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Lenin Shot at Finland Station

Slavoj Žižek: Counterfactuality and the conservative historian

18 August 2005
What Might Have Been: Imaginary History from 12 Leading Historians 
edited by Andrew Roberts.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2005, 0 7538 1873 6
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... Marxists, who allegedly believe in historical determinism. Take this latest instalment, edited by Andrew Roberts, who has himself contributed an essay on the bright prospects that would have faced Russia in the 20th century had Lenin been shot on arriving at the Finland Station. One of Roberts’s arguments in favour ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts

7 November 1991
The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... On 11 November 1990 Geoffrey Hill published a Remembrance Day poem entitled ‘Carnival’, in the Sunday Correspondent. The occasion, and the appearance in a national newspaper, suggested the sort of work that a poet laureate might be expected to produce, although Hill’s acerbic satire on contemporary Britain was most unlike the arch public lyrics that Ted Hughes has published since his elevation to that role ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids

21 March 2013
... In his 2006 book A History of the English-Speaking Peoples since 1900, the British historian Andrew Roberts writes: ‘Just as in science fiction people are able to live on through cryogenic freezing after their bodies die, so British post-imperial greatness has been preserved and fostered through its incorporation into the American world-historical ...
7 March 2013
Enoch at 100: A Re-evaluation of the Life, Politics and Philosophy of Enoch Powell 
edited by Lord Howard of Rising.
Biteback, 320 pp., £25, June 2012, 978 1 84954 310 1
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... most cerebral of political thinkers was thus ultimately driven by his gut instincts,’ Andrew Roberts argues, pointing not only to Powell’s patriotism but to his religious faith. Scruton identifies the ‘sacramental function’ Powell gives to words, citing a characteristic declaration that ‘a bill becomes a law because certain words of ...

Like Unruly Children in a Citizenship Class

John Barrell: A hero for Howard

21 April 2005
The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for a Free Press 
by Ben Wilson.
Faber, 455 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 22470 9
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... centre of our school lives includes commissioning ‘the distinguished historian and biographer Andrew Roberts … to chair a panel of academics who will draw up a simple but clear list of key facts, personalities and dates which every child should be taught’. I wonder, disingenuously perhaps, if one of those ‘key personalities’ will be William ...

Diary

Sean French: Fortress Wapping

6 March 1986
... and, in retrospect, boring and pointless: all that matters is that the management and our editor, Andrew Neil, told us nothing of their true intentions. By contrast, the crisis itself was simple. Rupert Murdoch demanded a level of compulsory redundancies of his Sogat 82 and NGA employees that he knew they would not accept. The two unions took the bait and on ...
13 November 1997
Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals 
edited by Niall Ferguson.
Picador, 548 pp., £20, April 1997, 9780330351324
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... the Second World War on Britain is likewise appraised by Ferguson, this time in collaboration with Andrew Roberts, posing the question: what if Hitler had invaded in 1940? With national survival depending on so narrow a margin, this is a contingency which the authors consider better worthy of contemplation as a real historical possibility than the issue ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flirtation, Seduction and Betrayal

5 September 2002
... A distantish relation of mine, R. Ellis Roberts, was, for a few years from 1928, literary editor of the New Statesman, and a relatively undistinguished one at that. Kingsley Martin described Roberts (in Father Figures, his first volume of autobiography) as the ‘only writer on the NS whose contributions I could not stomach – I found his writing intolerable ...

The Finchley Factor

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Thatcher in Israel

13 September 2018
Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East 
by Azriel Bermant.
Cambridge, 274 pp., £22.99, September 2017, 978 1 316 60630 8
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... years before, at the 1950 general election, a 24-year-old research chemist by the name of Margaret Roberts had stood unsuccessfully for Parliament. By now called Margaret Thatcher, she was elected MP for Finchley in 1959: the first chapter of Azriel Bermant’s outstandingly valuable Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East is titled ‘Thatcher and the ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Myths of Marilyn

8 July 2004
... that’s more books than you’ll find on Florence Nightingale, Princess Diana, Boadicea and Julia Roberts put together. So what kind of story is a story that can never be told enough? Books and plays about Marilyn Monroe are so widespread that writing one might soon be considered part of the entrance exam for college in America. Isn’t it part of Marilyn’s ...

Cool Brains

Nicholas Guyatt: Demythologising the antebellum South

2 June 2005
Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South 
by Michael O’Brien.
North Carolina, 1354 pp., £64.95, March 2004, 0 8078 2800 9
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... the single-term administrations of John Adams and his son John Quincy. Conversely, 24 years after Andrew Jackson of Tennessee left the White House in 1837, the next generation of Southerners led 11 states out of the Union, founding a Southern Confederacy to preserve the institution of slavery from the meddling of Abraham Lincoln. As a result, the United ...
17 October 1985
Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... names like Dummy Oliver, Blinker Hall, Biffy Dunderdale, Lousy Payne, Buster Milmo, Pay Sykes, Tar Robertson, Barmy Russel and Quex Sinclair (not to be confused with his successor but one, Sinbad Sinclair)? It’s no good reassuring the reader that in the transition from Victorian days, when men called even their closest friends by their surnames, to the ...

Sisterhoods

Brian Harrison

6 December 1984
Significant Sisters: The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839-1939 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 353 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 436 16113 3
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Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Movement 1900-1918 
by Les Garner.
Gower, 142 pp., £15, July 1984, 0 435 32357 1
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Women First: The Female Tradition in English Physical Education 1880-1980 
by Sheila Fletcher.
Athlone, 194 pp., £18, July 1984, 0 485 11248 5
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A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890-1940 
by Elizabeth Roberts.
Blackwell, 246 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 631 13572 3
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... and ably re-creates the college’s mood and impact. Oral evidence lies at the heart of Elizabeth Roberts’s rich and careful study of early 20th-century women in their family context. ‘Often, at the beginning of a series of interviews,’ she writes, her informants ‘expressed surprise that anyone should be interested in their ...

The History Boy

Alan Bennett: Exam-taking

3 June 2004
... his political viewpoint not in the forefront, but the new breed of historian – Niall Ferguson, Andrew Roberts and Norman Stone – all came to prominence under Mrs Thatcher and share some of her characteristics. Having found that taking the contrary view pays dividends they seem to make this the tone of their customary discourse. A sneer is never far ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell

26 September 2019
Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... birthday in 2012 drew contributions from all the paladins of the Tory right: Roger Scruton, Andrew Roberts, Simon Heffer, Iain Duncan Smith. His stream of long, considered speeches continued to ripple through Tory minds, all the more perhaps because they were now running underground. During his wilderness years Powell became the Baptist of the ...

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