One of our most celebrated historians shows how we can use the lessons of the past to build a new post-covid society in Britain
The ‘duty of care’ which the state owes to its citizens is a phrase much used, but what has it actually meant in Britain historically? And what should it mean in the future, once the immediate Covid crisis has passed?
In A Duty of Care, Peter Hennessy divides post-war British history into BC (before covid) and AC (after covid). He looks back to Sir William Beveridge’s classic identification of the ‘five giants’ against which society had to battle – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness – and laid the foundations for the modern welfare state in his wartime report. He examines the steady assault on the giants by successive post-war governments and asks what the comparable giants are now. He lays out the ‘road to 2045’ with ‘a new Beveridge’ to build a consensus for post-covid Britain with the ambition and on the scale that was achieved by the first.