This volume contains 50 years of British history seen through the lives of a disparate group of figures who make up the second Elizabethan age.
Nick Clarke writes: 'Something dramatic - some would say traumatic - has happened to British society in the 50 years since the Coronation. We may have avoided world war, but almost all the certainties of Coronation year (1953) have been dispersed. Where did they go? Should we regret their loss? Or have the decades of economic growth been matched by a parallel improvement in our lives that makes both questions irrelevant?' Clarke's approach is what he calls 'slivers of history', a chronicle of change marked out in the experiences of a few notable men and women, as well as critical perceptions of their lives and works. His final list of eminent 20th century Elizabethans concentrates on half a dozen, whereas his model, Lytton Strachey, he points out, originally had twelve, before cutting these to four. Clarke's subjects are: Elizabeth David and Delia Smith (representing the extraordinary transformation in our consumer habits since 1953), David Frost (the media), Arthur Scargill (the unions), Maurice Saatchi (advertising); and for royalty (Princess Margaret) . Unlike Strachey who used only written sources, Clarke, best known as the presenter of R4's 'World at One' also conducted interviews with his subjects' friends and foes. Clarke has also drawn on the experiences of his father John Clarke, a noted Fleet Street journalist, as well as his own memories to show how life in Britain has changed in the 50 years since the Coronation of the Queen.