens.

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
Patrick DiJusto
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A detailed study of life in Great Britain I've the five tumultuous years 1951-1957. If you watch the Netflix series 'The Crown' that's all of season 1 and the first three episodes of season 2.

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
Nicholas Story, solicitor
700 pages of sheer quality.

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
Andrew Pratley
Jun 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is splendid series of which I plan to read in full. I was born in 1956 so, for me, the series which covers the period from 1945-1979 chronicling the social history of Britain is part nostalgia & part history. There are many voices heard throughout. It is a joy to read because it gets you closer to the lives of ordinary people as well as the less ordinary. Having finished it the period before I was born I feel much better informed & have a better understanding of the lives led by my parent's ...more
Graham Russell
I really enjoyed Austerity Britain, but this was a bit of a slog. I may be misremembering the first volume, but my recollection is that it had a really good balance between vox pop contributions and the author's own analysis. This seemed to rely much more heavily on anecdotal quotes and it lacked focus as a result. It's still a really interesting book, particularly if, like mine, your parents grew up in that era - I'm just not sure the 696 page count is really warranted.
Apr 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved the first in the series - "Austerity Britain" - and whizzed through it, but for some reason I found this second one rather a slog. I see I bought it (admittedly for only £1.29) seven years ago! Still, glad to have ploughed on through as of course there were some very interesting bits in the mix.
Nov 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Exhaustive but never exhausting, Kynaston's book paints a vivid and detailed picture of everyday life in '50s Britain.
Richard Anderson
Terrific continuation of this classic.
Shaun Snow
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took a while to read, but a great read. Brilliant social history really well written.
Adam Higgitt
Nov 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has read "Austerity Britain" will know exactly what to expect in "Family Britain" often regarded as the second volume in David Kynaston's ambitious social and cultural history of the post war era to 1979, as it picks up chronologically and stylistically exactly from where the previous edition left off.

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
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
How does one write a History book? Should it be one encompassing the broad sweep of time? One content to mine a decade or one focussing on a single year looking for patterns or promoting a turning point? Great men or the masses? Thematic or dramatic? Micro or macro? Thesis driven or narrative driven? David Kynaston is in the micro History school. His follow up to Austerity Britain is another huge volume on a period of six years- 1951-1957 and his thesis is in the title focussing on families as a ...more
Nicholas Whyte
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
Nov 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second in a series of books building a social history of the UK from the end of the second world war through to 1979. The period covered by this book is from 1951 to 1957 and follows on from Austerity Britain (1945-1951). It is heavily based around documents, surveys, reports, biographies and diaries from the time. It covers all aspects of daily life with the constant backdrop of the political situation. Detailed examinations are provided for subjects like housing, education, town pl ...more
Amy Durreson
I've been reading this for months, on and off, after thoroughly enjoying the first volume, Austerity Britain: 1945-51. It's a 700 page social history of Britain between 1951 and 1957, covering everything from politics to the tiny, everyday details of shopping, housing, and entertainment. It could so easily have been dry, but Kynaston has a gift for spotting arresting or poignant details. He draws liberally on diaries, letters, memoirs, and sociological surveys, as well as newspapers, magazines, ...more
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kynaston ends with a chapter covering Suez; not in historical detail, but from the point of view of the diarists and the general public. (Interesting note: this is where the commercial decline of the Observer began, thanks to its anti-government stance on the matter. Several other reputations, besides Eden's, were made or buried at the same time.)

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
The second volume of Kynaston's series of histories on postwar Britain. In 690 pages he covers six years- we barely get into 1957- in as much depth as possible. The book starts with Attlee's election loss and ends with Eden's retirement but covers everything from pop music to household utilities in between. Kynaston is especially good on detailing Britain's class system and how it still determines peoples' choices of job, communities, what they read and what they are interested in. But the seeds ...more
Michael M
Mar 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to know what it was like to live in Britain between 1951 and 1957 this is the book for you.

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
Simon Koenig
Feb 12, 2012 marked it as maybe-reads  ·  review of another edition
I think the general reader will find this book long and somewhat disjointed. I enjoy reading the history of England but, felt as though I were an outsider reading this complex and detailed social history of Britain in the 1950's. While this book certainly belongs on the shelf I think perhaps it is more suited to the student of British history rather than a casual reader. People and events pop in and out of this volume that have not be introduced previously. [return][return]My hope is that becaus ...more
Jul 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only one of the series I've read so far, this is a massive slab of a book. I doubted I'd finish it but I was soon hooked. The period covered,1951-1957, was my very early childhood, so most events passed me by. However it was fascinating to see the beginnings of television, the newly affluent consumer society after the austerity of rationing (which lasted longer than one might think and which I can just remember), the militancy of trade unions, the newly created Welfare State and NHS. Using M ...more
I looked forward to this follow-up to Kynaston's 'Austerity Britan' which I enjoyed immensely. The sequel didnt have the same charm for me. Its not the Kynaston's writing or effort waned in the second book. It is simply a matter of timing and context.

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

An enjoyable return to David Kynaston's Tales of a New Jerusalem series in which, as before, he draws together a vast range of source material, in particular diaries and again, the layering and juxtaposition of features of British life at the time was most effective. I found however, that the breadth sometimes meant it felt superficial, for example I found myself thinking of Concretopia wanting more detail of new town building.

The impact of television looms very large here but some of the conclu
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David Kynaston was born in Aldershot in 1951. He has been a professional historian since 1973 and has written eighteen books, including The City of London (1994-2001), a widely acclaimed four-volume history, and W.G.'s Birthday Party, an account of the Gentleman vs. the Players at Lord's in July 1898. He is the author of Austerity Britain, 1945-51, the first title in a series of books covering the ...more

Other books in the series

Tales of a New Jerusalem (3 books)
  • Austerity Britain, 1945-51
  • Modernity Britain, 1957-63

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