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1960s Britain (Anglais) Broché – 19 août 2014

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Présentation de l'éditeur

Harold Wilson’s promise of a New Britain and ‘the ending of economic privilege, the abolition of poverty in the midst of plenty and the creation of real equality of opportunity’ heralded unprecedented social and cultural changes which characterized the period. The benefits of these changes were particularly enjoyed by the new ‘teenagers’, for whom life was all about fun, experimentation, permissiveness and freedom, breaking the rules as they went. The impact of popular music – especially The Beatles – and fashion – Mary Quant skirts, Vidal Sassoon hair and Biba – on these ‘baby boomers’ cannot be overestimated. For all generations, new design and technology influenced virtually every sphere of everyday life, from food to shopping, driving to holidays. Change swept the country, but was most acutely felt in London, described in 1966 as the ‘swinging city.’ Susan Cohen provides a highly illustrated lively account, punctuated with personal recollections, of what life was like for ordinary people in Britain during the Swinging Sixties.

Biographie de l'auteur

Susan Cohen is an historian with a wide interest in twentieth-century British social history and refugee studies. She has written and lectured widely on a variety of subjects. She has written The District Nurse and The Women's Institute for Shire.  Dr. Cohen lives in United Kingdom.

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OK for some basic facts on the "Swinging Sixties" 7 décembre 2014
Par P. Webster - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Broché
I have wavered between three and four stars for this book, but I've come down on the side of four because the book basically does what it sets out to do, which is to pack lots of facts about 1960s Britain into a small book. It does so with chapters on: family; food and drink; shopping and fashion; home and neighbourhood; education and social services; transport; relaxation and entertainment; work; and health.

The facts given are sometimes important and sometimes interesting but relatively trivial. So, on the important side, I was surprised to learn that although the contraceptive pill came into use in 1963, by the end of the decade "only one woman in ten had ever taken the pill." And on the more trivial side we learn that Fulham's top footballer Johnny Haynes became the first player to receive a wage of £100 per week in 1962, while by the end of the decade George Best was being paid £5000 per week.

I did, however, notice some factual errors. Kim Philby was employed by MI6, not MI5, while he was secretly working for the Russians. The first James Bond film, Dr No, came out in 1962, not 1963. The TV series "The Saint" began in 1962, not 1966. And when the author says that "... snow fell from the end of December 1963 until March 1964..." I presume that she is actually referring to the "Big Freeze" of December 1962 - March 1963. However, given the amount of information packed into this little book, I suppose that a few errors are bound to creep in.

I also think that if you want a book that gives a FEELING of what it was actually like to live through the sixties in Britain, you would be better off with Alison Pressley's book, "The 1950s and 1960s: The Best of Times". Pressley's book might not contain as much factual information as this one, but it has more humour, lots of amusing anecdotes, and a greater number of interesting illustrations. As someone who was in my late childhood and teens during the sixties, I actually enjoyed Pressley's book more.

As for in-depth analysis, well that is not really what this book is about. But it does make the serious point that not everyone in the 1960s was enjoying affluence and a "Swinging London" lifestyle. For example, Cohen shows that there was a lot of poverty and that there were some areas with an unemployment problem, despite the generally low level of joblessness. She also gives examples of the appalling racism and sexism that were widespread at the time.

The information contained in books like these also needs to be put in the wider economic, social and political context of the times. Firstly, the fifties and sixties were the period of capitalism's long post-war economic boom. We took it for granted that everyone would have a job, that living standards would rise every year, and that we would have free education and health care (at least in Britain, if not the USA!), paid for by progressive taxation.

Secondly, there was a widespread political mood in the sixties of support for the idea of social justice, and growing opposition to racism, sexism, class inequalities, wars, famines, etc.

Thirdly, in the sixties we really thought we were THE rebel generation, with our music, our fashions and our rejection of old-fashioned attitudes. (Even those of us who lived in small towns in the North of England!) Of course this was largely the arrogance of youth: every generation feels like that to some extent, and our rebellious youth sub-cultures were no real threat to the status quo. But on the positive side, at least it left a lot of us with a healthy disrespect for the powers-that-be.

When the 1970s came along and capitalism reverted to economic crisis and started to take away from ordinary people many of the post-war gains, it's not surprising that some of us, influenced by the three factors above, moved politically to the left.

Phil Webster.
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