The early 1980s in Britain were a time of hope, and of dread: of Cold War tension and imminent conflict, when crowds in the street could mean an ecstatic national celebration or an inner-city riot. This book tells about often misunderstood moment of transition, with all its potential and uncertainty.
In the cold, dark summer of 1981, crowds gathering in Britain's streets could mean a royal wedding - or a riot. Margaret Thatcher's government, taking power on a promise of renewal, seemed in catastrophic decline. Britain remained troubled, inward-looking, run down by recession, transfixed by the threat of nuclear war. Yet, within this bleak landscape, something was stirring. Promised You A Miracle is the extraordinary untold story of Britain's revolution in the head- a shift in mass consciousness in which an old, self-doubting nation was transformed into something else- outward-looking, materialistic, colourful, lonely and cruel. In the early eighties, a new world was messily brought into being- a miner's son transformed the rubble-strewn flatness of London's docklands into a new city centre of high rise and high finance; austere post-punk bands abandoned their leftwing politics and grey overcoats for glossy transatlantic careers; a loose-tongued, PR-savvy young socialist seized London's city hall; and a small start-up in west Yorkshire, in the middle of the Falklands war, made a gadget the size of a gold bar that stopped the British task force from being blown apart. Leading us into these years of brittle optimism and upheaval, Andy Beckett asks why Britain changed so rapidly and fundamentally; what it felt like to be part of this convulsive change - or to be left behind; and how people were swept up in it, sometimes without realising. Yet the effects of this revolution would ripple outwards, across the world - and we are still living with the consequences, happily or otherwise.
“An anthology of an age . . . A book that offers so much pleasure and insight”
As the present government turns daily to the early 80s playbook, Andy Beckett's Promised You a Miracle, a rich survey of those troubled years, could not be more timely. Most innovative, if uncomfortable, is his teasing out of what he calls "secret Thatcherites", which included many readers of this paper -- David Kynaston, Guardian 'Books of the Year' Andy Beckett's Promised You a Miracle took us back to the first three years of [the 80s], showing how the new individualist zeitgeist extended deep even into those parts of society most opposed to Thatcherism -- Financial Times, 'Books of the Year' An anthology of an age ... A book that offers so much pleasure and insight -- Ian Jack Guardian Austin Metros and Chariots of Fire, cricket balls and petrol bombs, Sloane Rangers and Boys from the Blackstuff ... Andy Beckett's lively and even-handed account of two years in the life of modern Britons is bracingly anti-nostalgic. Focusing sharply on key players and events, he teases out the paradoxes of those sharp-elbowed and irony-free times, and leaves the reader with provoking questions about how we got here from there -- Hilary Mantel Promised You a Miracle is intelligent, entertaining, readable, convincing and timely. It is history well told and properly done -- Daniel Finkelstein The Times Beckett is a lucid, focussed writer ... There is a wry, shrewd humanity to his historical interests -- Richard Davenport-Hines Observer A breezy and very intelligent anatomy of the years 1980-82 ... This is not conventional political history - and is all the better for it. Beckett is as interested in the flowering of independent television production companies and the regeneration of London's Docklands as he is in monetarism, the Falklands War and the assault on the trade unions -- Jonathan Derbyshire Prospect [A] gripping mixture of contemporary history and vivid reportage -- John Campbell Independent Those who lived through the early eighties - who spent all that time wondering what the hell was going to happen next - will enjoy Beckett's work because it validates what at times seemed like a waking dream, or sometimes a waking nightmare. For those too young, the book is valuable as a reminder that there were other times in recent history when it seemed everything was beginning to slide -- Jamie Kenny Big Issue Beckett has a fine eye for detail -- Andrew Neather Evening Standard [Beckett] mixes history, journalism and autobiography. He has a strong sense of place -- Richard Vinen Literary Review The appeal of Beckett's book is that he succeeds in showing rather than merely telling us why his chosen period was pivotal in the life of the nation. For those who lived through all the turbulence, as I did, it reawakens memories and helps reconnect you with the person you once were. For those who did not, or who cannot remember, it recounts well how an old nation roused itself from slumber and dared to change the course on which it seemed set -- Jason Cowley New Statesman
Andy Beckett writes for the Guardian. He has also written for the Economist, The New York Times magazine, the London Review of Books and the Independent on Sunday. His previous books are When the Lights Went Out and Pinochet in Piccadilly.