The book gives a view of life in a district of industrial Manchester, essentially from the period of 1900 up to the time of the 1939-45 War. Although it relates to a particular area in a particular city, during a particular period, the picture of life it portrays has applicability to similar areas in similar towns and cities. It should therefore appeal to anyone interested in life as it was then lived, and as it might apply to all times and places.
It will tell why the period the book covers came to be the way it was; and then tell why the present period came to be as it is. From this, the reader will gain understanding of a time in which their immediate antecedents lived; and thereby gain a deep and useful insight into the whys of the present time in which they, themselves, live.
Much of the hardships and (what may be surprising to the present period) the satisfying aspects of that time are described through the experiences of people who lived through those decades; and the social conditions, as they then existed, are portrayed within the circumstances of their lives and the communities in which they lived.
Another important subject the book covers is why what we believe were the impoverished early decades of the 20th century happened to have an excedingly low crime-rate. For example: figures produced by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicate that for the years between 1920-1930 the average recorded violent crimes against the person was 5,368 per annum for the whole of England and Wales. For the years between 1990 to 2000, the corresponding average is 290,873. Even allowing for the increase in population, this represents one hell of a difference between the two times.
Prime Minister Mr Tony Blair acknowledged this aspect of the first half of the last century in his speech Our Nation's Future - Criminal Justice (23 June 2006) when he said: "As the 20th Century opened the number of crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales per head of population were at the lowest since the first statistics were published in 1857." In the same speech he went on to say: "By 1997 the number of crimes recorded by the police was 57 times greater then in 1900."
The big and insistent question the book asks is: "Why?".
In attempting to answer this enormously important but perplexing question, the type of community-policing then employed and the attitudes of that particular era towards crime is extensively covered. In the context of this, the values and beliefs generally held in the pre-1939 communities are considered as a possible contributing factor in maintaining their low crime-rate. The implicit comparison between then and now, that emerges throughout the book, may offer insights into the possible causes of socially corrosive problems which seems to be "burning holes" in the fabric of our present-day society.
On the lighter side, the book offers a dramatic but sometimes amusing scene of life as lived in the streets of those old communities: much of it seen through the eyes of the children of that time; whose greatest excitements arose from "playing in the street". This theme is of particular relevance to present-day concerns about childhood, and particularly concerning the way children play. The relevant chapters portrays the "real play" that children, when left to their own devices, naturally generate.
The publication also extensively explores the various "folk remedies" used to cure or ward of ailments - some of these effective, some amusing, and, in the present day and age of complex and highly "sophisticated" medicine, some completely unbelievable.
In addition, the book presents the excitements of early technological advances - such as the first talking pictures and the development of air-flight.
Furthermore - and striking another "note" - the popular music enjoyed at that time is extensively delved into; especially where it relates to the "temperament" of the period concerned.
The portrayal of a now vanished way of life the publication provides will offer ideal material for those who are studying - or wish to study - the social history of the periods covered.
More especially, anyone who reads the book will find that they've gained an entertaining and sometimes startling insight into Different Times.
Review of the book DIFFERENT TIMES appearing in the Book Briefs section of the Summer 2006 issue of "This England" magazine, and reproduced below by the kind permission of that magazine.
"All those growing up in a large pre-war town will be interested in DIFFERENT TIMES, a reconstruction by William Jones of the social life of industrial children and their menial surroundings. Based on his mother's childhood memories from inner-city Manchester, and with the help of line-drawings and photographs, the author recreates everything from street games to funerals, stopping at all stations in between. Times were hard yet friends and neighbours were generous in a way which can only be marvelled at today. Each of the 37 chapters can be dipped into at will and in any order."
The 398 page paperback is bound in a high quality cover, containing 37 Chapters and 42 illustrations.
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ISBN 0775202104 Title: Different Times
William Kenneth Jones
New Generation Publishing
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