Norman Stone

Norman Stone is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and author of Hitler.

Pastiche

Norman Stone, 21 July 1983

One of Arnold Toynbee’s Laws was that, in any civilisation, mannered imitation of the past was a Bad Thing: he chose the Poles’ decision to reconstruct the Old City of Warsaw after 1945 as an instance, and would have much preferred to see them raze the ruins and build a ‘city of towers’ on modernistic lines. In a similar way, Victor Hugo remarked of the post-Napoleonic Bourbons that ‘nothing is more decrepit than at the moment of its restoration.’ The editors of this volume might agree with such sentiments. Their book contains knowledgeable and entertaining contributions. Hugh Trevor-Roper discusses the origins of Scottish kitsch; David Cannadine the (not at all remote) origins of British royal ritual; other contributions concern British rule in India and Welsh cultural identity (treated more respectfully than Trevor-Roper treats poor old Scotland). Eric Hobsbawm both introduces and concludes the book with essays of great penetration and learning on ‘the invention of tradition’ as a kind of phenomenology of the bourgeois mind.

Statue of Liberty

Norman Stone, 7 July 1983

The Russian gentry of the 19th century produced a strangely long list of ‘names’. Can you imagine the English nobility, in that or any other era, producing Tolstoys or Turgenevs, Mussorgskys or Herzens? The contrast between actual and would-be, in 19th-century Russia, was vast, and was to stimulate literature of a very high order: in this respect, there is a parallel between the Russian case and the Anglo-Irish one, among others. In Italy, Sicily was by far the most backward part: but all the most interesting Italians – and certainly the funniest – came from the South. An upper class looking ‘west’ in a countryside that looked ‘east’ had much to sharpen its sense of irony.–

Grim Eminence

Norman Stone, 10 January 1983

The historian Edward Hallett Carr died on 3 November 1982, at the age of 90. He had an oddly laconic obituary in the Times, which missed out a great deal. If he had died ten years before, his death would probably have been noticed a great deal more, for Carr was an eminent left-wing historian, had a huge record of publication, and had embarked, 35 years before his death, on a History of Soviet Russia which has been described as ‘monumental’ and ‘a classic’. By the time he died, the 15th separate book of this History – The Twilight of the Comintern – was just about to appear, and in his papers there is the larger part of a manuscript for the 16th volume. It may perhaps be edited by Carr’s friend, Tamara Deutscher, with whom he frequently collaborated.

Weimar in Partibus

Norman Stone, 1 July 1982

Hannah Arendt arrived in New York as a refugee from Europe in 1941. She was, there, at the centre of a world that included a great deal of ‘Vienna 1900’ and ‘Berlin 1930’. Her friends, whom she referred to as ‘the tribe’ – ‘the clan’ would have been a better translation – included Alma Mahler, the novelist Hermann Broch, whose essay, Hofmannsthal und seine Zeit, is the best short evocation of Fin-de-Siècle Vienna there is, and his mistress, the wife of the art-historian Meier-Graefe. There was a host of minor literary and artistic figures of the Weimar era. The Frankfurt School, in exile, established itself at West 117th Street, and it was there, on her arrival, that Hannah Arendt deposited the surviving manuscripts of Walter Benjamin. Characteristically, and perhaps accurately, she thought that the Frankfurt people handled them dishonestly. New York in the Fifties was Weimar in partibus.

Taylorism

Norman Stone, 22 January 1981

‘Like Goering with culture, I reach for my revolver when offered philosophies of history,’ wrote A.J.P. Taylor some years ago, when the ‘What is History’ theme was going the rounds. He likes to parade himself as a simple, practical man – ‘an old-fashioned, penny-counting historian’. He thinks that history’s only function is ‘fun’, dismisses the rest as ‘sales-talk’ and believes that we study history ‘for pleasure, not instruction’.

Who knew?

Norman Stone, 20 November 1980

After the Second World War, an often-heard German excuse was that ‘we did not know.’ Even very senior Nazis, among them Goering and Speer, said that they had had no knowledge of Hitler’s plan to destroy the European Jews, let alone responsibility for it. The central planning of the Final Solution was intentionally such that very few records of essential decisions were kept; David Irving may even be formally right in his assertion that there is no written document to link Hitler himself with the Final Solution until October 1943; and the same absence or confusion in the written record has even been taken as evidence that the whole thing did not really happen at all. ‘It wasn’t six million: it was only four million’ is a familiar refrain these days.

Letter

Blaming teachers

17 August 1989

I was surprised, on recieving the latest LRB (LRB, 17 August), to find myself being persued in your Diary by an educationilist, Jane Miller, for stating (in a Guardian diary) that, in my experience of teaching at Cambridge and Oxford, undergraduates’ standards in spelling suffered from increasing innacuracy. The innacuracy is simply a fact, and there is growing concensus about the problem in...
Letter

E.H. Carr

10 January 1983

Norman Stone writes: I am sorry that my version of Carr’s first divorce was inaccurate and glad that the correction has been made.
Letter

Jewish Councils

20 November 1980

Norman Stone writes: I am grateful to Mr Brakel for his interesting letter. The role of the Jewish Councils under Nazi occupation is of course a contentious one, and in basing my remarks on the works of Presser and Trunk, which Mr Brakel will know, I was aware that the matter is far from resolution. It is obviously possible to defend ‘Jewish collaboration’ in the same terms as other collaborations...

Living like a moth

Michael Ignatieff, 19 April 1990

I have always wondered when my grandparents realised they would never see Russia again. In July 1917, when they locked up the house on Fourstatskaya Street in Petrograd, left the key with my...

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Rules of the Game

Jon Elster, 22 December 1983

Raymond Aron died of a heart attack on 17 October, a few weeks after the publication of his memoirs. He died on the steps of the Paris courthouse where he had been testifying on behalf of his...

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Before the Fall

Eric Hobsbawm, 21 April 1983

From TV studios to Trinity College, Cambridge, who can resist the historical fascination of the decades before 1914? They are sufficiently ‘contemporary’ for their landscape to be...

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Hitler and History

Hans Keller, 5 February 1981

My title is intended to be quadruply functional: the four books raise four interpenetrating problems – and not one problem per book either. That Hitler himself remains an incurable problem...

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