A History of Modern Britain:

17 March 2006

The series will be accompanied by a series of events on tv, radio, on-line and in locations all over Britain

* A book published by Macmillan

* Related programming on BBC4

* Complementary coverage on local radio

* On-Line activities and website

* Major partnership with a national newspaper

The BBC would also like to invite museums, libraries and archives across Britain to take up the themes of the series and create complementary exhibitions and activities to coincide with the transmission of the series in the Spring of 2007.

For more information please contact Chris Granlund, Series Producer

0208 752 6966 or [email protected]


Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain is an epic account of the events that have shaped our lives since the end of the Second World War. Using archive and stills, dynamic sequences of Andrew Marr’s journey across Britain, anecdote and analysis this national saga charts the evolution of Britain’s place in the world since the Second World War: the collapse of Empire, an uneasy truce with former enemies and allies in Europe, tensions in our ‘special relationship’ with the United States. Drawing on his detailed knowledge of contemporary politics and first-hand experience of the people who rule Britain today, Andrew Marr helps us make sense of ourselves in the context of our modern history.

In each of the five episodes in this ambitious history, Andrew Marr explores the drama of the landmark events that made us what we are today. He also uncovers fascinating anecdotes and teases out the details that reveal the impact of national and international events on the people of Britain. Drawing on political biography, diaries and memoirs, Marr takes us behind the scenes to glimpse the dramatic confrontations and crafty manoeuvres in Cabinet meetings, each piece of personal and political gossip bringing to life the dramas of the recent past.

While Nehru declares Indian Independence to tumultuous crowds in India, we find Enoch Powell wandering, distraught and alone, through the night-time streets of London. When the whole country freezes over in the terrible winter of 1947 we hear accounts of the plight of ordinary people unable to believe the price of victory in World War Two. During the Suez crisis we discover the confusion of British troops suddenly called back to Britain after United States intervention. During the miners’ strike of the 1980s we explore the impact of bitter divisions between working and striking miners as well as trades union leaders and politicians. On the death of Diana we discover the story behind Tony Blair’s ‘People’s Princess’ statement, and explore the extraordinary background to the decision to go to war with Iraq.

From World War Two to Iraq, Andrew Marr’s History of Modern Britain casts new light on a very British identity crisis - from Imperial and industrial heights, through muddled decline, to devolution and uneasy cultural and economic renaissance. It’s the story of the decades that took us from victory to despair, from international power and glory to humiliation and decline, from economic ruin to stubborn new hopes and promises of yet another new dawn. History as a series of stories. Our story.

Programme One

Advance Britannia

Victorious but badly beaten up and nearly bankrupt the British people respond to Churchill’s rallying cry ‘Advance Britannia’ by ejecting him from office in favour of a radical Labour government. An eccentric band of high-minded socialists and idealists, they set out to re-define Britain’s post-imperial role and identity in the modern world. This film establishes the themes and challenges that have shaped British culture and politics in the modern era.

On the home front, Labour sets aside huge sums of money to realise to key elements of their programme: the creation of the modern Welfare State and the nationalisation of essential industries. As India, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of Empire, wins independence, Britain suffers the worst winter in living memory, with more meagre rations even than wartime. The crisis of national survival intensifies.

At the same time, efforts are made to carve out and finance a new role as a world power in the post-war landscape: re-building the British zone of occupation in Germany, buying the bomb, signing up with the US for war in Korea – costly endeavours which jeopardise the heroic vision of a New Jerusalem and threaten to take the country from bankruptcy to self-destruction.

Programme Two

White Hot Dawn

Britain’s dreams of independent world power status are shattered by the United States order to withdraw from Suez. The Empire continues to unravel but British imperial dreams are now fed by the idea of a powerful multi-racial commonwealth. As France and Germany’s combined economic power increases, De Gaulle denies Britain entry to the European club. On the home front, the British people are emerging from the age of austerity. The subjects of the ‘New Elizabethan Age’ experience a modest economic boom, and Harold Macmillan observes, ‘You’ve never had it so good’. Britain is on the brink of dramatic social change and a consumerist explosion. When Harold Wilson conjures up the image of a future driven by the ‘white heat of technology’, he captures the imagination of a people hungry for progress even though the nation’s infrastructure is still distinctly Victorian. Britain’s second Labour government also heralds the dawn of the ‘permissive’ or ‘civilised’ society. Let the good times roll…and enjoy them while you can.

Programme Three

Rock Bottom

From Wilson’s failure to the collapse of the Callaghan government – Britain undergoes a national breakdown. This film confronts the causes and the extent of national decline. Industrial malaise, low investment, class and generational conflict, Vietnam, race riots, paranoia and the shadow of the Soviet threat. Neither Left nor Right seem to have the answer to Britain’s problems. The ‘Common Market’ expands and prospers; Britain finally joins the Club after a bitterly contested referendum. Still we struggle to overcome our reputation as ‘the sick man of Europe’.

Under Edward Heath, British industry is reduced to working a three-day week, homes are lit by candle-light during an enforced rationing of electricity and we are haunted again by the shadows of wartime austerity. Intractable industrial conflict leads Heath to raise the question ‘who governs Britain…?’ The people’s response: ‘Not you!’ Labour is returned to power. Later, Labour suffers its own crisis of authority in the ‘Winter of Discontent’. The Labour Party turns to the Left and the Tories look to the free market for solutions. Meanwhile nationalist discontent in Scotland and Wales and war in Northern Ireland pose even more disturbing questions that never seem to find convincing answers: what is Britain? And is ‘Britishness’ still a viable national identity?

Programme Four

The Raunchy Right

Promising to restore order, confidence and national pride, Margaret Thatcher unleashes a dramatic and divisive transformation of British society. In a period of extreme ideological polarisation, British identity is re-defined by the global market. Striking miners and sections of the Trades Union movement are demonised as ‘the enemy within’. Imperial visions stir again as the fleet sails for the Falklands. Having won power with the promise to restore traditional British values, the Thatcher government unleashes a whirlwind of privatisation and de-regulation that amounts to a cultural, economic and political revolution. Rescue operation or final act of self-destruction? This film explores the extent to which Britain was re-invented by Thatcherism and examines the new ways of life that emerged with the penetration of market forces into every area of British life.

Programme Five

Cool Britannia

Drawing on the patterns of the past and his first-hand experience of the Blair government in action, Marr examines the culture and politics of today’s Britain. What would our 1940s forbears make of us now? What strange breed has emerged from the vortex of post-war British history? Our continued attachment to the National Health Service might be a reassuring sign of continuity. But otherwise the national landscape has been transformed both politically and culturally. Amid the many failures, compromises and disappointments, Marr suggests, the agonized debates about our fractured national identity and our post-imperial place in the world are reaching a kind of resolution. Golden Age or a land of lost opportunities? Andrew Marr’s final film is an up-to-the-minute analysis of the state of the nation.

Partnerships and Calls to Action across Britain

Each programme in the series will end with a call to action through activities on-line and through local radio, libraries and resource centres. Different regions will be invited to target different themes according to local experience, interest and resources available.

These activities would draw on photographs and personal memories of events covered in the series. There might also be a short story competition.

The aim would be to build up an on-line database of people’s anecdotes, memories and images on themes as varied as: VE Day, the winter of 1947, the birth of the National Health Service, Indian Independence, the Coronation; the Lady Chatterly trial, the three-day week, the miners’ strike, the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, the day New Labour came to power, the death of Princess Diana.

The series will be transmitted in Spring 2007.

Transmission date to be confirmed by May 2006.

MLA North West
Ground Floor, The Malt Building, Wilderspool Park, Greenalls Avenue, Warrington WA4 6HL
Tel: 01925 625050 | Fax: 01925 243453

Source: https://mlanorthwest.org.uk/news/index.asp