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We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... present instalment, Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, covers the narrow gap from 1957 to 1959. David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words, and he also tells it in the often loud and uninhibited words of others – authors, newspapers, diarists, eminent politicians, Mass Observation respondents. Man, it seems, is an indignant ...

The End

James Buchan, 28 April 1994

The City of London. Vol. I: A World of Its Own, 1815-1890 
by David Kynaston.
Chatto, 497 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7011 6094 2
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... administration and espionage – made this country a world power? In this meditation I found David Kynaston a sympathetic companion. Not that he has anything of interest to say about Lloyd’s: this oversight is one of my many frustrations with his excellent book. But he is deeply interested in the nature of the City, in what made it successful then ...

Don’t Look Down

Nicholas Spice: Dull Britannia, 8 April 2010

Family Britain 1951-57 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 776 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 7475 8385 1
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... immediately after the war, conditions in Britain, especially in the cities, were pretty grim. As David Kynaston tells it, people were exhausted, low in spirits, their resources depleted, and over everything there hung the threat of another, probably terminal war. The dawn of the postwar era was cold and dark and bleak, but there was a touch of pink in ...


Jonathan Parry, 21 September 1995

The City of London. Vol. II: Golden Years, 1890-1914 
by David Kynaston.
Chatto, 678 pp., £25, June 1995, 0 7011 3385 6
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... Did it hold the political whiphand? In the second volume of his trilogy on the City since 1815, David Kynaston repeatedly shows his familiarity with the controversies. But his technique is to deal fair-mindedly and unexceptionably with them, more or less in passing; the book makes no claim to be an incisive or provocative analysis of the City’s role ...

Not Pleasing the Tidy-Minded

Ross McKibbin: Postwar Britain, 24 April 2008

Austerity Britain, 1945-51 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 692 pp., £25, May 2007, 978 0 7475 7985 4
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... British children had been reduced. These memories were refreshed by reading Austerity Britain, David Kynaston’s huge history of the country between 1945 and 1951. It is difficult for anyone familiar only with the shimmering prosperity of contemporary Western Europe to realise just what it was like in the years immediately after the Second World ...

A Company of Merchants

Jamie Martin: The Bank of England, 24 January 2019

Till Time’s Last Sand: A History of the Bank of England, 1694-2013 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 879 pp., £35, September 2017, 978 1 4088 6856 0
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... The bank was instrumental in the rise of the modern British state and its global reach, but as David Kynaston shows in his official history, it has always had an uncertain relationship with the state, mediating awkwardly between the private imperatives of finance and the public demands of politics. When the bank was founded in 1694, its business was ...

The Great Accumulator

John Sturrock: W.G. Grace, 20 August 1998

W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... v. Players it had to be, in a drawn but exciting game a detailed account of which fills much of David Kynaston’s attractive small book (first published in 1990, and brought back in this centenary summer of the match in question). The poor pros, however, spent disgruntled years asking themselves why a gentleman, however good he was, who didn’t ...

All hail, sage lady

Andrew O’Hagan: ‘The Crown’, 15 December 2016

... it to the small screen. The British settings are spectacular, the whole thing like an implosion of David Kynaston, but the main achievement is Morgan’s, in finding ways to show the human side of monarchy. The British royals are a terrifying shower, but quite likeable, and sometimes essential, in their daftness, in their cunning and their opportunism, as ...

Gloomy Pageant

Jeremy Harding: Britain Comma Now, 31 July 2014

Mammon’s Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now 
by David Marquand.
Allen Lane, 288 pp., £20, May 2014, 978 1 84614 672 5
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... when you set out to look the present in the eye but can’t quite bear the thought? Much of David Marquand’s powerful essay about ‘Britain, now’ is an elegy for a lost past, unsullied by ‘masterless capitalism’, a sad story of the light growing dim, good running to bad, the public realm hollowed out by vested interests, greed and unexamined ...

At the Hunterian

Andrew O’Hagan: Joan Eardley gets her due, 4 November 2021

... and unfit houses’ in Manchester, 15,000 in Oldham, 5000 in Rochdale and 80,000 in Liverpool. David Kynaston cites these figures in his new book, On the Cusp: Days of ’62.* Reading them, I immediately wondered about the figure for Glasgow, and I found it in Michael Pacione’s history of the city. There were 97,000 houses in Glasgow awaiting ...

Collect your divvies

Ferdinand Mount: Safe as the Bank of England, 15 June 2023

Virtuous Bankers: A Day in the Life of the 18th-Century Bank of England 
by Anne Murphy.
Princeton, 275 pp., £30, May, 978 0 691 19474 5
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... shall stand/With its unshaken head, till time’s last sand.’ This last phrase was borrowed by David Kynaston for the title of his captivating history of the bank.* The exit of the deputy governor remained unequalled for drama until the resignation of another deputy governor during the Barings crash three centuries later, after a Sunday tabloid ...

Always the Same Dream

Ferdinand Mount: Princess Margaret, 4 January 2018

Ma’am Darling: 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 423 pp., £16.99, September 2017, 978 0 00 820361 0
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... only of divorce but also of deference and authority. Social historians neglect it at their peril. David Kynaston in Family Britain 1951-57 gives a pretty full account, but in Peter Hennessy’s Having It So Good: Britain in the 1950s the only Peter Townsend in the index is the sociologist of that name. Even Brown does not quite do justice to the ...


John Lanchester: The credit crunch, 3 January 2008

... the way banking has changed, become more intense, more time-consuming and more overtly greedy. David Kynaston, author of a magisterial four-volume history of the City, completed in 2001, observes at the start of the fourth volume that ‘the modern City is in many ways a cruel, heartless place, and its occupants work such cripplingly long hours that ...

Phantom Gold

John Pemble: Victorian Capitalism, 7 January 2016

Forging Capitalism: Rogues, Swindlers, Frauds and the Rise of Modern Finance 
by Ian Klaus.
Yale, 287 pp., £18.99, January 2015, 978 0 300 18194 4
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... read what he writes and not think of similarities between then and now. His book is in contrast to David Kynaston’s four-volume history of the City of London, which takes up the idea of ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ and portrays the Victorian era as a relatively sane and sober interlude.* Kynaston explains the ...

Barely under Control

Jenny Turner: Who’s in charge?, 7 May 2015

... Grace Academy in Brixton. The programme was launched in 2000 by the then education secretary, David Blunkett, who explained that if sponsors put up £2 million, or 20 per cent of the capital costs, such ‘businesses, individuals, churches or voluntary bodies’ would get ‘considerable freedom over management structures and processes’, and of course a ...

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