ANDREW FFRENCH talks to author Dominic Sandbrook, right, about his latest book chronicling life in 1970s Britain HISTORIAN Dominic Sandbrook, who lives in Chipping Norton, would like to point out he has never been invited to join the infamous phone-hacking set.

The gentle jibe against the establishment is made by publishers on the dustjacket of his recent account of the second half of the 20th century, Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979.

When I ask the author, who was born ten days before the October 1974 election, what he would say to Rebekah Brooks, her husband Charlie, or other members of the ‘Chipping Norton set’, he gives a slightly surprising response.

“I haven’t bumped into any of them so far on my trips into town to buy batteries but a lot of them don’t really live in Chipping Norton, they live behind high walls in surrounding villages,” he tells The Guide.

“But I don’t know what I would say if I bumped into them – I would probably be lost for words.”

It would be one of the few times the Oxford-educated historian had experienced such an affliction as his latest 970-page volume, and numerous newspaper columns, clearly demonstrate.

Since Never Had It So Good, Sandbrook’s account of 1956-1963 which looked back at the Suez Crisis and the Profumo scandal, the author has carved out a niche for himself as an expert on recent history.

And his expertise has attracted the attention of TV bosses, who asked him to articulate his views on the troubled times of the 1970s for a four-part weekly series called The Seventies, which started on April 16 on BBC2.

With a four-month-old son to look after and his first TV series getting positive reviews, perhaps Sandbrook himself has never had it so good, although he remains modest about his abilities as a presenter.

“The script for one episode is as short as one chapter, so you can only give people a flavour of what is in the book, but the truth of the matter is that you reach a bigger swathe of the population on TV,” he explains.

“I was very green and inept at first as a presenter but I have been working with some very experienced people and they have managed to disguise my inexperience.

“I have been delighted with the reaction to the series and hopefully some people will now go on to read the books – we got 2.7 million viewers for the first episode, which is very good for a BBC2 history show.”

When State of Emergency, Sandbrook’s book on Britain from 1970-1974, was published in 2010, the economy had already nosedived and the parallels between seventies Britain and the current era of austerity were already being highlighted by social commentators.

Sandbrook knows there has never been a better time to publish a social study of the 1970s, examining the politics and culture of the day.

The author has his rivals but his prose stands out. It is packed with detailed analysis and lively quotes and is rarely dull.

When Sandbrook recounts how the Sex Pistols, inset, stormed the music scene, he details the dialogue between the band members and Today programme presenter Bill Grundy.

Although the conversation is not fit to be repeated in a family newspaper, it does make fascinating reading.

As does the author’s analysis of the country’s collapsing economy, the threat of terrorism, race riots, and the triumph of the Grantham grocer’s daughter who would change our fortunes forever.

“If you are studying the Anglo-Saxons, there are times when you struggle to make out what has happened because of the lack of sources but with the 1970s, you drown in sources and it’s a question of what to leave out.”

As Sandbrook’s latest volume clocks in at almost 1,000 pages, it appears that he may not have left out very much.

When I spoke to the author in 2010 he hinted that Seasons in the Sun would be the last in the book series, but now he is having second thoughts and a study of the 1980s could be on the cards.

“I wouldn’t want to do this forever but I wouldn’t rule out the 1980s at all,” admits Sandbrook.

“After finishing Seasons in the Sun I thought ‘that will do’ but people keep coming up to me and saying ‘you’ve got to do Thatcher and the Falklands’.

“There were two miners’ strikes in the 1970s and they had some public support but when Thatcher took them on in the 1980s they were fighting for their lives.

“The BBC has been running a seventies music show after the history programme and I think people have enjoyed the nostalgia element.

“If the BBC ever asked me to make a programme about the 1980s I would be delighted.”

* Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 is published by Allen Lane, price £30.