Tom Nairn

Tom Nairn, whose books include The Break-Up of Britain and After Britain, is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and an honorary professor of government and international affairs at the University of Durham.

Much of the tale is conveyed by the covers. A sad, thoughtfully dithering photo of the prime minister fronts What Went Wrong, Gordon Brown? The cover of Christopher Harvie’s book features a cartoon from the Independent: an apocalyptic lightning flash strikes and anoints David Cameron, while Brown and Alistair Darling flee London as Parliament quakes against the background of a setting...

The Miners’ Strike took place 25 years ago: long enough for many readers to know practically nothing about it, and for others to have forgotten much of what seemed so important at the time. Both the books discussed here describe the strike as more like a civil war than an industrial dispute. It began in March 1984 and ended a year later, after a majority of the miners had gone back to...

Colin Kidd’s study of Scottish Unionism goes, as he himself insists, sternly against the prevailing ideological current, which is focused on the emergence of political nationalism in both Scotland and Wales. Kidd thinks his book will serve its purpose if it unsettles this debate, and brings about a revision of ‘the basic categories of political analysis’. These categories...

In Europe’s Inner Demons, Norman Cohn described the medieval witch craze as a ‘supreme example of a massive killing of innocent people by a bureaucracy acting in accordance with beliefs which, unknown or rejected in earlier centuries, had come to be taken for granted, as self-evident truths’. Of course popular beliefs had to fall into line with the bureaucracy’s...

Diary: the Australian elections

Tom Nairn, 13 December 2007

On voting day I took the Melbourne tram downtown, stopping only to glance in a bookseller’s window. It was good to see Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore holding its place in the bestseller list. 1 A good cop yarn set in Victoria, stylistically it is West Coast American, and has been received well there. But that’s not why it’s so popular here. The book sets out to...

The organisers of the Festival of Britain in 1951 knew what to celebrate. At the start of the opening ceremony – a service in St Paul’s – the King praised the nation’s...

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Throughout this book, the poet Douglas Dunn provides epigraphs and quotations. His final contribution occurs in the last section, ‘Epilogue: The Last Day’, a sort of diary of what Tom...

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I was just beginning to write about 1968 when I learned of the death in New Orleans of Ron Ridenhour, the GI who exposed the massacre at My Lai. He was only 52, which means that he was in his...

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Pallas

R.W. Johnson, 7 July 1988

Tom Nairn has, for many years, been pondering the peculiarities of the British state with impressive intelligence and originality. His earlier work, The Break-Up of Britain, remains a landmark...

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