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The Vanished Landscape: A 1930s Childhood in the Potteries

Paul Johnson

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Biography: general, Memoirs, Prose: non-fiction

Paul Johnson recalls, with warmth and affection, his childhood in the Potteries - and a unique industrial landscape that has now gone for ever

Paul Johnson, the celebrated historian, grew up in Tunstall, one of the six towns around Stoke-on-Trent that made up the Potteries'. From an early age he was fascinated by the strange beauty of its volcanic landscape of fiery furnaces belching out heat and smoke. As a child he often accompanied his father - headmaster of the local art school and desperate to find jobs for his students, for this was the Hungry Thirties - to the individual pottery firms and their coal-fired ovens. His adored mother and father are at the heart of this story and his older sisters who, as much as his parents, brought him up. Children made their own amusements to an extent unimaginable today, and his life was extraordinarily free and unsupervised. No door was locked - Poverty was everywhere but so were the Ten Commandments.' These pages recall the joys of going to school on a minor branch-line - the 1930s were the tail-end of the great age of rail in England - and the eccentricities and ferocity of grown-ups in an age before political correctness. The book ends in 1938 as the author queues at the town-hall for a gas mask.

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Paul Johnson

Born in 1928, Paul Johnson has written over 30 books and is one of Britain's leading historians. His book Modern Times has been translated into 15 languages. A former editor of the New Statesman, he is a frequent contributor to newspapers throughout the world.

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