Diary

A.J.P. Taylor

I have recently read The History Men by John Kenyon. I remember reading a different book, The History Man by Malcolm Bradbury, some years ago. I did not find Bradbury’s book at all funny, which I am told it is intended to be. After a careful reading I had not the slightest inkling of what the book was supposed to be about. Indeed I thought my mind was going. There is no such problem about Kenyon’s book. It is a well-written, straightforward account of how English history has been written in England during the last three or four hundred years. John Kenyon is very competent, very fair. He does not seem to have any favourite, though he admits that Gibbon, not a writer of English history, has slipped in because he was the greatest of English historians. Quite right, I think, even though Gibbon hardly passes any of the present-day tests. He never looked at a single manuscript text. He did not know that the past is different from the present. He captures the reader with his wit rather than his scholarship, though that is pretty good as well.

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