The Five Giants [New Edition]: A Biography of the Welfare State Paperback
An accessible and entertaining narrative history of the establishment, development and unravelling of the British Welfare State – now fully revised to cover Blair’s first term. Lively writing in the style of Peter Hennessy.
‘Giant Want. Giant Disease. Giant Ignorance. Giant Squalor. And the insidious Giant Idleness, “which destroys wealth and corrupts men”. These were evils to be vanquished by the postwar reconstruction of Britain. Timmins’ book recaptures brilliantly the high hopes of the period in which the Welfare State began to be created, and conveys the cranky zeal of its inventor, William Beveridge. The onslaught on the five Giants was the work of five gargantuan programmes that made up the core of Beveridge’s Welfare State. These were social security, health, education, housing and a policy of full employment. It is notoriously difficult to write about such subjects and keep the reader reading, but Timmins performs wonders of narrative clarity, anecdote and human detail in a book that finds its chosen level somewhere between Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ and ‘1066 and All That’…There is something very moving about his rhetoric of transformation and ‘The Five Giants’ will stir up strong emotions. It is impossible not to respond in personal terms to a book that is a part of so many of our histories, woven into the day-to-day texture of our lives.’ Fiona MacCarthy, Observer
Beveridge was originally only supposed to sort out the web of insurance services stifling Britain. ‘The Five Giants’ recounts how his original vision and campaign blossomed enormously to inspire a country at war with the hope that the peace might bring comfort and security for all. The tale hums with the energies and passions of activists, dreamers and ordinary Britons, and seethes with personal vendettas, forced compromises, arguments about money, awkward contradictions, noisy rows and fervent perseverance. Nicholas Timmins, who has seen how the Welfare State works every day for the last two decades, assesses the key personalities, the key problems, the key victories and key defeats in his anecdotal, witty and illuminating study of the Welfare State from the 1940s to the present day.