Nobody wants it

Jose Harris

‘A cynic? How can I not be when I have spent my life writing history?’ Alan Taylor’s love letters to his Hungarian third wife created a predictably prurient, though transient, stir when they were published earlier this year. Their more lasting interest may lie in the light that they throw upon Taylor the practising historian, musing to a fellow historian about the mysteries of his craft. Taylor was regarded by many, not excluding himself, as the nation’s greatest living historian; and the personal and domestic details of his letters are intermingled with comment upon his own historical writing, his views of other historians and his interpretation of contemporary events as they unfolded day by day.

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