Paperback: A World to Build: Austerity Britain 1945-48, by David Kynaston

Beginning with a page-long list of what we didn't have ("no supermarkets, no motorways, no teabags...") and did have in 1945 ("heavy coins, heavy shoes, heavy suitcases"), Kynaston deftly combines social surveys with personal reminiscences in this absorbing account. We see modern Britain in embryo. Kynaston quotes Mass Observation reports ranging from Butlin's Filey, where the day began with a sung reveille ("There's a new day a-tumblin' in"), to a survey of views on institutional religion: "It's all right in a way as long as it's not overdone." Due to a mix-up in her exam results, the young Glenda Jackson experienced the "contemptible" attitudes to failure and success in the 11-plus. A select few could enjoy the first TV personalities, such as comedian Richard Hearne and telly chef Philip Harben. Even the BBC's head of audience research couldn't see their appeal: "Magazine programmes are amusing enough, but never of sufficient appeal to warrant turning the set on specially." The new NHS in 1948 made the Manc-hester Guardian worry that welfare would "eliminate selective elimination", leading to an increase in the congenitally deformed. The Mirror's response - "We are leading the world in Social Security" - would have a different implication if it ran today. ......... CH

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