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W.G. Runciman: Slums, Unemployment, Strikes and Party Politics, 23 June 1988

... Alan Deacon which was published in 1977 in the volume Essays in Labour History 1918-1939 edited by Asa Briggs and John Savile. During the Twenties, the scale of unemployment benefit increased dramatically: compared with November 1920, the amount drawn by a man with a dependent wife and two children had risen 240 per cent in real terms by May 1931. But the ...

Our Dear Channel Islands

Linda Holt, 25 May 1995

The Model Occupation: The Channel Islands under German Rule 1940-1945 
by Madeleine Bunting.
HarperCollins, 354 pp., £20, January 1995, 0 00 255242 6
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The Channel Islands: Occupation and Liberation 1940-1945 
by Asa Briggs.
Batsford, 96 pp., £7.99, April 1995, 0 7134 7822 5
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... by Britain in nineteen four 0’ is a couplet taken from an Occupation Alphabet and reproduced in Asa Briggs’s picture book, which coincides with a special exhibition in the Imperial War Museum. Briggs doesn’t discuss this couplet, however, as he does others (on Informers, Black Marketeering and the ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow, 1 October 1998

The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... often tell you more of his character than the name itself: Arnold Goodman: A man? No, Lord God. Asa Briggs: Sir Gas Bag. Jokes for Sparrow, like the Latin epigrams and inscriptions which he so much admired, were worth labouring. It is not improbable that he took his friend Stuart Hampshire into dinner at All Souls on dozens of occasions before he could ...


Dave Haslam: Post-Madchester, 25 February 1993

... and speeches were made. Mr Gil Thompson, Chief Executive of Manchester Airport, cited James Agate, Asa Briggs and J.B. Priestley on the splendours of Manchester’s cultural past. Mr Thompson didn’t quote Engels. Nor, understandably, John Ruskin: ‘Manchester can produce no good art, and no good culture.’ Despite the presence at the press conference ...

Bring back the 19th century

Miles Taylor, 22 June 2000

British Society 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change 
by Richard Price.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £40, October 1999, 0 521 65172 7
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... and most widely read historians of Victorian Britain remain G.M. Young, George Kitson Clark and Asa Briggs, hardly a triumvirate of young Turks even in their heyday. The first two were not so much Victorian specialists as Victorians. Weary of interpretations based on class, uncomfortable with democracy and dismissive of progress, 19th-century ...

Manchester’s Moment

Boyd Hilton, 20 August 1998

Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 
by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 336 pp., £45, December 1997, 9780198201465
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The Origins of War Prevention: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1730-1854 
by Martin Ceadel.
Oxford, 587 pp., £55, December 1996, 0 19 822674 8
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... on later 19th-century Manchester, despite Taylor’s invitation, may (for once) be blamed on Asa Briggs, whose excellent Victorian Cities (1963) threw historians off the scent by arguing that Manchester, the ‘shock city’ of the first half of the century, had, by 1877, ‘long outgrown the days when it could be described as “a system of society ...


Theodore Zeldin, 26 October 1989

Pan Encyclopedia 
edited by Judith Hannam.
Pan, 608 pp., £8.99, August 1989, 9780330309202
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Longman Encyclopedia 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Longman, 1179 pp., £24.95, September 1989, 0 582 91620 8
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International Encyclopedia of Communications: Vols I-IV 
edited by Erik Barnouw.
Oxford, 1913 pp., £250, April 1989, 0 19 504994 2
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives 
edited by Francis Robinson.
Cambridge, 520 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 521 33451 9
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Concise Encyclopedia of Islam 
by Cyril Glass.
Stacey International, 472 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 905743 52 0
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The World’s Religions 
by Ninian Smart.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 521 34005 5
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The New Physics 
edited by Paul Davies.
Cambridge, 516 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 521 30420 2
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The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia 
by H.R. Loyn.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £24, May 1989, 0 500 25103 7
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China in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 432 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 333 43405 6
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... Why does every home not have a whole wall of encyclopedias, now that we supposedly live in the Information Age? Why have they failed to establish themselves as indispensable items of furniture, against the competition of electronic gadgetry? Because they are contenting themselves with just giving information, instead of sharpening it, so that it points somewhere ...

English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... triumph over feudalism, religion yielding to secularism, and so forth. A historian such as Asa Briggs can write The Age of Improvement, chronicling the First Industrial Revolution and the maturing of the bourgeoisie that accompanied it, without any accusations of Marxisant tendencies. It has been particularly easy for English non-Marxist scholars ...

Qui êtes-vous, Sir Moses?

C.R. Whittaker, 6 March 1986

Ancient History: Evidence and Models 
by M.I. Finley.
Chatto, 131 pp., £12.95, September 1985, 0 7011 3003 2
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... for all the marvels of such tours de force as the two volumes on Birmingham by C. Gill and Asa Briggs – is strongly empirical and conforms more closely to Trevelyan’s concept of ‘history with the politics left out’ than to the totalising history demanded by Marc Bloch. With it has come the computer and cliometrics, quantification and ...


Stefan Collini: What next for the BBC?, 21 April 2022

The BBC: A People’s History 
by David Hendy.
Profile, 638 pp., £25, January, 978 1 78125 525 4
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This Is the BBC: Entertaining the Nation, Speaking for Britain? 1922-2022 
by Simon J. Potter.
Oxford, 288 pp., £20, April, 978 0 19 289852 4
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... there was a historian to whom the phrase ‘daunting task’ acted like a starting pistol it was Asa Briggs, who was commissioned to write an official history of the BBC. The first volume, The Birth of Broadcasting, appeared in 1961; the fifth volume, Competition, taking the story up to 1974, came out in 1995. The full series amounts to some four ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... they were free to get drunk.’ Unlike the others on the shortlist, Offshore was, in the words of Asa Briggs, who chaired the judges, a roman pur: short, deep, highly crafted, about a colony of misfits in London in the early 1960s, living on boats with the ‘certain failure’ that kept causing them to ‘sink back … into the mud moorings of the great ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... birth of rock’n’roll had a complicated relationship with the coming of the permissive society. Asa Briggs, in his history of the BBC, documents the struggle in which sexual freedoms and sexual norms were bent out of shape: for every permissive moment there was a shadow of the not-permitted. And so, not long before we had Orton and Entertaining Mr ...

Lever-Arch Inquisitor

John Barrell, 29 October 1998

Theatres of Memory. Vol. II. Island Stories: Unravelling Britain 
by Raphael Samuel, edited by Alison Light.
Verso, 391 pp., £20, June 1998, 1 85984 965 2
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... of Britain’, an expanded version of a review, published in March 1996, of the fifth volume of Asa Briggs’s History of Broadcasting in the United Kingdom. The first section begins by reflecting on the obligation imposed on institutional histories, especially those written by insiders, to inflate the importance of the institutions they ...

Swiping at Suburbs

Andrew Saint: The course of British urbanism, 31 March 2005

Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City 
by Tristram Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £25, June 2004, 0 297 60767 7
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... phases of growth before Victoria’s accession) follows – and indeed sometimes borrows from – Asa Briggs’s classic Victorian Cities (1963). But scholars are more conscious now that such cities were never typical of the overall pattern of British urbanisation. Many resort towns grew as fast if not faster. To cover his whole period evenly, Hunt would ...

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