The century began with British troops at war in South Africa, and majors, colonels and privates recall their part in the action. The death of Queen Victoria led to the streets of London being lined with funeral spectators, and the subsequent coronation of Edward VII in 1902 lent the nation a mood of 'lightheartedness, sparkle and glamour'. Meanwhile theatregoers and music hall audiences were being entertained by Henry Irving and Marie Lloyd.
A multitude of vox pops offer fascinating insights into life in the 1900, the manners, fashion, discipline, religion, alcohol, and sport. Voices of ordinary people are mixed with those whose names still resonate today: writer Compton Mackenzie, playwright Ben Travers, Marconi the radio pioneer, suffragette's daughter Sylvia Pankhurst, and Violet Bonham-Carter.
Captivating, revelatory, thought-provoking, and very often moving, these are the authentic voices of the past, speaking to the present.
©2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd.; (P)2004 BBC Audiobooks Ltd.
This is the first installment of the 'Eyewitness' history of the 20th Century. It's very much a British history of the century, although it tries, with mixed success, to be not unduly parochial.
The narration is flawless, and the contemporaneous or 'real-life' footage is well chosen and genuinely adds to the history.
My only complaint, and it is a slight one, is that the excellent recounting of the Boer War and its impact on British sensibilities is not quite matched in quality by the remainder of the installment. But maybe that's as it was!
"Excellent beginning to an excellent series"
This is why I love audio, here we have the first 10 years of the 20th century voiced by the people who lived through it. The interviews are insightful, with added bonuses of hearing singers of the day such as Dame Clara Butts and Marie Lloyd. More informative than and entertaining than most books on the subject, this should be on anybodies wish-list.
"Listening to the Past"
If you are interested in getting an insight into life and events in the 20th Century this series is an excellent introduction. I was sceptical about versions covering the early decades because radio was in its infancy and the BBC had not been set up. But many of the people living through those decades were alive in the Thirties and later and were interviewed on their experiences.
The book covers the decade in a broadly chronological order but digresses for major topics such as the suffragettes and attitudes to the death of Queen Victoria and the monarchy. There is a connecting commentary but the voices from the past are allowed to speak for themselves. This allows you to draw your own conclusions, as I did with the languid man telling us that in the old days the maids would carry hot water up from the basement kitchen to the upper bedrooms for washing ?and they didn?t mind one bit, not one bit?. Another voice that stuck me was the feisty suffragette marching on Downing Street and firmly telling a police threatening her with arrest for obstructing the police that it was he who was preventing her from doing her duty in speaking to the Prime Minister. She still got a month in jail from an unsympathetic magistrate.
The voices range from amusing to sad and the incidents from high matters to state to the pathetic death of a pauper child and you are left with a picture of a time that was so similar to our own in some ways but so different in others. A truly fascinating listen.
"The very best in Audiobooks"
I had no idea that the BBC had produced this excellent history series. There are ten parts and they are a fantastic listen which really mine the BBC Archives and bring together some great first hand accounts. This is what an audiobook is really about, these are totally compelling.
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