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Sunny Days

Michael Howard, 11 February 1993

Never Again: Britain 1945-51 
by Peter Hennessy.
Cape, 544 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 224 02768 9
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Churchill on the Home Front 1900-1955 
by Paul Addison.
Cape, 493 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 224 01428 5
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... Peter Hennessy has chosen for the dust jacket of Never Again a picture that exactly captures the mood of 1945. A returning British serviceman is being welcomed home by his wife and small son. ‘Home’ is a pre-fab, decked for the occasion with Union Jacks. The wife is wearing a neat, knee-length utility-model dress ...

The Doctrine of Unripe Time

Ferdinand Mount: The Fifties, 16 November 2006

Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 740 pp., £30, October 2006, 0 7139 9571 8
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... as in Eisenhower’s America, but dull nonetheless, not to mention smug. It is not surprising that Peter Hennessy should call his monumental history Having It So Good, nor that Dominic Sandbrook should call his equally monumental recent history of the late 1950s and early 1960s Never Had It So Good. This neatly illustrates the drawback of ...

Institutions

Alan Ryan, 26 November 1987

Ruling Performance: British Governments from Attlee to Thatcher 
edited by Peter Hennessy and Anthony Seldon.
Blackwell, 344 pp., £25, October 1987, 0 631 15645 3
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The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Political Institutions 
edited by Vernon Bogdanor.
Blackwell, 667 pp., £45, September 1987, 0 631 13841 2
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Judges 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 255 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 19 215956 9
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... British polity. To celebrate the launching of the Institute of Contemporary British History, Peter Hennessy and Anthony Sheldon have edited an engaging collection of essays on post-war British governments, starting with Paul Addison on the wartime background to Attlee’s success, and ending with some surprisingly detached reflections on Mrs ...

Grieve not, but try again

N.A.M. Rodger: Submarines, 22 September 2016

The Silent Deep: The Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy and James Jinks.
Allen Lane, 823 pp., £12.99, June 2016, 978 1 84614 580 3
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... submarines into defensive ‘bastions’ in home waters under the ice. In The Silent Deep, Peter Hennessy and James Jinks recount the history of the Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945. Naval history as such is a new departure for Hennessy, but in his extensive writings on politics and society, nuclear power ...

Every Club in the Bag

R.W. Johnson: Whitehall and Moscow, 8 August 2002

The Secret State: Whitehall and the Cold War 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 234 pp., £16.99, March 2002, 0 7139 9626 9
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Know Your Enemy: How the Joint Intelligence Committee Saw the World 
by Percy Cradock.
Murray, 351 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 7195 6048 9
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... and one’s first hatreds.’ The nuclear age transformed the worlds of strategy and Intelligence. Peter Hennessy describes step by step how Britain got the bomb and what it was then used for. From 1945 on, the Chiefs of Staff took it for granted that Britain had to have ‘every club in the bag’, and the RAF began adapting the V-bomber force to deliver ...

Bugger everyone

R.W. Johnson: The prime ministers 1945-2000, 19 October 2000

The Prime Minister: The Office and Its Holders since 1945 
by Peter Hennessy.
Allen Lane, 686 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9340 5
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... Peter Hennessy’s new book hasn’t persuaded me that its central preoccupation, the current dispute over prime ministerial power and its extent, is not sterile and, indeed, rather boring – yet it is a splendid read. The truth is that the Westminster system is quite inadequately democratic and transparent, and Hennessy is, if anything, too respectful and conventional in his proposals about how the office might be reformed ...

Celestial Blue

Matthew Coady, 5 July 1984

Sources Close to the Prime Minister: Inside the Hidden World of the News Manipulators 
by Michael Cockerell and David Walker.
Macmillan, 255 pp., £9.95, June 1984, 0 333 34842 7
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... process are actually doing. We are in the hands of the manipulators, say Messrs Cockerell, Hennessy and Walker, a trio tried in the ways of Fleet Street and Shepherds Bush. The massage has become the message. The accusation is by no means new, though those principally involved in communication between government and governed have always bristled at its ...

Off with her head

John Lloyd, 24 November 1988

Office without Power: Diaries 1968-72 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 562 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 09 173647 1
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... working of Parliament, together with John Biffen and Roy (Lord) Jenkins. Asked by the chairman, Peter Hennessy, if he did not think that the Lords now functioned as a ‘focus of opposition’, Benn responded that it was, instead, ‘part of an attack on democracy. After all, why bother to vote in the next election if you’ve got a friendly peer you ...

Triumph of the Termites

Tom Nairn: Gordon Brown, 8 April 2010

The End of the Party: The Rise and Fall of New Labour 
by Andrew Rawnsley.
Viking, 802 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 670 91851 5
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What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown?: How the Dream Job Turned Sour 
edited by Colin Hughes.
Guardian, 294 pp., £8.99, January 2010, 978 0 85265 219 0
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Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown 
by Christopher Harvie.
Verso, 206 pp., £8.99, February 2010, 978 1 84467 439 8
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... were when Brown took over. ‘Master of his universe’, Rawnsley wrote in the Observer then; Peter Hennessy could recall nothing on this scale since ‘the cross-party war cabinet in 1940’; and Jackie Ashley thought Brown’s early success showed ‘how deeply he can reach into Tory England’. By September last year, however, Martin Kettle was ...

Lunchtime No News

Paul Foot, 27 June 1991

Kill the messenger 
by Bernard Ingham.
HarperCollins, 408 pp., £17.50, May 1991, 0 00 215944 9
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... for a media award these days: undermining of elected authority.’ His second pet hate is Peter Hennessy – one of the very few journalists to explore and expose the inner recesses of the Civil Service. Sir Bernard hates Brian Redhead of the Today programme, which he regards as subversive, hates Mark Lawson of the Independent, whom he describes ...

How we declare war

Conor Gearty: Blair, the Law and the War, 3 October 2002

... is at constant risk from a bout of amnesia. In his recent book on the office of Prime Minister, Peter Hennessy tells the story of how Whitehall forgot how to declare war.* When officials thought it might be useful to know how to do it, just after the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina in 1982, they found that the relevant file was ...

Tony, Ray and the Duchess

Alan Bell, 21 May 1981

A Lonely Business: A Self-Portrait of James Pope-Hennessy 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £12.50, April 1981, 0 297 77918 4
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... James Pope-Hennessy, who was murdered in 1974 when he was 58, will be remembered for several of his books, among them London Fabric, an architectural study made in the nick of time in 1939, a young man’s book which has worn well; the two volumes of his life of Monckton Milnes, Lord Houghton; Verandah of 1964, with its autobiographical element added to family and colonial history; and the excellent Queen Mary (1959), an unusually sympathetic study ...

C (for Crisis)

Eric Hobsbawm: The 1930s, 6 August 2009

The Morbid Age: Britain between the Wars 
by Richard Overy.
Allen Lane, 522 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9563 3
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... in the spectacular understatement of the secret government report on nuclear war of 1955 quoted by Peter Hennessy (‘whether this country could withstand an all-out attack and still be in a state to carry on hostilities must be very doubtful’). To expect to die in the next war, as my contemporaries not unreasonably did in 1939 – Overy quotes my own ...

Joining the Gang

Nicholas Penny: Anthony Blunt, 29 November 2001

Anthony Blunt: His Lives 
by Miranda Carter.
Macmillan, 590 pp., £20, November 2001, 0 333 63350 4
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... London. There are some instances when she might have ignored the testimony she records. John Pope-Hennessy, writing after Blunt’s exposure, said that he had encountered ‘barred passages’ in Blunt’s mind. Had he commented on these sinister subterranean regions at the time it would have been interesting, but only as evidence that Blunt didn’t want ...

You could scream

Jenny Diski, 20 October 1994

Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... you always suspected, but didn’t want to know, is explicitly stated in a quote from James Pope-Hennessy: ‘then it gradually dawns on one that she is entirely uneducated, interested in theosophy, dieting and all other cranky subjects, has conversation so dull that you could scream.’ There it is again, that waking-up-in-the-morning-feeling. See her on ...

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