From Prince Charles’ boarding school to the rise of Benny Hill: The Britain we know today takes shape in these pages....



Covering just five years in more than 900 pages, British historian Kynaston (Family Britain, 1951-1957, 2009, etc.) continues his sprawling study of Britain from the end of World War II to the rise of Margaret Thatcher.

The present volume opens in 1957, when the grimness of postwar belt-tightening had finally given way to something of a boom. The author wisely and subtly brackets that year and the closing year of his volume with music, Tommy Steele (“Britain’s first rock ’n’ roll star”) on one side and the Beatles on the other. Attractive though this book is for anyone interested in the social history of modern Britain, Kynaston is more concerned with the concrete details of daily life—literally. In much of the narrative, the author documents Britain’s efforts both to modernize and to provide adequate housing for a growing population. “[D]uring the 1950s,” he writes, “well over two million new dwellings had been added to the national housing stock and almost 300,000 old houses demolished.” But that wasn’t nearly enough, and tied into the housing shortage were issues of race and class, with one major race riot in Notting Hill linked to the arrival in an all-white public-housing neighborhood of a Pakistani family. Strife is a constant in Kynaston’s pages, but so is aspiration, with an exploding population of university students and of the social services to accommodate them, a modest but growing movement to press for gay and minority civil rights, and a general loosening of the primness of yesteryear, as exemplified by the lifting of the ban on D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover—which didn’t happen until 1960. Kynaston peppers his narrative with examples of British unstiff upper lips, complaining about everything from, yes, the ethnicity of one’s neighbors to the grating voices of the Windsors.

From Prince Charles’ boarding school to the rise of Benny Hill: The Britain we know today takes shape in these pages. Monumental and highly readable.

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0747588931

Page Count: 912

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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