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Two cheers for democracy

In his grand study of Britain's democratic traditions, David Marquand offers a history that is also a masterclass in politics

By Michael Kenny   November 2008

Britain Since 1918: The Strange Career of British Democracy by David Marquand (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25)

In this major new account of 20th-century British history, David Marquand depicts Harold Wilson as a politician who preferred to see the trees to the wood. It’s a witty and useful metaphor to bear in mind when approaching the literary genre that has grown up around the political history of 20th-century Britain. Many of Marquand’s predecessors placed us right in the middle of a beguiling cacophony of personalities, rows, plots and crises. We know a lot about some of the trees of our past…

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