J W M Thompson

Unparliamentary Behaviour

An English Affair: Sex, Class and Power in the Age of Profumo


HarperPress 400pp £20 order from our bookshop

This is a formidable account of one of the nastier episodes in our recent history. It poses a number of questions – about police integrity, about morality in public life, about the toxic influence of an unscrupulous popular press. However, one additional query might be: what made it a peculiarly English affair? After all, senior politicians in other countries get into hot water over women. No doubt they also tell lies about it. What did Profumo have that scandals in, say, Rome, Paris or Washington lacked? Richard Davenport-Hines quickly makes it clear that he is dealing with much more than one man’s disgrace. Instead he is recording what he sees as a ‘shattering blast’ that rocked an already insecure Establishment. It is the tawdry England of the Sixties that he sets out to dissect, and he goes about the task with energy and impressive command of detail.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,
    • Domestic scandal, sexual abuse and serial killers are on the menu in April's crime round-up. revie… ,
    • What did Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, James Boswell and Edmund Burke all have in common? Clare Bucknell reveal… ,