Family Britain, 1951-1957, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


As in Austerity Britain, an astonishing array of vivid, intimate and unselfconscious voices drive this narrative.

The keen-eyed Nella Last shops assiduously at Barrow Market as austerity and rationing gradually give way to relative abundance; housewife Judy Haines, relishing the detail of suburban life, brings up her children in Chingford; and, the self-absorbed civil servant Henry St John perfects the art of grumbling.

These and many other voices give a rich, unsentimental picture of everyday life in the 1950s.

We also encounter well-known figures on the way, such as Doris Lessing (joining and later leaving the Communist Party), John Arlott (sticking up on Any Questions? for the rights of homosexuals) and Tiger's Roy of the Rovers (making his goal-scoring debut for Melchester).

All this is part of a colourful, unfolding tapestry, in which the great national events - the Tories returning to power, the death of George VI, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the Suez Crisis - jostle alongside everything that gave Britain in the 1950s its distinctive flavour: Butlin's holiday camps, Kenwood food mixers, "Hancock's Half-Hour", Ekco television sets, Davy Crockett, skiffle and teddy boys. Deeply researched, David Kynaston's "Family Britain" offers an unrivalled take on a largely cohesive, ordered, still very hierarchical society gratefully starting to move away from the painful hardships of the 1940s towards domestic ease and affluence.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 784 pages, Colour
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9781408800836

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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

25 Dec 2009 - from MatthewThis was a wonderful read and automatically in my top 10 non-fiction and probably overall top 10 for 2010. Like in the first volume of his postwar history, Kynaston weaves together a net of newspaper and official reports, government records and diaries, whether of the already-famous, later-to-be-famous and giving us a thrill of recognition, or ordinary people, many of them Mass Observers, to give us practically a week-by-week exposition of the period. This gives us multiple viewpoints on the same event, and also interesting juxtapositions, as someone ignores the Suez crisis to talk about their garden, or when two or more events in different cultural areas happen on the same day or in the same week.Such a rich, satisfying read, full of details about every kind of culture from football to opera, and of people's every day lives. I particularly like the use of the Mass Observation archives (and the thank you to the staff in the acknowledgements). Great illustrations, and I can't wait for the next volume to appear!

Review by

An excellent, and very readable, social history of Britain in the 1950's just as the country was emerging from its post-wartime austerity. One forgets how dreadfully poor, by American standards, most of the British people were in the first couple of decades after World War II.

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