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Ernest Marples (Hardback)

The Shadow Behind Beeching

Transport 20th Century Biographies

By David Brandon, Martin Upham
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 280
Illustrations: 40 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526760180
Published: 30th January 2022

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Ernest Marples revolutionised three UK government departments. At Transport (1959-1964) he appointed Dr Beeching chairman of British Railways and commissioned him to produce his infamous report, inaugurated motorways and introduced significant regulations for motorists. At Housing (1951-1954) he delivered 300,000 new houses annually and as Postmaster General (1957-1959), he reformed Post Office accounting systems and launched postcodes and Subscriber Trunk Dialling. This first biography of Marples uses newly-available archives to examine public and private transport policy, the growing power of the pro-road lobby and the identification of personal freedom with driving. Railway sentimentalism was no match for these.

Marples was lucky not to be implicated in the Profumo Affair which rocked the Conservative Party but his political career was over soon afterwards. Questionable business practices caused his 1975 flight to Monaco hotly pursued by the Inland Revenue. Beeching, unhappy under a Labour government, returned to private industry although he later chaired a Royal Commission. Labour, despite promises, proved little friendlier to the railways but a more positive approach to loss-making passenger services eventually emerged under Barbara Castle.

This book should appeal to those interested in Britain's railways and in mid-Twentieth Century British politics.

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About David Brandon

David Brandon was educated at Manchester University and worked in Adult Education at Further Education Colleges and Universities and later for a major national trade union. Researching and writing since 1997 he has had forty titles published of which he regards the 'flagship' to be a collaborative work published by the National Archives, using their resources to examine the transportation of felons to Australia and other penal colonies. His publications reflect his wide interests which include railways, political and social history, London history, topography, local history and the history of crime.


About Martin Upham

Martin Upham is the author of Britain Explained (2017, revised 2020), editor of A Visitor’s Britain (2000) and numerous reference books including Trades Unions of the World (1993). He holds degrees from Manchester, Bristol and Hull universities. While in Hull he contributed to early volumes of the Dictionary of Labour Biography. He was director of AHA International (London campus of the University of Oregon, now GEO London), 2004-14. During 1975-88 he was Research Officer of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation and a member of the OECD iron and steel working party.

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