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The People The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 by Selina Todd
  

The People The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010

The Real World   History   

Sue Baker's view...

In today’s Britain many blame successive Tory governments for breaking the working class and recently, reading a history of 1914-18 the description of the political landscape felt as if we had come full circle, hard to tell 1914 from 2014 - as if 100 years of progress had come to nothing. Is 100 years of rising standards and opportunity for working people on the slide – and why? Selina Todd meticulously documents the history of the working class, giving them the voice that is so often missing from our historical record.

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Who is Sue Baker

Synopsis

The People The Rise and Fall of the Working Class, 1910-2010 by Selina Todd

'There was nothing extraordinary about my childhood or background. And yet I looked in vain for any aspect of my family's story when I went to university to read history, and continued to search fruitlessly for it throughout the next decade. Eventually I realised I would have to write this history myself.' What was it really like to live through the twentieth century? In 1910 three-quarters of the population were working class, but their story has been ignored until now. Based on the first-person accounts of servants, factory workers, miners and housewives, award-winning historian Selina Todd reveals an unexpected Britain where cinema audiences shook their fists at footage of Winston Churchill, communities supported strikers and pools winners (like Viv Nicholson) refused to become respectable. Charting the rise of the working class, through two world wars to their fall in Thatcher's Britain and today, Todd tells their story for the first time, in their own words. Uncovering a huge hidden swathe of Britain's past, The People is the vivid history of a revolutionary century and the people who really made Britain great.

Reviews

Writing the experiences of these forgotten groups into the history of class is overdue. Not only does Todd bust a few myths in the process . . . but she opens up new vistas on the social history of modern Britain * History Today * Polemical and engaging * Times Higher Education * Selina Todd's impassioned, comprehensive history is a much-needed contribution to the revival of thinking about class in Cameron's Britain * New Statesman * An impressively researched and passionately argued chronicle of hopes dashed. Todd's argument is interwoven with interviews and autobiographical extracts to demonstrate how lives changes - and also how they did not . . . Very good * Lucy Lethbridge, Financial Times * Why has revolution never broken out in Britain, because God knows there has been enough provocation. My feelings, after reading Selina Todd's great book, is that a little salutary use of the guillotine wouldn't go amiss . . . A brief century ago, if you weren't a toff, you lived in overcrowded slums, with neither drains nor electricity, 'grim rooms and surly faces', to use Todd's evocative phrase. Livelihoods were in constant peril. Welfare provision was scant. This book - all the more powerful for being written in a cool, seemingly neutral and factual fashion: Todd is a history don at the University of Oxford - recounts the hard and heroic slog, as ordinary men and women sought basic protection and regulation, decent homes, adequate remuneration, and compensation for horrifying injuries in factories . . . If this rousing book has an overriding theme, it is that such a (feudal) mentality accounts for the reluctance of the British to rise up and rebel - and it is why as of 2010, according to Todd, 'we are the most economically unequal country in the European Union', with Old Etonians and plutocratic villains as ever fully in charge and the likes of myself and everyone else I know, metaphorically if not literally, dining on cold baked beans in the cafeteria of Morrison's (Strood branch) * Roger Lewis, The Times * Todd is insightful on servants . . . The bitterness of women forced back into domestic service is also captured well . . . [The People] is at its best when destabilising cliched narratives. Todd is strong on the 50s * Guardian * The timing is apt for Selina Todd's examination of what she calls 'the rise and fall
of the working class

. . . The People is a book we badly need . . . [It] offers a clear, compelling, broadly persuasive narrative of a century of British history as seen through working-class eyes and from a working-class perspective. Todd avoids hectoring, but by the end one is left suitably angry: the people have been screwed . . . She is a subtle as well as powerful historian. Retrospective oral testimony can be a problematic type of source, but she uses it with a dexterity and intelligence comparable to Orlando Figes in his masterly The Whisperers; weaving through her account the rollercoaster life story of the celebrated pools-winner Vivian Nicholson works beautifully; above all, she has an enviably assured grasp of the realities at any one time of working-class life . . . The underlying truth of the story - ultimately a tragic as well as a shocking story - that Todd tells remains essentially valid. And she tells it in a way that is, as Henry James might have said, the real thing * David Kynaston, Observer * Selina Todd does not lack in courage and ambition. Her book, based on more than 10 years
research, is wide

-ranging in its scope and packed with detail. Through her own extensive interviews in Coventry and Liverpool she provides new insights into the lives of working-class families, while she puts particular emphasis on the role of women, a theme often neglected in previous studies. She is good at contradicting some of the conventional wisdom about this period * Daily Express * Todd is excellent in describing the effects that the Great War had on society and her use of servants as barometers of social change brings a fresh voice to this history * Alan Johnson, The Spectator * The landscape is fascinating, and the distance travelled enormous . . . It is a colour tale too, taking in working class culture, music and dance crazes, and the move from a world of clerks, secretaries and manual workers to DIY superstores, Sunday working and the demise of trade union power . . . The scope and range of Todd's study is impressive * Scotsman * Straightforward and useful * Juliet Gardiner, Daily Telegraph * What differentiates Selina Todd's book from existing literature on this subject is the way her narrative actually documents the voices of working-class people. Through their words we come to a better understanding of how lives flourished or faltered, as various government policies were introduced, or taken away . . . Brilliant and well-researched * New Internationalist * What an excellent book this is . . . The final chapters are its best, providing an analysis of what we have all lived through. Ms Todd's great ability as an academic is to avoid writing like one, so her book is accessible and entertaining. Even for those not engrossed by politics, the tales of the ordinary lives are compelling * Alistair Dawber, Independent * Todd's account distinguishes itself in several respects, making copious use of oral histories . . . and giving more attention to domestic servants, who are usually overlooked in favour of industrial workers. Building to quite a polemical finish, Todd makes much of her own working-class background, which helps her sift nuggets of truth from myth, nostalgia and received wisdom * Herald * The most interesting academic work on British politics this year * Independent Books of the Year * I am delighted to see social class storm its way back into our contemporary history * Guardian *


About the Author

Selina Todd is Fellow and Vice Principal of St Hilda's College, Oxford, and a highly respected social historian. Her previous book, Young Women, Work, and Family in England, won the Women's History Network Book Prize.

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Book Info

Publication date

10th April 2014

Author

Selina Todd

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Author's Website

selinatodd.com/

Publisher

John Murray Publishers Ltd an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton General Division

Format

Hardback
464 pages

Categories

The Real World
History

Social classes
Social & cultural history

20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000

ISBN

9781848548817

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