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John Betjeman and Nikolaus Pevsner were opposites. Both, however, had a profound influence on the way Britain looks today. This polemical book charts their contemporaneous rise as style warriors. In Pevsner's case, his transformation from a respected German art historian, specialising in Mannerism, to the determined exponent of international modernism, intent on the imposition of a functional townscape upon post-war Britian. In Betjeman's, his conversion from idealistic young journalist, acclaiming the dawn of the machine age, concrete, steel and all, to the great lyric poet, who, in, mourning the destruction of our historic landmarks and towns, effectively launched the 'Heritage Industry'.

As Tim Mowl reveals in this compelling and original study, the two rivals became, behind a polite façade, irreconcilable foes who fought for the supremacy of their alternative visions until the same fatal illness struck them down. Pevsner through his respected critical works and, above all, his magisterial series The Buildings of England, rigidly academic in approach if shot through with modernist bias. Betjeman through his editorship of the Shell Guides, his poetry and his television programmes which celebrated the parochial, rather than the monumental, fabric of English life.