Lynsey Hanley was born and raised just outside of Birmingham on what was then the largest council estate in Europe, and she has lived for years on an estate in London’s East End. Writing with passion, humour and a sense of history, she recounts the rise of social housing a century ago, its adoption as a fundamental right by leaders of the social welfare state in the mid-century and its decline – as both idea and reality – in the 1960s and ’70s. Throughout, Hanley focuses on how shifting trends in urban planning and changing government policies – from Homes Fit for Heroes to Le Corbusier’s concrete tower blocks, to the Right to Buy – affected those so often left out of the argument over council estates: the millions of people who live on them. What emerges is a vivid mix of memoir and social history, an engaging and illuminating book about a corner of society that the rest of Britain has left in the dark.
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