Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990

In This Review

Hope and Glory: Britain 1900-1990

By Peter Clarke
Allen Lane, 1997
454 pp. $29.95
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A historian from Cambridge, Clarke has written a fine history of twentieth- century Britain that focuses on economic and social developments more than political and parliamentary affairs. It gives a fair presentation of major issues, controversial questions, and the author's own point of view. He is far less apocalyptic about Britain's decline than many other writers, and emphasizes the degree to which Britain's postwar story is not so bleak: Britain's economy "enjoyed secular growth unprecedented in its history" from 1945 to 1990. But he notes that France and Germany "bounced back from the setback of the Second World War more effectively than the only combatant European country to remain unconquered throughout." Also on the negative side, Clarke finds that "Thatcher achieved her victories at a terrible cost, usually borne by others" and relied more on "improvisation than she liked to think." He concludes that the "most obvious missed opportunity" was Britain's failure to join the Common Market early on.