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Keith Middlemas

Keith Middlemas a reader in history at the University of Sussex, is the author of Politics in Industrial Society.

Poland’s Special Way

Keith Middlemas, 4 February 1982

In the six months since Neal Ascherson’s intricate but lucid account of the rise of Solidarity was finished, Poland’s affairs have become the latest world-heroic saga. While the climax, Soviet invasion, seems to have been replaced by General Jaruzelski’s quite unforeseen takeover, myth has already taken on the force of history, and two themes are now becoming established: that the ‘extremists’ in Solidarity overplayed their hands, thereby challenging the Soviet Union’s interest in a friendly Poland; and that by inducing Jaruzelski to move, Moscow invaded by proxy. In assessing whether such claims are valid, Ascherson’s analysis is extremely valuable. It complements Denis MacShane’s recent book and raises very wide questions about patterns of working-class revolt, and the role of intellectuals, in Eastern Europe since the arrival of the people’s democracies – questions which will not disappear whatever the fate of Solidarity.

Facing the Future

Keith Middlemas, 17 December 1981

Commemorative pieces tend to be pious rather than memorable, omitting or evading growing pains or the clashes of personality endemic in any institution. Some sections of this short collection of essays by past or present PEP workers are little more than catalogues of worthy research projects. But PEP (since its merger in 1978, now the Policy Studies Institute) has rarely been flatulent or woolly-minded, and the contributors, not always intentionally, reveal quite a lot about a characteristic institution of the 20th-century British political élite. In a well-known essay on ‘Middle Opinion in the 1930s’, Arthur Marwick called it ‘the most successful and most enduring of the “planning” groups’.

Great Scream

Keith Middlemas, 2 July 1981

This volume marks an extension of Mr Irving’s historiography: indeed, its critical reception has already provoked him to reply (in the New Statesman, 8 May) that he sees himself as ‘dedicated to the Augean task of revising modern history’. There are, of course, similarities with his earlier work: the vast mass of detail, painstakingly gathered from an impressive range of oral and written sources (although the rewards are rarely commensurate with the amount of energy used up); the same idiosyncratic use of evidence, as he proceeds from quite minor discoveries to challenging generalisations; and the same bewildering mixture of detailed narrative garnished with reported speech and snippets of broad analysis. Here, however, he tackles a subject potentially more open to revision than that, say, of Hitler’s War – one whose intrinsic drama can serve as a vehicle for rather more subtle expressions of the ideology of the ‘radical right’.

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

An Englishman addressing himself to Irish history and contemporary politics ought always to bear in mind John Stuart Mill’s provocative remark, that it was not Ireland but England that was the exception: ‘Ireland is in the mainstream of human existence and human feeling and experience; it is England that is one of the lateral channels.’ Of the authors under discussion, the first is an Englishman who, in The Offshore Islanders, has anatomised just that lateral channel, the second an Anglo-American journalist, the third a leading Irish politician and writer of uniquely varied experience, and the last the broadcaster and historian reponsible for the current remarkable television series on Ireland. If they have a common theme, it is that Irish history is characterised by violence, ignorance, bigotry, and an obsession with a heroic past, and, though none makes European comparisons, their books suggest that it is the history of Sicily, the Basque country or Corsica which might illuminate Ireland’s long relationship with England.

The Europe to Come

Perry Anderson, 25 January 1996

On New Year’s Day 1994, Europe – the metonym – changed names. The dozen nations of the Community took on the title of Union, though as in a Spanish wedding, the new did not...

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Homage to Wilson and Callaghan

Ross McKibbin, 24 October 1991

The clamorous whispers of an impending election remind us that the present government must soon devise a plausible electoral campaign. Given the events of the last four years, this will not be...

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Hattersley’s Specifics

Michael Stewart, 19 March 1987

Tony Crosland’s epoch-making book The Future of Socialism was published in 1956. That Roy Hattersley’s aim is to don the master’s mantle in the late 1980s is evident not only...

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Desperate Responses

Richard Hyman, 5 April 1984

The incredible frequency of these strikes proves best of all the extent to which the social war has broken out all over England. No week passes, scarcely a day, indeed, in which there is not a...

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Eurocommunism

Peter Sedgwick, 17 September 1981

As Philip Elliott and Philip Schlesinger argue in their admirable paper, ‘Eurocommunism: Their Word or Ours?’ (the most original contribution to the volume edited by David Childs),...

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