Priestley's England is the first full-length academic study of J B Priestley - velist, playwright, screen-writer, journalist and broadcaster, political activist, public intellectual and popular entertainer, one of the makers of twentieth-century Britain, and one of its sharpest critics. The book explores the cultural, literary and political history of twentieth-century Britain through the themes which preoccupied Priestley throughout his life: competing versions of Englishness; tradition, modernity, and the decline of industrial England; 'Americanisation', mass culture and 'Admass'; cultural values and 'broadbrow' culture; consumerism and the decay of the public sphere; the loss of spirituality and community in 'the nervous excitement, the frenzy, the underlying despair of our century'. It argues that Priestley has been unjustly neglected for too long: we have a great deal to learn both from this extraordinary, multi-faceted man, and from the English radical tradition he represented. This book will appeal to all those interested in the culture and politics of twentieth-century Britain, in the continuing debates over 'Englishness' to which Priestley made such a key contribution, and in the life and work of one of the most remarkable and popular writers of the past century.
John Baxendale is Visiting Fellow in History at Sheffield Hallam University