review ↠ Seasons in the Sun

10 thoughts on “Seasons in the Sun

  1. says:

    I learned so much from this book I had known there was some kind of financial crisis in the 70s but I didn’t know the circumstances around it or any of the players This book is long but gives so much detail about the era I was so impressed that I ordered the rest of the series

  2. says:

    I could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up thy soul freeze thy young blood and make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres Actually I couldn’t but Dominic Sandbrook can; he has in Seasons in the Sun the Battle for Britain 1974 1979 the seuel to State of Emergency the Way We Were Britain 1970 1974I’m not uite sure how to describe this book hovering as it does between history and black comedy I found myself laughing out loud at points at the sheer awfulness of our national life in the not so distant past a past my parents lived through a history they experienced I simply had to ask them if it really was that bad Yes and no they replied politically economically and socially times were bad a time of IRA terror a time rampant inflation a time of irresponsible trade union barons a time of Marxist militants a time of drift and decay; but they were young they were both undergraduates at the same Cambridge college; they were in love; they had their season in the sun Perhaps the day will come when I look back at our present troubled times through a soft focused lens Sandbrook’s title taken from a whimsical song popular at the time is deliberately ironic The period between the surprise victory of Harold Wilson and the Labour Party in the election of March 1974 and the defeat of his successor James Callaghan in the election in May 1979 comes as close as any to marking the nadir of modern British history It was a period that ended not in a Summer of Satisfaction but in the so called Winter of Discontent when the country overwhelmed by a great wave of trade union militancy saw rubbish pilling up in the streets and the dead ueuing for burial I knew that Labour governments were dysfunctional but my goodness I had no idea of just how dysfunctional Harold Wilson who won two elections in the 1960s came back to power a sad ghost of his former self increasingly beset by paranoia and uite possibly showing the signs of early mental decay He was completely dominated by his long standing political secretary and confidante one Marcia Williams a truly ghastly individual At one point she even addressed Wilson in the hearing of others as “You little cunt” By the summer of 1974 her influence was so baleful that his inner circle even contemplated having her murdered Instead the next best thing served she was sent upstairs to the House of Lords as Lady Falkender This Lady was no lady Even the ueen obliuely ueried her elevation Sandbrook rightly suggests that the mid to late seventies were not just important as prelude to Thatcherism surely the most necessary antidote ever devised but as a “decisive moment in our recent history” It was a time of transition a time that saw the strange death of social democratic England a time that saw the death of the consensus that had dominated British politics since 1945 It was the time that saw the end of Old Labour killed off ironically by its trade union allies I would say that if one wanted to understand Tony Blair and the modern Labour Party one could do no better than pay close attention to this periodIt was a time when illusions went hand in hand with delusions In March 1974 when it was clear even to the economically illiterate that it was no longer possible to spend one’s way out of a crisis Denis Healey Wilson’s Chancellor of the Excheuer proceeded to spend his way out of a crisis More and people began to wonder if Britain was on the road to Weimar with hyperinflation an ever present threat Actually the country had the worst of both worlds inflation and economic stagnation allowing a new term – stagflation – to enter the vocabulary The historian A J P Taylor who prided himself on his left wing credentials wrote to his Hungarian mistress urging her to “Pray for the recovery of capitalism You can’t realise how near we are to catastrophe all our banks may close their doors in a few months’ timeYou are lucky to be living in a Communist country and safe from such things” Even Callaghan Foreign Secretary at the time said in a mood of black humour that if he had been a younger man he would emigrate Many did The author does an excellent job in identifying some of the key cultural icons There is surely none iconic than the inexpressibly vulgar Beverly Moss from Mike Leigh’s play Abigail’s Party She is a monster of social one upmanship She is also a harbinger of things to come Most of all she is a representative of a new aspirational Britain wholly material in concern and this includes the trade unionists who in their devil take the rearmost attitude killed all hope of a bright new socialist future There is surely no pathetic case than that of the political fantasist Tony Benn the Secretary of State for Industry propping up one dying industry after another full of socialist sentimentalism when all the working classes really wanted was new fridges and package holidays Workers of the world unite; you have trips to Torremolinos to gain The trade unions are often seen as Margaret Thatcher’s greatest enemies In fact they were her best allies “The cowardice and irresponsibility of some union leaders” Denis Healy later reflected “guaranteed her election; it left them with no grounds for complaining about her subseuent action against them” I’ve emphasised the politics of the period in this review by there is so much in Sandbrook’s door stopper of a book weighing in at a hefty eight hundred plus pages He covers so much ground including the cultural and sporting highs and lows The highs and lows depending on your point of view might be best represented by the Sex Pistols a dysfunctional punk band for dysfunctional punk times Yes it was true there were no heroes any There is also a very good chapter on schooling and the negative effects of fashionable 'child centred' educational theories absurd beyond absurd particularly in the example of William Tyndale Junior School in Islington This school might very well serve as a microcosm of England an undisciplined free for all Drawing on a huge range of sources Sandbrook weaves an effective tale though perhaps a little less effective than that told in State of Emergency To paraphrase Dickens this is the best of books and the worst of books It is strong in narrative and anecdote weak in depth and analysis The author’s industry is impressive though given the uick turnaround between this and his previous book perhaps a little too Stakhanovite I would suggest less labour and reflection No matter; Sandbrook’s limpid prose carries one along uite nicely through an epic comic tragedy He has the ability to make one laugh and cry by turns This is the way we were This is the way we never want to be again

  3. says:

    I found this a slight disappointment after the truly excellent State of Emergency but I suppose that was to be expected partly because so much recapping was needed but also because I actually clearly remember the events covered so there were fewer surprises The other slighly irritating aspect of the book was the rather small number of sources used to add colour to the account Some added something such as Peter Hall's gradual disillusionment with Socialism as his theatre was crippled by continuous wildcat strikes while others were either the same as in the previous volume or not obviously relevant to the themes of the bookAll in all though an excellent account of a turbulent period in British history which I recommend highly

  4. says:

    And so Dominic Sandbrook’s history of the sixties and seventies as well as a little bit of the fifties comes to an end Well I say that as it does seem to be his intention to end it now and the arrival of Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister is a logical end point However given these books have been building virtually since the first volume to the arrival of the Iron Lady it is – in a way – peculiar to end this series now If you want an imperfect analogy – it would be like ending ‘The Third Man’ the moment Harry Lime appears Mrs T has been growing clearer on the horizon the whole way through now she’s finally here it feels a peculiar move to close the sceneCompared to the earlier volumes this is a lot focussed on the politics of the day But for those of us who have a slightly geeky interest in political history it’s a fertile period – there’s the paranoia of Wilson the duplicity of Benn and James Callaghan trying to steady the ship Sandbrook really does make a great case for Callaghan being truly underrated as Prime Minister Further there’s The Winter of Discontent and trade unions behaving in a way that seems unimaginable in Britain today As such I found this all rip roaring and entertaining stuff although those who have been entertained in the previous volumes by the material about culture or society may feel slightly disappointed As a whole this series has been an excellent slice of populist history Sandbrook is an accessible and intelligent writer who really does bring the likes to Reginald Maulding Tony Crossland and Hugh Scanlon hitherto to me dull looking men in suits who appeared in black and white photos to life I also liked the way that Doctor Who is used as a cultural reference point throughout most of these volumes Of course you’d have to have an interest in modern British history to really persevere with these books but if you do then these are an incredibly entertaining read The Britain I was born in truly does look like a completely different world

  5. says:

    I've developed a serious addiction on Sandbrook's sprawling history of postwar Britain SEASONS IN THE SUN profits to this American non sports fan's mind by having little about soccer or cricket and lots about high ranking politicians plotting murders The Jeremy Thorpe scandal is amazing has that been turned into a movie? Could we get Hugh Laurie to star as Thorpe? Obviously the high point of the book is when Thorpe is on trial for murder while Wilson in retirement is giving wackadoo interviews about the CIAI want to uote the relevant passage in full just because it made my eyes pop out of my head I see myself as the big fat spider in the corner of the room Sometimes I speak when I'm asleep You should both listen Occasionally when we meet I might tell you to go to Charing Cross Road and kick a blind man standing on a corner That blind man may tell you something; lead you somewhere It's like something from the Nixon tapesOf course most of the book is not about posh people murdering their lovers or Harold Wilson's secret army of blind informers and 's the pity But Sandbrook's gift is that he can sell the drama of Jim Callaghan tackles inflation or Margaret Thatcher takes over the Conservative Party as well I think it's this love for the cut and thrust of politics the acerbic ripostes in Parliament and dramatic speeches at party conferences that makes the books so addictiveThere is a strong end of empire vibe that at times seems overstated particularly when it comes to crime See Steven Pinker's graph on murder rates for an example Even leaving aside the dramatic difference between my frame of reference and the UK frame reference the increase in murder rates is pretty mild This makes the 90% support for the death penalty in 1975 interesting particularly since American support never climbed that high And while Sandbrook's use of absolute numbers wrt unemployment obscures this it appears that the unemployment rate never climbed above 4% until the Tories took over which makes the collective concern over unemployment a little hard to understand In fact I was surprised to find some of the Thatcherite proposals not only reasonable but obvious Of course an economy with high inflation and low unemployment should cut spending and restrict the money supply the failure to see this is analogous in my mind as the failure to see the folly of austerity when unemployment is high and inflation is at historic lows The proposal to include no strike clauses in essential services also strikes me as perfectly reasonable And if productivity was as dire as Sandbrook says then surely some kind of structural reforms were necessaryOf course it is entirely possible that I fell for the biased argument of a Tory historian and I would be interested to learn where to find a convincing opposing viewpointHaving said that the Thatcher uote that struck me the most is when she described as shattering the lack of income ineuality in Great Britain Needless to say this did not strike me as being particularly shattering I think it struck me as an ironic indication that the neoliberalism that took hold after the end of the postwar consensus contained with it the seeds of its own destruction as well More than the other volumes SEASONS IN THE SUN has the sense of one world ending and another one coming into being; and precisely because I'm used to this story being told with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan I appreciated the reminder that it's bigger than any one person or country

  6. says:

    A mix of high politics laced with popular culture and sociologyThe 1960s was the decade in which the British public fell in love with the consumer society It was also the decade of the liberation of the individual Unfortunately people paid for these freedoms in the 1970s Drawing on a huge range of sources Sandbrook weaves an effective tale He contrasts the stories of three prime ministers’ All make doomed attempts to run the economy in partnership with the trade unions And all sustained the UK economy by borrowing not caring about the collapse of the manufacturing sector They all gave into the demands of organised labour In particular Sandbrook identifies Wilson as the villain And Tony Benn plays the pantomime clown At the end of the decade it all led to the collapse of left wing virtues such as collectivity and solidarity The groundwork was thus laid for Thatcher Who promised a narrow consumerist ambition for a better lifeSandbrook enhances his political narrative with the books films and television of the period All offer evidence of a deep malaise A suspicion that we spent too much moral capital That insurrection might lurk around the corner Ultimately though Seasons in the Sun is strong in narrative and anecdote weak in depth and analysis But saying this Sandbrook’s prose carries the narrative along The conclusion he is right to argue that the 1970s was the most“decisive moment in our recent history”

  7. says:

    While this is no doubt the authoritative book on the period is he being paid by the word ? Several anecdotes are repeated over and over it all seems to be about Wilson being uninterested and moribund as a leader Benn is little than a cartoon figure The Thorpe chapter though is a hoot I'd have liked social history and less politics That said there's not really a better writer for the era

  8. says:

    Update on finishing it I bumped my rating up a star because it did have some better points For example as I mentioned in the comments the section on Grunwick was well done But I still don't like his attitude and most especially the tiresome way that he draws heavily on Tony Benn's diaries yet can't resist making a snide comment every single time he mentions himI haven't finished this yet about halfway through but I'm reviewing it anyway Sandbrook's trilogy of doorstops on Britain in the 50s 60s and 70s has had rave reviews so I chose this for reading on 10 hours of train journey to and from Madrid I have to say that so far I'm uite disappointed First because it's turned out to be political than social history Secondly and importantly because it takes a Whiggish approach of starting from the premise that Thatcherism was the answer to all Britain's woes Now what was the uestion? Let's select our evidence to fit our thesis In the preface he even claims that there is no getting away from the fact that this is generally regarded as the lowest point in British history Seriously? Worse than the 1930s? Worse than 1914 18 or 1940? And that's just the 20th century It may be regarded as such by his well off Thatcherite friends but it is far from a universally acknowledged factAs I read I kept thinking Well anyway you weren't there he was born in 1974 Now I accept that of course you can write history without having been there And if you lived through the events in uestion it's tempting to rely on your own anecdotal experience which may not be typical Particularly if you were young at the time I was a student in London during the time period covered by this book But he seems to rely far too much on secondary sources Some of the evidence is positively feeble If you are writing serious history and resorting to Basil Fawlty Dr Who and Rigsby from Rising Damp to back up your assertions about the mood of British people in 1976 something is wrong somewhere Elsewhere letter writers to the Express and the Daily Mail and the famously snobbish and right wing diarist James Lees Milne are held up as proof that the country was going to the dogs These people aren't typical either Despite extensive discussion of economics the oil price crisis of 1973 barely gets a mention if you believe Sandbrook all of Britain's economic problems in the1970s were caused by trade unions abetted by Labour governmentsLots of people had fun in the 1970s despite the problems If you were a member of one of the powerful unions you were in clover with inflation busting pay rises and closed shops to protect your job Even if you weren't it was much easier than it is now to find a job if you wanted one every long vacation I and my friends could easily find jobs to top up our generous by today's standards student grants The women's movement was flowering and we had great music to dance to Of course better off people with investment incomes or savings were pissed off because inflation and heavy taxation were eating away at their resources and the pay deals gained by the unions were not sustainable in the long term and had to be stopped somehow But public services worked pretty well and there were far fewer beggars and homeless people on London streets than there are nowHe also takes at face value the opinions of leader writers in right wing papers notably on the subject of Tony Benn that devil of the tabloids he is careful to refer to him freuently as Wedgwood Benn to emphasise his patrician background while Harold Wilson is painted as a maudlin alcoholic and Marcia Williams as a loony well this last may be accurate This is far from an impartial history I also can't help wondering how much real research he can have done churning out three 600 page doorstops in a few years while making television programmes at the same time Much of this book is probably recycled from other books on the periodIt's not all bad But with all that to say I can see I might not finish it One person was so annoyed by it that he set up a blog to go through the book page by page pointing out the bias and factual errors Unfortunately he must have got fed up too because he seems to have stopped in November Still it makes entertaining reading

  9. says:

    This is a fascinating book for anyone that lived through the 1970's in Britain or anyone that wishes to see how badly the people of Britain have been served by their political masters Sandbrook does an excellent job of deconstructing both the Labour Government of the day and the role of the trade unions in both a humorous and sardonic fashion However the implication that political incompetence and left wing socialism led to a perfect storm that could only be resolved through Thatcherism is rather simple minded Sandbrook tends to consider the 1970's in isolation cherry picking a particular decade This is history as sound bite interesting but lacking depth and context A compelling read but not great history

  10. says:

    Think of Britain in the mid to late 1970s and a number of grubby images are conjured up militant trade union intransigence republican and loyalist paramilitary terrorism currency crises angry punk rock revolting brown colour schemes It is an era of disappointment and disillusionment” of stagnation and “muddling through” that Dominic Sandbrook excavates in “Seasons in the Sun” It begins in 1974 with Labour creeping back into power under the clapped out exhausted leadership of Harold Wilson and concludes in 1979 with Margaret Thatcher’s consensus shattering election victory“Seasons in the Sun” is at its best when Sandbrook examines the forces of the new conservatism that began to simmer in the mid 70s before they propelled Thatcher’s Tories to power at the close of the decade Sandbrook is excellent on how the various strands of ‘The New Right’ coalesced in the 1970s whether they be the free market libertarians like Milton Friedman and Keith Joseph the often paranoid anxieties of the middle classes or reactionary colonialists like Sir Walter Walker the ludicrous would be fascist strongman who was purportedly going to rescue Britain from anarchyBut this also represents a major flaw running through “Seasons in the Sun”; for a book supposedly concerned with the fierce ideological divide convulsing Britain in the 1970s Sandbrook is only really focused on mapping the motivations behind the Conservative middle class side of that divide The great villains of “Seasons in the Sun” – the trade unions – exist only as bogeymen and the reasons behind their militancy go largely unexplored by Sandbrook Similarly while Sandbrook gives space to every middle class anxiety and neurosis we hear little about the plight of the working classes in the rapidly deindustrialising North Sandbrook is also leaden footed when discussing British popular culture in the 1970s He ruins an otherwise decent chapter on punk with the nonsensical claim that punk eroded the skills base of British musicians and by then introducing a strawman argument that punk’s impact is over rated because it was not as commercially successful as the pop music of the day a claim I cannot remember punk’s staunchest defenders ever making over the last 40 yearsSandbrook’s analysis of the Northern Ireland conflict is also problematic After a reasonably measured account of the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Council Strike he abruptly dismisses the possibility of any British Army involvement in the Dublin Monaghan bombings in one sentence and then claims the Sunningdale power sharing agreement amounted to a plot to sell out Ulster Protestants Even gallingly Sandbrook expresses admiration for the new interrogation techniues introduced by the hard line Secretary of State Roy Mason 'techniues' which the European Court of Human Rights later ruled were tantamount to torture After 1974 the Troubles are then little than a footnote in “Seasons in the Sun” – and this during a period 1975 9 when over 200 people a year were losing their lives in the conflict“Seasons in the Sun” is badly hampered by an over reliance on a narrow range of secondary sources The shrill jaundiced editorial columns of the Daily Mail and Daily Express are reuoted continually and there is an overwhelming dependence on the diaries of the former Labour policy advisor Bernard Donoghue such is Sandbrook’s reliance on Donoghue’s diary as a source that you'd be tempted to cut out the middleman and just read them instead of “Seasons in the Sun”Sandbrook is an unabashed cheerleader for the Thatcherite project but while he puts the boot into the familiar Tory tropes of uncompromising ‘union barons’ ‘trendy teachers’ and the permissive society he is reasonably fair in his treatment of the Labour government of the late 1970s He is very sympathetic to that cautious and pragmatic fixer Jim Callaghan a surprisingly effective Prime Minister and certainly a much straighter one than his predecessor” He sees Callaghan as reviving both the Labour party and the economy after the listless drift of the Harold Wilson years and he believes that even if Callaghan was never likely to win the 1979 General Election he could have run Thatcher close were it not for the catastrophic effects of the Winter of Discontent It was this latter meltdown in British industrial relations that not only shredded the remaining credibility of the Labour government but also banished Labour from power for almost two decades Sandbrook is uite astute however when he argues that union militancy during the Winter of Discontent was driven much less by working class solidarity or utopian socialism than it was by a ruthless determination to maintain basic living standards in the face of hyper inflationAlthough the excesses of the Left were manifest in the 1970s – and Britain often was in a state of economic and political calamity during that era – Sandbrook is far too eager to overlook the positive developments of that age The fact that economic ineuality in the UK reached an all time low during the 1970s or that huge progress was made in the areas of gay rights women’s rights and sexual liberation seems to be of no conseuence to Sandbrook All of this probably makes it sound as if “Seasons in the Sun” is an infuriating read And it all too freuently is but it is partly redeemed by Dominic Sandbrook’s entertaining and lucid prose style Yet as a work of historical analysis “Seasons in the Sun” is flawed and readers looking for a rounded view of a fascinating era in British politics would be best advised to seek out Andy Beckett’s “When the Lights went out”

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free read Á eBook or Kindle ePUB ñ Dominic Sandbrook

N if you didn't don't miss this book' Mail on Sunday 'Sandbrook has created a specific style of narrative history blending high politics social change and popular culture always readable and assured A splendid book' Stephen Robinson Sunday Times 'Sandbrook has a remarkable ability to turn a sow's ear into a sulk purse His subject is depressing but the book itself is a joy Sandbrook is without doubt superb Seasons in the Sun is a familiar story yet seldom has it been told with such verve' Gerard DeGroot Seven 'A brilliant historian I had never fully appreciated what a truly horrible period it was until reading Sandbrook' A N Wilson Spectator 'Nuanced Sandbrook has rummaged deep into the cultural life of the e And so Dominic S Practical Prinkery readable and assured A splendid book' Stephen Robinson Sunday Times 'Sandbrook has a Outside the Paint remarkable ability to turn a sow's ear into a sulk purse His subject is depressing but the book itself is a joy Sandbrook is without doubt superb Seasons in the Sun is a familiar story yet seldom has it been told with such verve' Gerard DeGroot Seven 'A brilliant historian I had never fully appreciated what a truly horrible period it was until The Problem of the Puer Aeternus (Studies in Jungian Psychology by Jungian Analysts, 87) reading Sandbrook' A N Wilson Spectator 'Nuanced Sandbrook has Hoopers Pasture from Maine to Vermont rummaged deep into the cultural life of the e And so Dominic S

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Seasons in the Sun

Dominic Sandbrook's magnificent account of the late 1970s in Britain the book behind the major BB2 series The Seventies The late 1970s were Britain's years of strife and the good life They saw inflation riots the peak of trade union power and also the birth of home computers the rise of the ready meal and the triumph of a Grantham grocer's daughter who would change everything Dominic Sandbrook recreates this extraordinary period in all its chaos and contradiction revealing it as a turning point in our recent history where in everything from families and schools to punk and Doctor Who the future of the nation was being decided Reviews 'Magnificent if you lived through the late Seventies or for that matter eve I found this a s The Art of Not Breathing riots the peak of trade union power and also the birth of home computers the As Bees in Honey Drown rise of the Historic Hahns Peak ready meal and the triumph of a Grantham grocer's daughter who would change everything Dominic Sandbrook Cupcakes, Lies, and Dead Guys (Annie Graceland Mystery recreates this extraordinary period in all its chaos and contradiction Zombie CSU revealing it as a turning point in our Conquerors recent history where in everything from families and schools to punk and Doctor Who the future of the nation was being decided Reviews 'Magnificent if you lived through the late Seventies or for that matter eve I found this a s

free read Á eBook or Kindle ePUB ñ Dominic Sandbrook

Ra to remind us how rich it was from Bowie to Dennis Potter Martin Amis to William Golding' Damian Whitworth The Times 'Sharply and fluently written entertaining By making you uite nostalgic for the present Sandbrook has done a public service' Evening Standard About the author Born in Shropshire ten days before the October 1974 election Dominic Sandbrook was educated at Oxford St Andrews and Cambridge He is the author of three hugely acclaimed books on post war Britain Never Had It So Good White Heat and State of Emergency and two books on modern American history Eugene McCarthy and Mad as Hell A prolific reviewer and columnist he writes regularly for the Sunday Times Daily Mail New Statesman and BBC History While this is no