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By Andrew Marr

This attractive quantity tells the tale of the way the nice political visions and idealisms of Victorian Britain got here to be defeated by way of a tradition of consumerism, big name, and self-gratification. It explains how in each one decade, political leaders chanced on themselves confounded by means of the British humans, who constantly grew to become out to be tougher to herd than envisioned. traditionally Britain has been a rustic at the edge—first of invasion, then of financial disaster, then at the susceptible entrance line of the chilly struggle, and later within the leading edge of the nice beginning up of capital and migration. This historical past follows all of the political and fiscal tales of the trendy period in addition to with such social developments as comedy, autos, the battle opposed to homosexuals, oil-men and punks, Margaret Thatcher’s great sturdy good fortune, political lies, and the real heroes of British theater.

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The Empire embraced Pacific tribesmen and Eskimos, ancient African kingdoms and the rubble of the great Mughal empire, Australian farmers and the gold-miners of South Africa. It ran from the Scottish Highlands to the Antarctic, from the French-speaking villages of Quebec to the mosques of the Middle East. For a comparatively small nation of fewer than 50 million people to have acquired all this might seem a global absurdity, a large joke in the history of humankind. Relatively few of those square miles helped the British economy thrive yet the empire was considered the essence of British power, a global financial and trading system independent of the rising might of the United States.

The banks were paying astronomical bonuses to their managers. And for the majority, in the shops, clothes and gizmos were ludicrously cheap. A Western economy based on high debt, both private and public, ensured cash was there to keep the spree going. But the intricate and always-shifting tangle of loans, bets, guesses and 80-proof, chill-filtered optimism that is modern global finance, was about to suffer a reality check. And if ‘reality check’ is an ugly American phrase, then it is perhaps not as ugly as another which entered the Queen’s English in 2007.

Designers and architects have brought over here plans originally drawn in Europe between the wars to create a brighter, airier and more colourful country. In science and technology Britain seems to have achieved great things which augur well for peacetime. There is a general and justified pride in victory, not yet much tainted by fear of nuclear confrontation to come. If people are still hungry and ill housed, they are safe again. If they are grieving, they also have much to look forward to, for the baby boom is at full pitch.

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