A TIMES POLITICAL BOOK OF THE YEAR
A LONGMAN/HISTORY TODAY BOOK OF THE YEAR
The award-winning history of the British Welfare State –
now fully revised and updated for the 21st Century.
‘A masterpiece’ Sunday Times
Giant Want. Giant Disease. Giant Ignorance. Giant Squalor. Giant Idleness.
These were the Five Giants that loomed over the post-war reconstruction of Britain. The battle against them was fought by five gargantuan programmes that made up the core of the Welfare State: social security, health, education, housing and a policy of full employment.
This book brilliantly captures the high hopes of the period in which the Welfare State was created and the cranky zeal of its inventor, William Beveridge, telling the story of how his vision inspired an entire country. The pages of this modern classic hum with the energies and passions of activists, dreamers and ordinary Britons, and seethe with personal vendettas, forced compromises, awkward contradictions, and the noisy rows of the succeeding seventy years. The Five Giants is a testament to a concept of government that is intertwined with so many of our personal histories, and a stark reminder of what we might stand to lose.
‘Why make a book that was first published in 1995 one of the political books of the year? Because this third edition of the classic history of the welfare state adds 16 years to the previous account. Anyone who hasn’t read Five Giants will want to start at the beginning, particularly for the excellent account of the founding of the NHS. But those with previous editions will find, for instance, the explanation of how the Lansley health reforms went wrong riveting’ Danny Finkelstein, The Times
‘For years now, old copies of The Five Giants have been changing hands in Westminster for dizzying sums – and for a simple reason. Other books just offer fragments of the story of British government, only this gives you the full picture. I lend my copy to new recruits at The Spectator not as history but as a guide to what they will encounter – and how the same problems keep surfacing again and again. The facts and the figures, the jokes and one-liners, the power and the personality – The Five Giants has it all. It's possible to understand modern Britain without reading this book, but it's just a lot harder (and a lot less fun)’ Fraser Nelson, Spectator
‘Nicholas Timmins has done something extraordinary: he has made a masterpiece of contemporary history even better. Updated, extended and more relevant than ever, this book is quite simply indispensable’ Matthew d'Ancona
‘A tour de force – thoroughly researched and vividly written’ Sunday Times
About the author
Nicholas Timmins has been Public Policy Editor of the Financial Times since 1996. Before that he was with the Independent for a decade from its foundation., working variously as its health and social services correspondent , politcal correspondent and its public policy editor. He previously held similar posts at The Times. He has also worked for the Press Association and Nature. He has therefore been reporting on the events covered in this, his first book, for twenty years.