If anything went right in Britain during the past 150 years, it's unlikely to be mentioned in this extended (359 pages)...


THE PRIDE AND THE FALL: The Dream and Illusion of Britain as a Great Nation

If anything went right in Britain during the past 150 years, it's unlikely to be mentioned in this extended (359 pages) jeremiad against what Barnett calls ""the New Jerusalemism,"" a.k.a. ""the welfare state."" Britain's decline from a member of ""the Big Three"" during WW II to 14th place in the roster of international heavyweights sets the author frothing. Most of the cause for this dramatic tumble can be traced back to the Romantic Movement of the 19th century, according to Barnett. All that ""trailing clouds of glory"" sensitivity and human perfectability nonsense sapped the traditional British drive and prompted unattainable expectations among Britain's working classes. Such postwar ""fripperies"" as National Health and Council Housing undermined the nation's material base and prevented economic recovery after the Axis defeat. If Wordsworth had only known. . . For American readers unfamiliar with the political and economic figures of the British postwar era, much of the book will prove heavy going. Labour Party initiatives and Conservative reactions are gone into in detail. Industrial developments in coal, shipbuilding, steel (and the lack of development) are examined and re-examined. While there is undoubtedly much to be said for the author's Social Darwinistic approach, he eventually will alienate all but the most committed readers by the virulence of his attacks (and the scrambling of his overwrought metaphors). Perhaps the areas of most interest to American readers will be the sections dealing with US-British cooperation during WW II and the ""behind-the-scenes"" maneuverings aimed at presenting a rosier picture of Anglo-American accomplishments than was actually the case. An important and potentially dramatic subject, but marred by the author's one-note treatment and hyperbolic rhetoric.

Pub Date: March 1, 1987


Page Count: -

Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1987

Close Quickview