Modernity Britain: A Shake of the Dice, 1959–62 by David Kynaston - review by Piers Brendon

Piers Brendon

Beginning to Swing

Modernity Britain: A Shake of the Dice, 1959–62


Bloomsbury 454pp £25 order from our bookshop

This is the second part of Modernity Britain, the third book in David Kynaston’s series, a magnificent mosaic intricate in detail but sweeping in scope which makes a fair bid to become the definitive history of postwar Britain. He has now reached the 1960s, broadly characterised as an era of modernity. This was the time of slum clearance and high-rise flats, supermarkets and ‘consumer durables’. It saw the introduction of the Mini and the E-type Jaguar, After Eight mints and Golden Wonder ready-salted crisps, automatic dishwashers and electric toothbrushes. Which?, launched in 1957, took off and Bingo and Beatlemania were rampant. There was a revolution in soaps and pills: Coronation Street was inaugurated, as was the oral contraceptive (at first only prescribed to married women). Z Cars left Dixon of Dock Green standing; Honda motorbikes overtook BSAs; the Concorde supersonic airliner was conceived. The satire boom began with Beyond the Fringe and Private Eye. And a jury decided that British wives and servants should be allowed to read the cheap Penguin edition of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Meanwhile, it was out with the old. Farthings ceased to be legal tender. Children’s Hour came to an end and the BBC’s new director-general, Hugh Carleton Greene, proposed to dissipate the corporation’s ‘ivory tower of stuffiness’. The London trolleybus made its final journey and the Crazy Gang took their last

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