The groundbreaking series that will tell the story of Britain from VE Day in 1945 to the coming of Margaret Thatcher in 1979 as never before.
Coursing through Austerity Britain is an astonishing variety of voices – vivid, unselfconscious, and unaware of what the future holds. A Chingford housewife endures the tribulations of rationing; a retired schoolteacher observes during a royal visit how well-fed the Queen looks; a pernickety civil servant in Bristol is oblivious to anyone’s troubles but his own. An array of working-class witnesses describe how life in post-war Britain is, with little regard for liberal niceties or the feelings of their ‘betters’.
Many of these voices will stay with the reader in future volumes, jostling alongside well-known figures like John Arlott (here making his first radio broadcast, still in police uniform), Glenda Jackson (taking the 11+) and Doris Lessing, newly arrived from Africa, struck by the levelling poverty of postwar Britain. David Kynaston weaves a sophisticated narrative of how the victorious 1945 Labour government shaped the political, economic and social landscape for the next three decades. Deeply researched, often amusing and always intensely entertaining and readable, the first volume of David Kynaston’s ambitious history offers an entirely fresh perspective on Britain during those six momentous years.
The partition of India in 1947 promised its people both political and religious freedom – through the liberation of India from British rule, and the creation of the Muslim state of Pakistan. In reality the geographical divide effected an even greater schism of the population, benefiting the few at the expense of the very many, exposing huge numbers of the population to desperate and devastating consequences. Thousands of women were raped, at least one million people were killed, and ten- to fifteen-times that number were forced to leave their homes as refugees. It was one of the first, the most bloody, and remains one of the most significant, events of decolonisation in the twentieth century.
In The Great Partition, Yasmin Khan examines the context, execution and aftermath of partition, integrating an incisive knowledge of political manoeuvres with a deeply-felt understanding of their fundamental social and cultural consequences. She exposes the obliviousness of the small elite driving division, as well as the majority of activists on both sides, to what partition would entail in practice and its effects on the populace. Its repercussions still resound today.Published to coincide with the 60th anniversary of partition, Yasmin Khan’s personal account draws together a fresh and considerable body of research, including many new interviews, newspaper extracts and archival sources, to reappraise independence and division and reinforce its catastrophic human cost. Intelligent, terrifying, wise and timely, The Great Partition is a testament to a country and people who were brutally and recklessly ripped apart.
When I was sixteen I became an Islamic fundamentalist. Five years later, after much emotional turmoil, I rejected fundamentalist teachings and returned to normal life and my family. I tried to put my experiences behind me, but as the events of 7/7 unfolded it became clear to me that Islamist groups pose a threat to this country that we — Muslims and non-Muslims alike — do not yet understand.
Why are young British Muslims becoming extremists? What are the risks of another home-grown terrorist attack on British soil? By describing my experiences inside these groups, the reasons I joined them and how, after leaving I recovered my faith and mind, I hope to explain the appeal of extremist thought, how fanatics penetrate Muslim communities and the truth behind their agenda of subverting the West and moderate Islam. Writing candidly about life after extremism, I illustrate the depth of the problem that now grips Muslim hearts and minds. I will lay bare what politicians and Muslim ‘community leaders’ do not want you to know.
This is the first time an ex-member openly discusses life within radical Islamic organisations. This is my story.
William Hague has written the life of William Wilberforce who was both a staunch conservative and a tireless campaigner against the slave trade.
Hague shows how Wilberforce, after his agonising conversion to evangelical Christianity, was able to lead a powerful tide of opinion, as MP for Hull, against the slave trade, a process which was to take up to half a century to be fully realised. Indeed, he succeeded in rallying to his cause the support in the Commons Debates of some the finest orators in Parliament, having become one of the most respected speakers of those times.Hague examines twenty three crucial years in British political life during which Wilberforce met characters as varied as Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Tsar Alexander of Russia, and the one year old future Queen Victoria who used to play at his feet. He was friend and confidant of Pitt, Spencer Perceval and George Canning. He saw these figures raised up or destroyed in twenty three years of war and revolution.Hague presents us with a man who teemed with contradictions: he took up a long list of humanitarian causes, yet on his home turf would show himself to be a firm supporter of the instincts, interests and conservatism of the Yorkshire freeholders who sent him to Parliament.William Hague’s masterful study of this remarkable and pivotal figure in British politics brings to life the great triumphs and shattering disappointments he experienced in his campaign against the slave trade, and shows how immense economic, social and political forces came to join together under the tireless persistence of this unique man.
‘I took seven years over this work, spent all I had, my time, money and energy. Part of the journey was a green riot and part a deathly bleakness. I got ill, I got well. I went to the freedom fighters of West Papua and sang my head off in their highlands. I met cannibals infinitely kinder and more trustworthy than the murderous missionaries who evangelize them. I anchored a boat to an iceberg where polar bears slept; ate witchetty grubs and visited sea gypsies. I found a paradox of wildness in the glinting softness of its charisma, for what is savage is in the deepest sense gentle and what is wild is kind. In the end – a strangely sweet result – I came back to a wild home…’
From 1970, things were changing in Ireland – the Celtic Tiger had finally woken, and the rules for everything from gender roles and religion to international relations were being entirely rewritten.
Luck and the Irish examines how the country has weathered these last thirty years of change, and what these changes may mean in the long run. R. F. Foster also looks at how characters as diverse as Gerry Adams, Mary Robinson, Charles Haughey and Bob Geldof have contributed to Ireland’s altered psyche, and uncovers some of the scandals, corruption and marketing masterminds that have transformed Ireland – and its luck.
Drawing on a huge range of sources – letters, memoirs, conversations – Orlando Figes tells the story of how Russians tried to endure life under Stalin. Those who shaped the political system became, very frequently, its victims. Those who were its victims were frequently quite blameless. The Whisperers recreates the sort of maze in which Russians found themselves, where an unwitting wrong turn could either destroy a family or, perversely, later save it: a society in which everyone spoke in whispers – whether to protect themselves, their families, neighbours or friends – or to inform on them.
From the much-loved, witty and excoriating voice of journalist Nick Cohen, a powerful and irreverent dissection of the agonies, idiocies and compromises of mainstream liberal thought.
Nick Cohen comes from the Left. While growing up, his mother would search the supermarket shelves for politically reputable citrus fruit and despair. When, at the age of 13, he found out that his kind and thoughtful English teacher voted Conservative, he nearly fell off his chair: ‘To be good, you had to be on the Left.’Today he’s no less confused. When he looks around him, in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, he sees a community of Left-leaning liberals standing on their heads. Why is it that apologies for a militant Islam that stands for everything the liberal-Left is against come from a section of the Left? After the American and British wars in Bosnia and Kosovo against Slobodan Milosevic’s ethnic cleansers, why were men and women of the Left denying the existence of Serb concentration camps? Why is Palestine a cause for the liberal-Left, but not, for instance, China, the Sudan, Zimbabwe or North Korea? Why can’t those who say they support the Palestinian cause tell you what type of Palestine they would like to see? After the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington why were you as likely to read that a sinister conspiracy of Jews controlled American or British foreign policy in a liberal literary journal as in a neo-Nazi rag? It’s easy to know what the Left is fighting against – the evils of Bush and corporations – but what and, more to the point, who are they fighting for?As he tours the follies of the Left, Nick Cohen asks us to reconsider what it means to be liberal in this confused and topsy-turvy time. With the angry satire of Swift, he reclaims the values of democracy and solidarity that united the movement against fascism, and asks: What’s Left?
The Blair Years is the most compelling and revealing account of contemporary politics you will ever read. Taken from Alastair Campbell’s daily diaries, it charts the rise of New Labour and the tumultuous years of Tony Blair’s leadership, providing the first important record of a remarkable decade in our national life.
Here are the defining events of our time, from Labour’s new dawn to the war on terror, from the death of Diana to negotiations for peace in Northern Ireland, from Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, through to the Hutton Inquiry of 2003, the year Campbell resigned his position at No 10. But above all here is Tony Blair up close and personal, taking the decisions that affected the lives of millions, under relentless and often hostile pressure.
Often described as the second most powerful figure in Britain, Alastair Campbell is no stranger to controversy. Feared and admired in equal measure, hated by some, he was pivotal to the founding of New Labour and the sensational election victory of 1997. As Blair’s press secretary, strategist and trusted confidant, Campbell spent more waking hours alongside the Prime Minister than anyone. His diaires – at times brutally frank, often funny, always compelling – take the reader right to the heart of government.
The Blair Years is a story of politics in the raw, of progress and setback, of reputations made and destroyed, under the relentless scrutiny of a 24-hour media. Unflinchingly told, it covers the crises and scandals, the rows and resignations, the ups and downs of Britain’s hothouse politics. But amid the big events are insights and observations that make this a remarkably human portrayal of some of the most powerful people in the world.
There has never been so riveting a book about life at the very top, nor a more human book about politics, told by a man who saw it all.
Ever since Stanley first charted its mighty river in the 1870s, the Congo has epitomised the dark and turbulent history of a failed continent – from colonial cruelty under the Belgians to the kleptocratic chaos of Mobutu Sese Seko and the current post-apocalyptic riot of robber-baron politicians. However, its troubles only served to increase the interest of Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher, who was sent to cover Africa in 2000. He remembered his mother’s stories of her own genteel river journey there in the 1950s and his connection deepened when he discovered that Stanley’s expedition was funded by the Telegraph. Before long he became obsessed with the idea of recreating Stanley’s original expedition – but travelling alone.
Despite warnings from old Africa hands that his plan was ‘suicidal’, Butcher spent years poring over colonial-era maps and wooing rebel leaders before making his will and venturing to the Congo’s eastern border with just a rucksack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots. He travelled for hundreds of kilometers on a motorbike, dogged by punctured tyres, broken bridges and dehydration. As he drove through the most dangerous areas, he stopped only to sleep – biking through the bush for hours and speeding up every time he passed a soldier. And then he reached the legendary Congo River, making his way down it in an assortment of vessels including a dugout canoe. Helped along the way by a cast of characters – from UN aid workers to a campaigning pygmy, he passed through the once thriving cities of this huge country, saw the marks left behind by years of abuse and misrule, and followed in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurers, and of the visitors – such as Katherine Hepburn and Evelyn Waugh – who had been there in very different times. Almost 2,500 harrowing miles later, he reached the Atlantic Ocean a thinner and a wiser man.
His extraordinary account describes a country with more past than present, where giant steamboats lie rotting in the advancing forest and children hear stories from their grandfathers of days when cars once drove by. Butcher’s journey was a remarkable feat. But the story of the Congo, told expertly and vividly in this book, is more remarkable still.
Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay in 1865 and spent his early years there, before being sent, aged six, to England, a desperately unhappy experience. Charles Allen’s great-grandfather brought the sixteen-year-old Kipling out to Lahore to work on The Civil and Military Gazette with the words ‘Kipling will do’, and thus set young Rudyard on his literary course. And so it was that at the start of the cold weather of 1882 he stepped ashore at Bombay on 18 October 1882 – ‘a prince entering his kingdom’. He stayed for seven years during which he wrote the work that established him as a popular and critical, sometimes controversial, success.
Charles Allen has written a brilliant account of those years – of an Indian childhood and coming of age, of abandonment in England, of family and Empire. He traces the Indian experiences of Kipling’s parents, Lockwood and Alice and reveals what kind of culture the young writer was born into and then returned to when still a teenager. It is a work of fantastic sympathy for a man – though not blind to Kipling’s failings – and the country he loved.
‘And another thing…’ is intended as my outlet for opinions, jokes, musings and whimsy about a range of subjects including – but not only – politics. If you believe that politicians take themselves too seriously, you might enjoy it. If you think they should take themselves very seriously indeed, or shouldn’t have any interests outside politics, I would avoid it, frankly. Try John Redwood.
I’ve been a Labour MP since 2001, and was a minister at the Department for Transport from September 2006 until October 2008. I’m married to Carolyn, with whom I have two sons.
I have a number of obsessions interests, including Doctor Who, science fiction in general, the music of Genesis, The X-Factor and any other old rubbish that comes into my head.
Confined by Lucifer to one of the lower circles of Hell, the Heresiarch nevertheless continues to campaign against all forms of orthodoxy.
I’m Paul Mason, Newsnight’s economics editor, a job that takes me from Kenyan shanty towns to Russian hedge funds and Chinese factories. My blog is called Idle Scrawl. It veers wildly across the subject: from house prices, to global poverty; from deconstructing glib terminology to devastating critiques of the England football management. It is occasionally meant to be funny.
Oliver Kamm is a leader writer at The Times. He joined in 2008, having been an investment banker and co-founder of a hedge fund. He is the author of Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-Wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy (2005).
The Bleeding Heart Show is a blog of under-rehearsed and over-caffeinated stammerings from Neil Robertson, a Barnsley-born 25-year-old who now resides in Coventry.
From time to time, the blog will contain ill-informed missives on British/American politics, popular culture and other miscellaneous outbursts which only ever make sense to the author. The blog is written from a liberal-left perspective and covers such emotive subjects as (yawn) electoral reform, social issues, the maddening rightwards lurches of the Labour Party and the need to revitalise grassroots political activism… occasionally interspersed with cool Youtube videos and pop songs. When he’s not busy inflicting his words on his nearest and dearest, the blogger can also be found indulging in a liberal conspiracy. Don’t worry, it sounds worse than it is.
The blog is named after a song by a Canadian band called the New Pornographers.
Since 2004 I have been BBC News’ home editor, a title which has some strange consequences. I get sent samples of “premium quality laminate floor-coverings”. I have been asked to review hammer drills. And offer opinions on Italian furniture design.
But my interest and certainly my expertise is not in the world of interiors. In a way, it is quite the reverse. I try to look at Britain from outside, endeavouring to make sense of the dramatic and rapid change affecting the UK by standing well back.
My title also implies a role as head of the BBC’s UK Specialist Unit – a team of expert journalists working in radio, television and online. Thankfully, any responsibility in that regard does not extend to trying to manage the unit but I do champion its cause at every opportunity.
It is the quality of the BBC’s specialist journalism that sets its news coverage apart and I believe we have some of the best in the world keeping tabs on the domestic scene.
What I want to do, (and what this blog is really about), is join some of the dots left by the dozens of stories we report each day. I want to understand our country, to see which direction we are heading in and what challenges lie ahead on our journey.
Iain Dale is one of Britain’s leading political commentators, appearing regularly on TV and radio. Iain is best known for his political blog, Iain Dale’s Diary, and football blog, West Ham Till I Die. He is a contributing editor and columnist for GQ Magazine, writes for the Daily Telegraph and a fortnightly diary for the Eastern Daily Press. He was the chief anchor of Britain’s first political internet TV channel, 18 Doughty Street.com and is a presenter on LBC Radio. He appears regularly as a political pundit on Sky News, the BBC News Channel, Newsnight, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live. He is the publisher of the monthly magazine, Total Politics and the author or editor of more than twenty books. He is managing director of Biteback Publishing.
- Iain Dale’s Diary
- Iain Dale, Peter Hitchens and Ed Vaizey, ‘What is the big Conservative idea?’ at the Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival 2009