Britain in the late 1950s was a highly regimented society, still dominated by the memory of two world wars. The Prime Minster, Harold Macmillan, was a patrician former publisher who was associated in the public mind with the grouse moor, and the Conservative Party he led favoured stability, hierarchy, traditional morality and a conservative resistance to change.
But beneath the surface were pent-up social forces that burst into the open with the Profumo Affair in 1963. In AN ENGLISH AFFAIR, the masterly biographer Richard Davenport-Hines introduces us to a compelling cast of characters -- among them the aristocrat Lord Astor, the society osteopath Stephen Ward, the call-girl Christine Keeler and Minister of War Jack Profumo -- as the story builds to its gripping and deadly climax. In so doing he exposes the hypocrisy and prejudice of a country on the brink of a social revolution.
The ramifications of the scandal were far-reaching. Directly they involved sex, drugs, the English class system, chequebook journalism, criminal underworlds, racism and the birth of Swinging London. Indirectly, they showed the state of England fifty years ago.