*State of Emergency*

Could it be the best non-fiction book so far this year?  The author is Dominic Sandbrook and the subtitle is The Way We Were: Britain, 1970-1974, here is an excerpt:

As a spender, Joseph had only one Cabinet rival: the Education Secretary, Margaret Thatcher.  Derided as the "Milk Snatcher" in 1971 because she had to carry out Macleod's plan to scrap free school milk for children aged between 8 and 11.  Mrs Thatcher was actually a big-spending education chief who secured the funds to raise the leaving age to 16 and to invest £48 million in new buildings.  In December 1972, she even published a White Paper envisaging a massive £1 billion a year for education by 1981, with teaching staff almost doubling and vast amounts of extra cash for polytechnics and nursery schools.  She wanted "expansion, not contraction", she said.  It never happened; if it had, her reputation in the education sector might be very different.

Every page of this book has excellent analysis and information, attractively presented.  It masterfully covers a wide range of topics, ranging from how the British started drinking wine, to how the power cuts affected public morale, to the strategies of British labor unions, to the insightfulness of Fawlty Towers.  It's a key book for understanding how the Thatcher Revolution ever came to pass.

It is simply a first-rate book.  It is out only in the UK, but I was happy to pay the extra shipping charge from UK Amazon, which you too can pay here.  Or maybe try these used sellers.  Some reviews are here.


I really enjoyed the talk Dominic Sandbrook gave at the LSE last week, listened to here --

I haven't read the book but got the impression his lecture tried to give a thorough overview. Engrossing, entertaining, refreshing, convincing. Many of the LSE podcast lectures don't hold my attention till the end. This one did.

Helped me understand contextual stuff I grappled with half-consciously during my adolescence after migrating from Berkley USA. Compared with California, Britain seemed strange. They didn't chew gum and walk at the same time, not until the late 1970s.

Full fat milk thats been sitting in a warm classroom for several hours. Yumm. The symbolism of free school milk somehow hung over Thatcher's head well into the 80s (and you could hang that milk upside down over someone's head a lot of the time). Crazy how things stick with people.

It was so hard sometimes to get the children to drink the milk in my school that they tried flavouring it with strawberry. Bonkers - all they had to do was wait until the grass stopped growing and then the milk naturally tasted of turnips. Delicious!

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