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Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59…
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Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 (2013)

by David Kynaston

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David Kynaston's richly textured story of Modernity Britain is a great read. Although some of the name dropping needed more explanation for those who didn't live through the era, and perhaps urban redevelopment might have been a tad overdone, this book stands as a model. It is a model of popular history, deftly combining social and narrative history.
The lense is always in closeup, but Kynaston avoids myopia by swiftly moving from subject to subject. The result contrasts between tantalising blur and detailed exposition. We never disappear into the authoritative third person narrator, staying closely attuned to the voices of the time.
Even the politics is told through the thoughts of those at the time giving a genuine flavour of the challenges of the time untainted by hindsight. As a New Zealander the climatic election campaign where relative prosperity, an accomplished Prime Minister and general political apathy sounded eerily familiar.
The sense of Modernity, of a fulcrum of change in these years is clear, mainly through expanding consumerism and arrogant urban redevelopment. The book sets up themes of progress, of ridding society of the ugly cluttered old and replacing it with the clear clean lines of the present. Kynaston's text (and the photo selection) perhaps could have evoked slightly more clearly the appeal of clean right angled white concrete over what was then old, dirty and tired gothic architecture.
Also a few other significant changes could have received more attention- the freedom excitement and appeal of the motor car over rattling old buses and belatedly modernising railways, changing fashions, popular music, and the continuity of old hobbies and habits.
This is only a question of balance - all these elements are present, as are a healthy dose of sport, literature, theatre, television and radio and solid material on the questioning of the post 1944 education system.
Kynaston's book is evocative and perhaps that is its greatest gift. Fun to read alongside and in contrast to Sandbrook and Hennersey's efforts. We have some wonderful balanced views of this period. Now into the sixties ... ( )
  bevok | Jul 31, 2017 |
Kynaston is too gleeful in his approach, and too compassionate in outlook, to be a prig. Yet his books are those of an old-fashioned moralist. He thinks, as Victorian idealists such as George Eliot did, that the purpose of good books is to teach one how to live better. He believes in good and bad, and in the importance of discriminating between them. He respects individuals, and cherishes individuality, but hates the political cult of individualism that licenses egotism, greed and disrespect for the weak. Community life, neighbourliness, modest striving, a sense of life as a mishmash of experiences rather than an ornate tapestry, are upheld by him. He nudges his readers into doing their best.
 
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Opening the Box is the first half of Modernity Britain, 1957-1959 - the volume covering the whole period from 1957-1962 is now published (September 2015).
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802779794, Hardcover)

The late 1950s and early 1960s were a period in their own right-neither the stultifying early to mid fifties nor the liberating mid to late sixties- and an action-packed, dramatic time in which the contours of modern Britain started to take shape.These were the "never had it so good years" in which mass affluence began to change, fundamentally, the tastes and even the character of the working class; when films like Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and TV soaps like Coronation Street and Z Cars at last brought that class to the center of the national frame; when Britain gave up its Empire; when economic decline relative to France and Germany became the staple of political discourse; when CND galvanized the protesting instincts of the progressive middle class; when "youth" emerged as a fully fledged cultural force; when the Notting Hill riots made race and immigration an inescapable reality; when a new breed of meritocrats came through; and when the Lady Chatterley trial, followed by the Profumo scandal, at last signaled the end of Victorian morality.David Kynaston argues that a deep and irresistible modernity zeitgeist was at work, in these and many other ways, and he reveals as never before how that spirit of the age unfolded, with consequences that still affect us today.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:13 -0400)

Dortmunder has a job offer. He's been hired by third parties to pull off heists in the past, but never to lay his hands on anything this peculiar. Frankly, it's a bone. Not just any bone. A femur. Well, not just any femur, either. A femur which, 800 years ago, was part of a 16-year-old girl who, having been killed and eaten by her own family, was made a saint by the Church. The femur, her only relic, is all that's left. Now two small eastern European countries - Tsergovia and Votskojek - are fighting like dogs over...well, the bone. There's only room for one of them in the United Nations General Assembly, and the choice is in the hands of a powerful Catholic prelate. The country that tosses him the bone is sure to be in like Flynn.… (more)

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