Modernity Britain Synopsis
The late 1950s was an action-packed, often dramatic time in which the contours of modern Britain began to take shape. These were the 'never had it so good' years, when the Carry On film series and the TV soap Emergency Ward 10 got going, and films like Room at the Top and plays like A Taste of Honey brought the working class to the centre of the national frame; when the urban skyline began irresistibly to go high-rise; when CND galvanised the progressive middle class; when 'youth' emerged as a cultural force; when the Notting Hill riots made race and immigration an inescapable reality; and when 'meritocracy' became the buzz word of the day. The consequences of this 'modernity' zeitgeist, David Kynaston argues, still affect us today.
The Good Book Guide Review
The first part of the third volume of Kynaston’s social history begins in 1957; the year that Prime Minister Harold MacMillan gave the speech that defined the period. ‘You’ve never had it so good’ maybe a misquotation, but the sentiment nonetheless applies to a time when the average British consumer could dream of owning a fridge and a telephone. This is a wonderfully detailed, very readable look at a time that paved the way for the social revolution that was the Swinging Sixties.
Modernity Britain Press Reviews
Volumes full of treasure, serious history with a human face * Hilary Mantel, Observer, Summer Reads * The most ambitious and the most diligent ... These lists are sometimes so extensive and artfully arranged that they acquire a kind of lyrical beauty in their own right ... The guiding principle of this method is not postmodern relativism but a generous and open-minded inclusiveness ... As a rule, Kynaston shows enormous self-restraint: he assembles and presents his material with such studied neutrality that it's not obvious, at first, where his own loyalties lie ... If Kynaston's Tales of a New Jerusalem helps us to do that - if it succeeds in its objective of showing us, on a scale both panoramic and intimate, exactly what the postwar governments struggled to build, and which Thatcher, just as determinedly, sought to dismantle - then it will surely come to be seen not just as one of the present era's most important histories, but as one of the most illuminating works of literature * Jonathan Coe, Prospect * David Kynaston's brilliant and witty chronicle of post-war Britain shows why he's The Past Master ... As wonderfully quick-witted and wide-ranging as its predecessors ... Kynaston peppers his book with these illuminating little vignettes ... I was struck by how skilfully he weaves it all together, beautifully intertwining anecdotes and observations with sparkling details and fascinating statistics ... Modernity Britain is both even-handed and exhilarating, a rare combination. Kynaston's sympathies are, broadly speaking, with the underdog, but he is wary of certainties, distrustful of the pat remedy. When he expresses overt opinions, they are always thoughtful, and arrive like thunder-flashes, illuminating the pages around them ... Was ever a history book so authoritative and, at the same time, quite so entertaining? Kynaston is particularly brilliant at filleting contemporary books, newspapers, comedy scripts, advertisement, films, political speeches, etc, for the telling quotation * Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday * Kynaston's many fans will be pleased to hear that Modernity Britain has all the virtues of his previous volumes ... Kynaston has an unrivalled eye for long-forgotten, apparently banal and yet weirdly suggestive anecdotes ... Above all, Kynaston is a historian of tremendous compassion ... Perhaps the most moving section of Kynaston's splendid book, though, is his discussion of British schools in the late 1950s * Dominic Sandbrook, The Times * The entertainment flies off the pages. The Kynaston method of compiling a vast array of sources and applying them with equal zest to the momentous ... and the ephemeral ... guarantees a rattling read. This is social, cultural and political history, more or less in that order, with a smile on its face ... Mostly he launches bombardments of facts, quotes, stories and numbers interspersed with pithy and shrewd editorial observations. He more than gets away with it ... There are brilliant passages throughout about the dispersion of inner-city tenant dwellers ... Kynaston specialises in fair-mindedness and nuance ... Much of the sheer and abundant joy of this book are its serendipity ... Hundreds of other wonders and absurdities captured and recreated for our enlightenment and entertainment * New Statesman * From high-rise flats to the Carry On films, here are the never-had-it-so-good years brought vividly to life by a historian whose extraordinary appetite for research seems to know bounds * Rachel Cooke, Observer * Kynaston is a wonderful writer and his technique of creating a collage of diary extracts, newspaper commentaries and personal reminiscences, interspersed with historical description, acts to subtly disguise the force of his own analysis * The Times Book of the Week * The narrative is beautifully composed and Kynaston digs deeper than previous historians ... One of the great virtues of Kynaston's approach is the juxtaposition of political rhetoric and social reality * Literary Review * Kynaston is the most readable and original social historian writing today and I've barely scratched the surface of what his latest compulsive book includes. Buy it * Daily Express * His forte is a beguiling use of social insights, often on an intimate domestic scale, to establish a sense of period and to open windows on the recent past * Peter Clarke, Financial Times * David Kynaston resembles a novelist impersonating a historian. His books read like fiction disguised as documentary ... His method evokes the sumptuous messiness of human experience. He depicts history as an unfolding, ill-managed pageant ... His books so enriching, improving and endearing ... Shrewd, funny and ever-readable ... In Kynaston's history books, the reader can hear the people speak. He has an elocutionist's sense of people's diction * Guardian * Artful deployment of different voices and sources vividly evokes a time when benighted extremes of snobbery and hate-speech coexisted with increasing working-class confidence * Observer * Kynaston is a historian who likes to get out of the way. You seldom read a decisive judgment or a grand-sweeping generalisation. Rather, he rummages in the attic and pulls a whole clattering cavalcade of interesting junk down on himself ... Among his many virtues are his thoroughness and attention to detail * Sam Leith, Spectator * Superb ... Modernity Britain is an outstanding book, a delightful and often funny mix of the profound and the mundane that presents an enormously instructive glimpse into a time when supermarkets, Carry On films and Galaxy bars were cutting edge ... Kynaston possesses unique sensitivity to their meaning * Sunday Telegraph * Wholly absorbing work * Independent on Sunday * Kynaston is brilliant and funny * Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph * His look behind the curtain and his detailing of the rich quotidian details of the recent past says everything about how we live now ... The striking thing about Modernity Britain is the parallels that Kynaston allows us to quickly draw * Big Issue in Scotland * Portrait of Britain on the verge of change in the late 1950s * Sunday Times * Wonderful history * Daily Telegraph * David Kynaston's monumental history ... Kynaston shows, with his customary finesse and kaleidoscopic range of sources * Independent on Sunday * Unrivalled eye for detail in this arresting portrait of Britain * Sunday Times Summer Reads * This is the latest volume in the historian's acclaimed series about Britain since 1945, Tales of a New Jerusalem. Focusing on the years of Harold Macmillan's first government, it echoes with the diverse voices of 1950s Britain, from Surbiton house-wives ( Why should I spend all morning making scones? ) to Enoch Powell's nationalist rhetoric. It is a shrewd, funny and ever-readable book * Guardian Summer Reads * Kynaston lingers on the cusp of two decades, delivering insights into the nation's mood as it eyed cultural, political, and commercial change * Mail on Sunday Summer Reads * Epic series of post-war life ... Crams in such a mass of detail you feel you're living in never had it so good Britain * Paul Routledge, Tablet * The latest volume in what is becoming the essential history of postwar Britain * New Statesman * David Kynaston is as much a poet as a historian of postwar Britain, and he has an accurate eye for the detail on which poetry depends ... No other writer evokes Britain's past so well * Guardian * He conveys 1950s life more vividly than any historian before him ... Masterful * Economist * David Kynaston's Modernity Britain so I can read about Terylene and Fray Bentos tinned steak and kidney pie under an alien sun * Lucy Lethbridge, Observer, Summer Reads * Praised by journalists to the skies ... A grand design ... David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words ... Kynaston has researched widely into such sources and digests them into a readable totality. If this is, in part, a scissors-and-past project, it's also one that stands on its own feet ... This is not a novel. It is not a memoir, though it eats the memoirs of others, plankton fashion. It is a species of history - annals, perhaps. Kynaston's far from copious political judgements are sensible and considerate ... The book identifies a British modernity of snobbery and privilege, but acknowledges exceptions and cross-currents * London Review of Books * Kynaston's montage technique, which creates a palimpsest of private and public sources, is once again deployed to great effect in this, the fifth in a remarkable sequence of volumes that will eventually cover the period from 1945 to 1979 * Standpoint * This book is preceded by two two-volume books that have been praised by journalists to the skies ... David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words, and he also tells it in the often loud and uninhibited words of others ... Kynaston has researched widely into such sources and digests them into a readable totality ... An affinity with the fiction of Antony Powell has been caught, but this is not a novel. It is not a memoir, though it eats the memoirs of others, plankton-fashion. It is a species of history - annals, perhaps. Kynaston's far from copious political judgements are sensible and considerate * Karl Miller, London Review of Books * David Kynaston is a rare example of authorial effacement ... The sources - mainly letters and diaries - are left to speak for themselves. His work is suggestive rather than argumentative and one assumes that applying the word modernity to the country that Lawrence Durrell called pudding island is, at least in part, ironic ... Rather than writing from the Olympian vantage-point of the historian, Kynaston presents a succession of striking vignettes ... Kynaston is interested in the broad sweep of history * Independent * The latest instalment of his mammoth post-Second World War social history ... Skilfully blends highbrow with humdrum ... Kynaston has ranged widely in search of the spirit of the age, digging out local newspapers, youth-club records and Mass Observation survey results. All human life is here ... For those who recall Teddy Boys and the Angry Young Men, Sputnik, hula hoops and Nimble loaves spread with Blue Band margarine, Modernity Britain will be a swing-dance down memory lane. Readers born later in the century will, nevertheless, find themselves entranced by the narrative, which is as richly textured as a tufted carpet and hums with energy like a Hoovermatic twin-tub * Country Life * Kynaston's latest volume looks at how the luxuries of modernity - and its political bedfellows - swept the country in the late 1950s * Independent, Beach Reads * There are in fact two David Kynastons. One is the relatively conventional historian who has given us solid and illuminating accounts of the City of London, the Bank of England, the Financial Times and much else. The other is the venturesome innovator engaged in cutting up the rich history of post-war Britain into quite thin slices, and retailing news stories and contemporary comments, often on a day-by-day basis, to give the vivid flashback into how things were, and were felt, at the time ... Applying his usual striking technique, Kynaston places such life-changing trends in the context of innumerable and contrasting contemporary incidents and comments, remind us of what people had on their minds ... What of Kynaston's grand project as a whole? The first part of Modernity Britain and its successor will see the story through to 1962 - the halfway mark in Kynaston's planned 32-year-long saga - so we may expect a final total of 12 volumes. Some have compared it to The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, and it certainly has affinities with Anthony Powell's series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time. In any case, we can look forward to more of a stimulating and refreshing achievement * Times Higher Education Supplement * David Kynaston's technique as a historian is subtly immersive. His magisterial Austerity Britain and Family Britain covered the years from 1945 to 1957. This one proceeds only to 1959, and the election that brought the young Margaret Thatcher to Parliament ... Kynaston's unobtrusive pen defers to the evidence he so painstakingly gathers, from newspapers and books, dairies and letters. The result is much more than a patchwork of period detail, but the detail is irresistible * Intelligent Life * Kynaston is engaged on a massive project with the overarching title Tales of a New Jerusalem, which aims to tell the story of Britain from the end of the Second World War to the election of Margaret Thatcher in an unspecified number of volumes * Big Issue in Scotland * Kynaston is engaged on a massive project ... Tales of a New Jerusalem, which aims to tell the story of Britain from the end of the Second World War * Big Issue Cymru * Most historians care to believe they are disinterested truth-tellers, pretending that they don't have a particular axe to grind. They like to shape history into a certain pattern, whether they are viewing it from the Left or the Right. Some favour heroes and villains, others a sense of inevitability in worldly matters. A few allow the reader the space and freedom in which to relish, where it is due, the mysterious ordinariness of the past. David Kynaston is of that rare number. His enthusiasm for the enduring importance of trivia is among his many virtues as a chronicler of British life in the postwar years. This riveting book is the fifth in the sequence Tales of a New Jerusalem. Like its predecessors, it assembles the great alongside the not-so-great, the talented next to the clueless. Churchill is still around, but it's Harold Macmillan who now hogs the political limelight ... One of the treasures the diligent David Kynaston has unearthed is the fact that Cliff Richard was once considered dangerous ... Kynaston's histories are wide in scope and at times lyrical in conception. I can't wait for the next instalment * Paul Bailey, Oldie * When it is completed, Kynaston's multi-volume history of modern Britain will offer an unrivalled panoramic view of our country's social, cultural and political evolution between 1945 and 1979. This latest instalment focuses on the key years at the end of the 1950s when people were finally learning to turn their backs on austerity. His exhaustive trawl of sources, and his matchless gift for blending the trivial with the profound, ensure no corner of the national character is left unexplored * Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday Books of the Year * Modernity Britain ... is the latest episode of David Kynaston's profoundly humane history of 20th-Century Britain. His past is not another country inhabited by politicians and the famous. It is peopled by those whose lives are shaped, like ours, as much by food, music and weather as by wars and legislation * New Statesman Books of the Year * We often think of 1950s Britain as a land trapped in tea-shop conservatism. But as Kynaston shows in the latest volume of his splendid journey through post-war British history, the final years of the decade could hardly have been more exciting ... As always, Kynaston has produced a dazzling tapestry of sources. What really stands out, though, is his discussion of Britain's schools: in particular, the ordeal of the 11-plus, which meant the difference between lifetime success and failure for millions of British children * Sunday Times Books of the Year *