Modernity Britain: 1957-1962

This appealed to me because it deals with the 5 years immediately preceding my birth. What was going on as I lay ‘mewling and puking’, uncomprehending of the world around? David Kynaston ( offers this whopping 880 page social history to set the scene. The late 1950s and early 1960s were a period in their own right: neither the stultifying ‘high’ Fifties nor the liberating ‘high’ Sixties, but instead an action-packed, sometimes 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 fundamentally to change the tastes, 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 centre 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 galvanised 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 signalled the end of Victorian morality. David Kynaston’s argument is that a deep and irresistable modernity ‘zeitgeist’ was at work, in these and many other ways, and he reveals as never before how that spirit of the age unfolded in practice, with consequences that still affect us today. Diarists range from prime minister Harold Macmillan to an East Riding smallholder Dennis Dee; he also draws on the BBC’s unique written archives, tranches of powerful sociological fieldwork as yet undiscovered by historians. Maybe we’re all children of that zeitgeist. See if you get any identification yourself.


880 pages in Bloomsbury Publishing

First published 02 December 2014

ISBN 978-1620408094


David Kynaston


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