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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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

No Innovations in My Time

Ferdinand Mount: George III, 16 December 2021

George III: The Life and Reign of Britain’s Most Misunderstood Monarch 
by Andrew Roberts.
Allen Lane, 763 pp., £35, October, 978 0 241 41333 3
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... the man who has the best claim to have founded our modern idea of the royal family. The reader of Andrew Roberts’s new biography rejoices too. In many ways, the king’s madness is the most interesting thing about a monarch who never included among his delusions the idea that he was anything but a very ordinary person. No other writer, except possibly ...

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 ...

I am a classical scholar, and you are not

Peter Clarke: Enoch Powell, 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 ...

Someone Else, Somewhere Else

Peter Clarke, 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

A Cosmos Indoors

Andrew O’Hagan: My Kingdom for a Mint Cracknel, 21 April 2022

Extinct: A Compendium of Obsolete Objects 
edited by Barbara Penner, Adrian Forty, Olivia Horsfall Turner and Miranda Critchley.
Reaktion, 390 pp., £23.99, October 2021, 978 1 78914 452 9
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... even for reasons of nostalgia or perversity. Consumers can enjoy things looking old – take the Roberts radio craze – as long as the item has digital capability. But there is a limbo zone of deleted desires, of superseded dreams, that operates a bit like Proust’s writing on our sentimental credulity.Extinct takes the long and often absurdist view. There ...

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 ...

Why read Clausewitz when Shock and Awe can make a clean sweep of things?

Andrew Bacevich: The Rumsfeld Doctrine, 8 June 2006

Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... by the fortuitous retirement of one justice followed by the death of another. In appointing John Roberts and Samuel Alito, Bush elevated to the court two jurists with track records of giving the executive branch a wide berth on matters relating to national security. (Once on the court, justices don’t always perform as expected; whether the ...

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