Howard Williamson's 'Five Years' was a ground-breaking study of youth, poverty and crime in the 1970s. At its close, the boys he interviewed were left with few prospects and bleak futures.
Twenty-five years later, Williamson returns to find out the sort of men these boys have become and narrates their stories in this extraordinary book. Of the original group of 67 boys, seven are dead -- not one of natural causes. Williamson tracked down half of those remaining. Here they tell of their personal, family and social relationships, legal and illegal work, their experiences of the criminal justice system, and money. Contrary to what one might expect, their lives are startlingly diverse.
The Milltown Boys Revisited is a riveting account of life on the edge during the Thatcher and Blair governments. It tells stories of dignity, human betterment and escape, of fatalism on the margins of criminal and drug cultures, and also of getting by in difficult circumstances. It is as much a celebration of individual resilience as an account of risk and vulnerability in the lives of the dispossessed.
'A compelling account of how young people navigate the treacherous waters into adulthood, despite rather ineffective social policies. Williamson's unique role for the past 30 years as a researcher, practitioner and policy adviser provides powerful insights into how our society has helped or hindered the young, especially those growing up on the margins of the labour market and of criminality.' Tom Wylie, Director of the National Youth Agency 'Williamson's masterly effort to produce a longitudinal study (a rarity in youth research) is not only standard-setting in its methodology, but also an example of how distant intimacy like this is required in participant observation - thus it is sociology and education at the same time. Williamson does not guess about young people, he knows.' Peter Lauritzen, Head of Department Education and Training, Research, Communication and Youth Policy, Council of Europe, Directorate for Youth and Sport, Strasbourg 'Williamson provides a unique insight into the way young people think - particularly those we would now describe as "socially excluded" ... a unique and valuable perspective on our times.' Rt. Hon. Alun Michael MP 'Twenty years after his acclaimed study of problem teenagers on a Cardiff council estate, Howard Williamson went back to find out what became of them...On a personal level, what he found was in many ways heartening. Professionally, it left him profoundly ambivalent towards much of what he had come to believe about how social exclusion works.' Patrick Butler, Society Guardian 'His findings are a fascinating study of what happens to young men from a disadvantaged estate. Howard Williamson's detailed account of the nitty-griity of the lives of disadvantaged young men teaches more than many books on theory. I hope that he will undertake a study of the Milltown girls.' Bob Holman, YoungMinds Magazine 'Howard Williamson has written a gem. I think it will last and shine. What stayed with me was the elegant weaving and editing of lives to bring these men alive on the page. Williamson has put his skill and time to reflect and tell the unfolding truth.' Jonathan Roberts, Youth and Policy 'This is an extraordinary book and is possibly unique. It combines the rigour of social science method with being immensely readable. It has rightly received considerable attention. It offers a meticulous and scholarly but accessible and insightful account. All credit to Williamson for an excellent critique of social policy, a methodolically innovative study and a meticulously measured one which remains a riveting account of the lives of the boys.' Planet, The Welsh Internationalist