In This Review

Twelve Days That Made Modern Britain
Twelve Days That Made Modern Britain
By Andrew Hindmoor
352 pp, Oxford University Press, 2019

This book romps through 12 transformative moments in the last 40 years of British life, elaborating on the events of a single day for each and its consequences. One can, of course, quibble with some of the choices of important moments. For example, all but one of these seismic days have to do with political or legal developments. Did Hindmoor, a political scientist who generally writes on regulation and public administration, not think to include, for example, the introduction of the commercial Internet in 1992—a more momentous occasion, surely, than the publication of the expenses of members of Parliament in 2008? There are some sloppy lapses in Hindmoor’s research; he gets one of the 12 dates wrong by a year. Nevertheless, the book is strangely entertaining, not least because each chapter summarizes complex events with remarkable clarity, whether describing the terms of the labor union contracts that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed during the 1984 miners’ strike or the considerations affecting Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to hold the 2016 Brexit referendum. On a deeper level, Hindmoor forces the reader to ponder the conditional nature of history. Although some changes seem to have been inevitable—the eventual election of a female prime minister or the legalization of gay marriage, for example—others clearly involved knife-edge decisions that could easily have sent events in a different direction.