Forgot to write this yesterday ... I blame the pre-Xmas social round! Both of these were bought after being seen elsewhere (at least the author was, in the latter case).

Simon Garfield. We Are at War: The Diaries of Five Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times. London: Ebury Press, 2006. Drawn from the Mass-Observation archives, covering from August 1939 to October 1940, so should be a fair bit of air raid stuff to keep me interested. Would have liked to have it go to the end of the Blitz but one can't have everything.

Peter Hennessy. Never Again: Britain 1945-51. London: Penguin, 2006 [1992]. Post-war Britain is still a bit of an unknown country to me, as I've spent so long now reading up on, first the Edwardian period, and now the World Wars and the bit in between, so this is just the ticket.

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6 thoughts on “Acquisitions

  1. Peter is outstandingly good on the Attlee government (and he's 'Attlee Professor of Contemporary History’ here at QM), so that's a great choice.

    Unsolicited advice, and only IMHO, of course, but if you ever get the urge to progress and only have time to read one general book on Britain in each period, I would recommend:

    1950s: Peter’s new one ‘Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties’ (London: Allen Lane, 2006) is getting frankly orgasmic reviews all round.
    1960s: Avoid the rather artificially polarized debate inflamed recently by Sandbrook's huge tomes in response to Marwick's huge tome and go instead for Mark Donnelly, ‘Sixties Britain: Culture, Society and Politics’ (Longman, 2005). It says so much more in a fraction of the wordage of anyone else, and offers a plurality of views and voices (quite rightly).
    1970s: My candidate for ‘The Best History Book Ever Written’: Philip Whitehead’s ‘The Writing on The Wall: Britain in the 70s’ (London, Michael Joseph, 1985). Quite simply brilliant, and a very entertaining read too.

    Or the best short whirl through the whole period that I know of is still Arthur Marwick’s ‘British Society Since 1945’ (London, Penguin, still constantly being updated and republished).

    Happy reading!

  2. I second the praise for The Writing on the Wall. Histories of the 1970s are few (as yet); this, though 20 years old now, is still the best so far.

    So far as a general text is concerned, Morgan's The People's Peace covers political developments as well as social.

  3. Post author

    Thanks for all of that. It's interesting that the best history of the 1970s was written only half a decade after it ended, and yet 20 years later there still aren't many around. Sounds like a challenge for somebody!

  4. Hennessy is incredibly cool. Check out "The Secret State", which is all about HMG's nuclear-war contingency planning, the V-bomber force and the warning system.

    One of his courses at QMW is on that topic and involved the seminar re-running a Whitehall Transition-to-War command post exercise from 1962. Now that's the kind of professor I like.

  5. Yes, there are still some of that lot around these parts who rave about the whole experience. And "The Secret State" is a quite extraordinary book.

    But then, I'm biased: I particularly like him as he recently called me "a silver-tongued bastard". In public. How sweet. That may have to go on the back of my book on the 1970s. :)

  6. Chris Williams

    "still constantly being updated and republished"

    I'm not sure that even Arthur can manage that. Although I wouldn't have put it past him claiming to be able to. "I'll be putting out the fifth edition from beyond the grave, laddie!"

    By the way, the memorial lecture to Arthur is happening at UCL on Friday Feb 9th - Penny Summerfield will be talking about 'Public Memory and the Second World War'.

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