WINNER OF THE POLITICAL BOOK AWARDS POLITICAL HISTORY BOOK OF THE YEAR 2014.
Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the Profumo scandal, An English Affair is a sharp-focused snapshot of a nation on the brink of social revolution.
Britain in 1963 – Harold Macmillan was the Prime Minister of a Conservative government, dedicated to tradition, hierarchy and, above all, old-fashioned morality. But a breakdown of social boundaries saw nightclub hostesses mixing with aristocrats, and middle-class professionals dabbling in criminality. Meanwhile, Cold War paranoia gripped the public imagination.
The Profumo Affair was a perfect storm, and when it broke it rocked the Establishment. In ‘An English Affair’, the author of the critically-acclaimed ‘Titainic Lives’ Richard Davenport-Hines brings Swinging London to life. The cast of players includes the familiar – louche doctor Stephen Ward, good-time girls Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies, and Secretary for War John Profumo himself. But we also encounter the tabloid hacks, property developers and hangers-on whose roles have, until now, never been fully revealed.
Sex, drugs, class, race, chequebook journalism and the criminal underworld – the Profumo Affair had it all. This is the story of how Sixties England cast off respectability and fell in love with scandal.
Independent on Sunday Books of the Year ‘Wonderful and exacting’
Mail on Sunday Books of the Year ‘A breakneck thriller and a brilliant dissection of the times’
Independent on Sunday Books of the Year ‘This is more than simply an overview of the affair…Davenport-Hines skewers an entire society’
‘A wonderful evocation of the period; a Rolls-Royce ride, with that hugely enjoyable sense of a writer being op top of his material and perfectly attuned to his subject’ David Kynaston, author of ‘Austerity Britain’
‘An outstandingly evocative portrait of a hinge moment in our recent history, as well as a treasure trove of anecdotes’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
‘Fascinating … a meticulous and witty portrait of a society built on the shaky foundations of snobbery, suspicion, hypocrisy and sexual anxiety’ Mail on Sunday
‘Mesmerising. Brilliantly researched, irresistibly readable, fiercely polemical, ‘An English Affair’ ought to sit on the desk of everyone who voices a view on the entanglement of politics, media and celebrity … No book about the British past this year will cast a fiercer light on the British present’ Independent
‘His research is impeccable and the story told with lip-smacking relish’ Daily Express
‘A superb book’ Evening Standard
‘[The Profumo Affair] has found a marvellous chronicler in Davenport-Hines, an incisive writer with a terrific eye for detail’ Sunday Telegraph
‘[A] superb account of the scandal’ Mail on Sunday,
‘[This] livid, lurid but enthralling history of “sex, class and power in the age of Profumo” boasts a rare passion and bravado’ Independent
‘Davenport-Hines is superb on the English … His eye is as shrewd and telling as Anthony Powell’s’ Times
‘It is written in a wonderfully sharp and witty style, and packed with illuminating details’ Craig Brown, Books of the year, Daily Mail
About the author
Richard Davenport-Hines is a historian and biographer. Among his many books are biographies of W. H. Auden and Marcel Proust, and the recent, highly acclaimed, Titanic Lives. A fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature, he reviews regularly for the Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Times and the Times Literary Supplement.