Only a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain. Stuart Maconie’s Hope and Glory covers the same period and calls itself A People’s History of Modern Britain. For me, both texts filled gaps in my education or memory, and both are eminently readable. If anything, Marr’s ‘The Making of Modern Britain‘ and ‘A History of Modern Britain’ are more academic, more thorough and more detailed – but that was, of course, his intention, while Stuart Maconie’s touch is light and humorous, though equally informative and knowledgeable.
For me, history is not really a Laugh Out Loud subject but Maconie’s 346 pages are a good bedtime read with a smile produced by almost every page, even when he is broaching subjects like the horrifying demise of the Accrington Pals in the trenches of the Somme or the funereal years at Osborne on the Isle of Wight of the mourning Queen Victoria.
Maconie visits sleepy lost places like Arkholme (just a few miles away as I write) or the depressed town of Jarrow (origin of the failed hunger march of 1936) and relates them to the mainstream of British history during the twentieth century. Familiar slogans head his chapters, ‘Because it’s there’ (Why did you want to climb Everest?) ‘Not a penny off our pay … Not a minute on our day’ (the miners’ strike of 1926) and his lively narrative informs and amuses as he leads us in ten chapters through ten decades.
‘Maconie is such an enjoyable writer’ says the Guardian critic on the front cover. Indeed he is!