1956: The World in Revolt; 1956: The Year That Changed Britain; 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded – review

This post is by Ian Thomson from Books | The Guardian

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Three books about the postwar era – by Simon Hall, Francis Beckett and Tony Russell, and Jon Savage – chart the end of the ‘great greyness’

Historians love to identify a particular year as world-shaking or otherwise important, and write a book about it. Recently, popular histories have appeared of 1913 (the “year before the storm”), 1968 (“the year of revolt”), and 1980 (the “year of free markets”). By comparison, the 1950s remain oddly neglected. Perhaps the decade is seen as too dreary or drab to have diverted the course of history decisively. Certainly 1950s Britain was a derelict, half-ruined place, where railway carriages were black with grime and bomb damage showed in the big cities. It was the world of the screenwriter Dennis Potter’s “great greyness” – the “feeling of the flatness and bleakness of everyday England”.

In fact, Britain was on the cusp of tumultuous change in the 1950s. ...