State of Emergency: The Way We Were – Britain, 1970–1974 by Dominic Sandbrook - review by Simon Heffer

Simon Heffer

Era of Brown

State of Emergency: The Way We Were – Britain, 1970–1974

By

Allen Lane 768pp £30 order from our bookshop
 

For those of us who lived through them, the 1970s evoke a mixture of memories, most of them gruesome. Dominic Sandbrook’s book is well titled: the formidably useless government of Ted Heath found itself having to declare no fewer than five states of emergency during its forty-four months in office from 1970 to 1974. But it was not just that the economy was wrecked, that we were governed by incompetents, that Britain was sinking in the world, or that innocent people were routinely being blown to bits in attacks by the Provisional IRA. It was also the flared trousers, the insane haircuts and beards, and what Sandbrook, in this superb account of the first half of the decade, describes as the era of ‘brown’.

The most striking thing about this book is that Sandbrook writes as though he were there, yet he was only born in 1974. This suggests a phenomenal attention to detail and an intrinsic understanding of the period, its culture and its people. Sandbrook writes about politics, sex, football,

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