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The Macaulay of the Welfare State

David Cannadine, 6 June 1985

The BBC: The First 50 Years 
by Asa Briggs.
Oxford, 439 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 0 19 212971 6
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. I: Words, Numbers, Places, People 
Harvester, 245 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 7108 0094 0Show More
The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. II: Images, Problems, Standpoints, Forecasts 
Harvester, 324 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 7108 0510 1Show More
The 19th Century: The Contradictions of Progress 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Thames and Hudson, 239 pp., £18, April 1985, 0 500 04013 3
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... forcefulness of G.R. Elton, the olympian grandeur of Owen Chadwick, the stylish verve of J.H. Plumb, the cosmopolitan allusiveness of E.J. Hobsbawm, and the impassioned radicalism of Christopher Hill. Some have criticised his work for being too bland, for lacking analytical bite, for being more concerned with experience than with explanation, for relying ...

Why It Matters

Ellen Meiksins Wood: Quentin Skinner’s Detachment, 25 September 2008

Hobbes and Republican Liberty 
by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £12.99, February 2008, 978 0 521 71416 7
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... Commons voted repeatedly to extend it. Elections, too, were increasingly contested. By 1640, J.H. Plumb wrote, ‘the situation in the counties as well as the boroughs had changed out of all recognition from Elizabethan times, and we witness the birth of a political nation, small, partially controlled, but no longer coextensive with the will of the ...


Stefan Collini: Herbert Butterfield, 21 July 2005

Herbert Butterfield: Historian as Dissenter 
by C.T. McIntire.
Yale, 499 pp., £30, August 2005, 0 300 09807 3
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... principles’. The illustrative quotations reinforced this emphasis: ‘The term Whig,’ Lord John Russell said in the 1850s, ‘has the convenience of expressing in one syllable what Conservative Liberal expresses in seven.’ The entry ranged widely over the (mainly pejorative) extensions of the core use, including such delights, now lost, as ...

The Return of History

Raphael Samuel, 14 June 1990

... abandon earlier periods and drag the subject kicking and screaming into the 20th century. As J.H. Plumb, that weathervane of the liberal establishment, put it, when writing of ‘the crisis in the humanities’, ‘few hearts swell with pride in Mosley Road Secondary Modern School at the thought of Magna Carta or Waterloo’; the humanities ‘must ... adapt ...

No Theatricks

Ferdinand Mount: Burke, 21 August 2014

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: from the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence 
by David Bromwich.
Harvard, 500 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 0 674 72970 4
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Moral Imagination: Essays 
by David Bromwich.
Princeton, 350 pp., £19.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16141 9
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... The antipathy to Burke has cropped up not just among those like Berlin and Hampshire and J.H. Plumb, who believe that he had the wrong ideas, but also among historians of the Namier school, especially Lewis Namier himself, who believe that ideas don’t matter much in politics and that Burke was dishonest in pretending they did when in reality he was just ...

Elton at seventy

Patrick Collinson, 11 June 1992

Return to Essentials: Some Reflections on the Present State of Historical Study 
by G.R. Elton.
Cambridge, 128 pp., £16.95, October 1991, 0 521 41098 3
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... reserves some of his ammunition for the alternative, liberal determinists, Arnold Toynbee, Sir John Plumb, J.H. Hexter, while not forgetting that morally admirable but woefully misled and misleading Christian Socialist R.H. Tawney, who was first denounced in Elton’s inaugural of 1968 as ‘a very good man’ whose work as a historian can never be ...

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