J.R. Pole

J.R. Pole was, with David Cairns, a founder of the Trojan Wanderers Cricket Club – which is looking for new fixtures next season. He is Rhodes Professor of American History and Institutions at Oxford.

During the war and after the war

J.R. Pole, 11 January 1990

With the passing of generations, the Civil War will lose its chronological centrality in American history, and may well come to be regarded, not so much as the great crisis of the very principle and possibility of the Union, but rather as an early difficulty that had to be overcome – one of the Union’s teething troubles. James McPherson, who has spent most of his academic life in the study of abolitionism and the related struggles of the Civil War era, has written a narrative history that comes as close to being both comprehensive and definitive as seems possible in a single volume. He avoids the kind of thematic interpretation that has been popular in American historical writing and never loses sight of two essential requirements: an appreciation of what it was like at the time, and an appreciation of what it was like as a whole.’

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

We sometimes have reason to be grateful for the periods politicians spend in opposition. Roy Jenkins’s Asquith, Anthony Crosland’s reflections on socialism, Richard Crossman’s Bagehot, would hardly have come out of Whitehall, and Michael Manley would not have found time to write a history of West Indian cricket which encompasses the social, economic and regional problems of the Caribbean if he had been engaged in trying to resolve them in their present manifestations. There is no way of separating the history of the sport, in terms of the games played and the talents of the players, from the material and social conditions in which they have been played. The wristiness of West Indian batsmen, according to Manley, and in the earlier years their difficulties in driving and playing on the front foot, had something to do with learning to cope with bad wickets and irregular bounce.’


Blaming teachers

17 August 1989

The question of who owns the English language and has a lawful right to interpret and teach it has been reopened, it seems, by Jane Miller (LRB, 17 August). ‘There are significant confusions here,’ she observes, after quoting a number of criticisms of the standard of English among recent generations of undergraduates at British universities. The critics are ‘irritable persons’; also, later,...

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