A good book is necessary for coping with a long flight – and this is the volume that caught my attention at Heathrow. Cheap and long and interesting but not too high brow! Hattersley is a skilled writer – don’t you admire the way these people can master a huge subject? Carefully researched – the subject matter is the first fourteen years of the last century. It is a period I knew little about and I was surprised to discover what a tranformative period of English history it was.
Hattersley argues that this short period was the cusp of change, indeed the moment when our modern world began. We learn about the motor car and the aeroplane; the pioneers of modern medicine and the beginnings of the welfare state – thanks to William Beveridge who was a newspaper reporter during those days. We learn, too, of the King and his goings on – mainly women and excessive food and drink. Some of this took place in Warwick Castle!
And the problems? The Irish situation became more problematic and the House of Lords caused endless bother. There is the bitterness of the Boer war which formed the backcloth to difficulties that were to beset us decades later. Balanced with all this we have Scott and Shackeltons adventures in the Antarctic and there is cricket and sport. And those amazing women who fought for the right to vote – we hear Mr Churchill shout : ‘nothing will induce me to vote for those women.’
Hattersley masters his brief and is able to make all kinds of parallel illusions to politics in today’s world. He does so with wit and insight. A good read – but alas – you can’t borrow it – I will pass it onto a friendly American saving space in my suitcase for other treasures. To the library you must go – and enjoy!