A few other biases were, however, present. Macinnes comes in for much stick for being a posh class tourist and for exoticising and positive-stereotyping West Indian immigrants. And this, generally, is readable and marvellously comprehensive. Those chapters served as a barometer and I was confident that this was generally a very good and comprehensive overview of politics, culture and society of the time, albeit one focused on England rather than "Britain".

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When we look back to the s, we remember the dole queues and the dictators. When we think of the s, we see James Bond and the Beatles, the Mini and the mini-skirt.

The s will always be the decade of the three-day week and the winter of discontent. So how will we remember the s? A decade of great patriotic spectacles, from the weddings of William and Kate and Harry and Meghan, and the triumphant London Olympics? Pictured: Harry and Meghan on their wedding day So how will we remember the s? A decade of austerity, defined by closing libraries and deserted high streets?

Or the decade of social media, characterised by increasingly vicious rows about ever more esoteric subjects? Fireworks light up the stadium during the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games.

Against all odds, Leicester won the Premier League. And a Scot won Wimbledon, not once but twice. In British politics, four names stand out.

Only one of them, though, might have been predicted at the start of the s: David Cameron, whose decision to hold the EU referendum destroyed his political career but changed the fate of Britain for ever. One was Nigel Farage, whose long campaign to take Britain out of Europe ended in unexpected triumph. The final name, of course, belongs to Boris Johnson. He began the decade as an amiable, apparently buffoonish Mayor of London, having joked that he had more chance of being reincarnated as an olive than of becoming PM.

But he ended it not just as the man who had led the Leave campaign to victory, but as a dominant prime minister with the biggest Tory majority since Mrs Thatcher was in her pomp.

If you ever wanted proof of the sheer unpredictability of history, you could find no better subject than the s. Pictured: Andy Murray at the Olympics Who could have foreseen that, having voted to leave the EU in , Britain would spend the next three years in fruitless limbo before Boris, of all people, broke the stalemate? In some ways they were simply aspects of the same story: a populist revolt of working-class voters across the Western world against the assumptions of liberal globalisation.

This was, though, a story with a darker side. Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, kiss on the balcony at Buckingham Palace during the royal wedding That same year, 11 million Frenchmen and women voted for the far-Right Marine Le Pen to become president.

But whether this was merely a belated reaction to economic stagnation and mass immigration, or a chilling harbinger of the future, only time will tell. For Britain, one consolation was that this was not a decade of large-scale warfare. The last British troops ended their combat roles in Afghanistan in October , after service personnel in 12 years had lost their lives. And who could have predicted that, after an excruciatingly tight race for the White House, Donald Trump pictured would squeak home ahead of Hillary Clinton For a while, the war left a deep scar on the national imagination, epitomised by the mourning crowds that greeted the bodies of the fallen in Wootton Bassett.

But it is nearly nine years since the town was awarded royal patronage to mark its role in the repatriations, and public awareness of the costs of war has once again begun to fade. Elsewhere, though, the bloodshed went on. No story was more chilling than the rise of so-called Islamic State IS in the rubble of Syria and Iraq, which announced itself to the world with footage of the beheading of the American journalist James Foley in At once medieval and modern, IS posted online videos of its atrocities, including prisoners publicly beheaded or burned to death and civilians who resisted its reign of terror crucified.

But its shadow remained, not least in the fear that Western Islamists might have been radicalised. As a result, more than ever the spectre of terrorism haunted the Western imagination. In France, Islamic extremists killed people in Paris in and another 86 in a lorry attack in Nice a year later, while Britain still bears the scars from atrocities such as the Westminster and London Bridge attacks and the bombing of Manchester Arena in Indeed, under Jeremy Corbyn, the culture of internet vitriol consumed the Labour Party itself, a once-great institution poisoned by paranoid Marxism and anti-Semitism Little wonder, then, that so many of us believe the world has become a more frightening place than ever.

You need only venture online, to the snake-pits of Twitter and Facebook, to see how debate has been hijacked by extremists, fanatics and keyboard warriors. Perhaps never before have so many people spent so much time screaming at one another. Indeed, under Jeremy Corbyn, the culture of internet vitriol consumed the Labour Party itself, a once-great institution poisoned by paranoid Marxism and anti-Semitism. Is this, then, the story of the s?

Anger, rancour, violence and hatred? Online outrage, gunmen in the capitals of Europe and dying children in the streets of Syria? A world on fire? But there is another side to the picture. In fact, I would suggest that the past ten years have been the best decade in human history. That probably sounds alarmingly counter-intuitive. But just think about all the apocalyptic predictions that never came to pass. The Left told us austerity would provoke uprisings in the streets and a mass revolt of the young.

And yes, there were riots in London and various other towns and cities in the summer of — but we know now that they were just a disgraceful aberration. So were Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, all of which endured years of deep spending cuts and youth unemployment without plunging into the widely predicted total revolution.

Contrary to the overheated forecasts of hysterical liberals, who cast Donald Trump as Hitler reborn, his presidency has not seen America descend into fascism. Even his occupation of the Crimea and eastern Ukraine was a reflection of weakness, not a sign of strength, after the Ukrainian people had toppled his puppet government. It is risky to be too optimistic, because history always has another twist in store.

Yet the world in the s was a calmer, more stable place than the headlines sometimes suggested — which in turn reflects a deeper story.


Dominic Sandbrook

Dominic Sandbrook makes much of that strange, now forgotten flowering of folk music in his wide-ranging history of the Macmillan era, which aims to cover both culture and politics. Starting with Lonnie Donegan and skiffle and Elvis Presley and ending with the arrival of the Beatles, his book discusses many more familiar political stories in between. He writes with the advantage of a fresh eye, as he was not born until What was it really like half a century ago? The memories of those who were there, now mostly grandparents and well over 60, are inevitably varied and anecdotal, the intimate and personal often looming larger than the political and the cultural. Suez I remember as a volunteer cadet in the Royal Navy. My ship was diverted to the Mediterranean and I was left behind in Plymouth harbour on a battleship too vulnerable to go to sea, with David Dimbleby in the adjacent hammock.


Never Had It So Good: A History of Britain from Suez to the Beatles

History books The 60s? The supposedly socialist film director Lindsay Anderson sounded like Colonel Blimp reviewing a shabby working-class regiment when he lamented the backwardness of British proletarian life. The middle-class leaders of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament were as convinced that the British could continue to lead the lesser breeds as the most diehard empire loyalists. There are hundreds of killer quotes and anecdotes. Except in war, I have never visited any foreign country. I do not like foreigners. I have never spoken in any foreign-affairs debate in the House.

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