When A. J. P. Taylor undertook the final volume of the old Oxford History of England, it was ‘England’, not ‘History’, which he found the problematic part of his brief.(1) The volume under review is the latest contribution to the New Oxford History of England, and how things have changed since Taylor’s day.
Given the amount of excellent accounts of post-war Britain that have appeared in the past decade or so, one is tempted to state that readers of contemporary British history have never had it so good.
If we survey the historical profession at the moment, there are plenty of academic squabbles going on, but the great debates that once divided historians seem to be in short supply. Time was when contests over the standard of living during the industrial revolution or about post-modernism and its application to the study of history would drive scholars into a frenzy of position taking.
A sure sign of the ageing process is when events that are part of your own memory start appearing in works of history. And so it is now the case with the 1980s; for one’s students, ‘Thatcher’ is a person of whom they have no firsthand knowledge, just a figure whom many of their lecturers and supervisors are prone to paint as the devil incarnate.
Modernity Britain marks the third part of Kynaston’s Tales of a New Jerusalem series. The first volume – Austerity Britain 1945–51 – covered the immediate post-war years of the Attlee government, while its successor, Family Britain 1951–57, took the story up to the end of the Eden administration.
It is a rare thing for a reviewer to read a book which on its own terms, in its content and argument, leaves nothing open to serious criticism. Professor Diarmaid Ferriter’s Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s is one such book.
Michael Fry is that unusual individual these days, an independent scholar and a regular (often controversial and amusing) newspaper columnist, who has also devoted himself to becoming a highly productive and successful historian of his adopted country.
The current trend in history publishing for a ‘one stop shop edition’ of essays on a particular subject, variously entitled ‘Handbooks’ or ‘Companions’, is a welcome addition for teachers and students of history alike.
For almost 30 years David Edgerton has produced a series of well-researched and ground-breaking revisionist accounts of this country's recent past, which have exposed the inadequacies and weaknesses of 'declinism' as an explanation of Britain's changing domestic and international experience since 1900.
In 1979 Pete Wrong of the art collective and Punk band Crass was being interviewed by New Society about his graffiti operation on the London Underground: ‘We don’t just rip the posters down or spray them. We use stencils, neatly, to qualify them.