The history of Britain during the two inter-war decades could be characterised by reference to a process by which, while the nation still clung to many of its pre-1914 imperial certainties (which in many ways still defined British identity), society was exposed to, and ‘Britishness’ to a degree undermined by, the forces of Americanisation.
This impressive book brings together two strands of media history to create a new narrative, attempting to explain how and why newspaper journalism in Britain and the United States was transformed between the 1830s and the first decades of the 20th century, establishing the popular style of journalism we know today.
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.
This is a decent book, in my judgment. That’s to say, it’s morally on the side of the angels, but it is not always on the side of the readers. Going through it was sometimes a bumpy ride and an appreciation of the merits of the book was too often baulked by one or other of a range of difficulties.
Useful Cinema begins on the perfect point, with the observation that films today ‘appear everywhere’, from ‘iPhone to Imax, from blog inserts to Jumbotrons’, so ‘becoming integral to our experience of institutional and everyday life’.
In the past 40 years the history of sexuality has gone from being an insurgent force, questioning the very nature of what can be studied as history, to an established part of the field. This book underlines that point, for it is rare today to find such a traditional political history.
Rachel Duffett has written a fine social history of British rank and file soldiers, or rankers, and their experiences of food during the Great War. She states, ‘The ranker’s relationship with food was a constant thread, woven throughout his army experience … every day, wherever he was, a man needed to eat’ (p. 229).
Magic is difficult to historicize. There are many reasons for this. To begin with, it has long been scorned by both rationalists and the religious, so that people are often reluctant to confess to believing in it. Indeed in the period of this study many of its forms were illegal, at least as soon as they were used to make money.
Bordered by Oxford Street to the North, Regent Street to the West, Charing Cross Road to the East and Leicester Square to the South, the area of Soho can be depicted as an exotic island within the oceanic sprawl of London.
In this imaginative, ambitious and well-researched book, Charles Ludington presents a provocative thesis analyzing how changes in alcohol consumption constituted power, influence and legitimacy in politics over two centuries.