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Book Review: Austerity Britain 1945-51, by David Kynaston
The author's plan is for a series of books documenting life in Britain between 1945 and 1979. The first volume essentially begins at VE Day and, though it doesn't have a precise endpoint, it is somewhere beyond the General Election of 1950. The scope of the book is wide, covering political, economic and social issues. The theme of architecture and town planning is a recurrent one, and the division in opinion between "professionals" (generally looking down on suburban "metro-land") and everyday people (rather fond of it, though frankly just desparate in many cases to get any accommodation in the housing shortage of the period) is portrayed as quite striking. Some of the industrial practices described would be quite unacceptable today; yet in other areas, there is an ironic feeling of things not having changed all that much. Mass Observation always sounds a rather sinister organisation to me, but with the distance of time it can't be denied that it is now a useful source for material. Overall, the book is evocative but strikes the right balance between nostalgia and realism.
Tags: books, history
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