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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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... AsaBriggs has just produced three new books. This piece of information is made even more remarkable by the fact that he has published 26 already. Admittedly, there are some, like How they lived, 1700-1815 and ...

Radio Fun

Philip Purser

27 June 1991
A Social History of British Broadcasting. Vol. I: 1922-29, Serving the Nation 
by Paddy Scannell and David Cardiff.
Blackwell, 441 pp., £30, April 1991, 0 631 17543 1
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. III: Serious Pursuits, Communication and Education 
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 470 pp., £30, May 1991, 0 7450 0536 5Show More
The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 
by Colin Seymour-Ure.
Blackwell, 269 pp., £29.95, May 1991, 9780631164432
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... files in the BBC’s much-praised written archives must by now fall open at the right places, marked perhaps by a spent match Peter Black inserted in 1971 or a shrivelled potato chip left behind by AsaBriggs. As for the one or two specific issues Scannell and Cardiff are able to enlarge upon, notably the treatment of unemployment and poverty, they have done so by venturing beyond the customary ...

Music as Message

Asa Briggs

23 May 1991
The World of the Oratorio 
by Kurt Pahlen.
Scolar, 357 pp., £27.50, February 1991, 0 85967 866 0
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The Making of the Victorian Organ 
by Nicholas Thistlethwaite.
Cambridge, 584 pp., £50, December 1990, 0 521 34345 3
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... Almost all the greatest composers,’ wrote H.R. Haweis in his Music and Morals (1871), ‘have found in the sacred cantata or oratorio, a form of art capable of expressing the noblest progressions of the religious sentiment in the highest planes of emotion.’ Moreover, ‘by arranging the magnificent episodes of Scripture in a dramatic – not operatic form’, they had succeeded in generating ...

Before Wapping

Asa Briggs

22 May 1986
Victorian News and Newspapers 
by Lucy Brown.
Oxford, 305 pp., £32.50, November 1985, 0 19 822624 1
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... Alas! We are a Press-ridden people,’ one of the Commissioners for the Great Exhibition exclaimed in 1851. He wished to exclude members of the press from the Crystal Palace or at least to make them buy their entrance tickets. Henry Cole, who was prepared to consider all ‘novelties’, was appalled at this reaction, and eventually it was he who won the day. The Exhibition, he felt, above all else ...

Water, Water

Asa Briggs

9 November 1989
The Conquest of Water: The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age 
by Jean-Pierre Goubert.
Polity, 300 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 7456 0508 7
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... Water is news in Thatcherite Britain in a way that would have surprised politicians – or economists – a generation ago. In some parts of the world, like California or Colorado, water has always been politics – bitter, tough, even violent politics. On a global scale we divide the world into arid and non-arid zones and probe the oceans. Some of our greatest engineering projects in every generation ...

Looking big

Asa Briggs

12 March 1992
Isambard Kingdom Brunel: Engineering Knight-Errant 
by Adrian Vaughan.
Murray, 285 pp., £19.95, October 1991, 0 7195 4636 2
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... When Samuel Smiles was preparing to write his Lives of the Engineers in 1858, Robert Stephenson was doubtful about whether the subject would prove attractive to readers. He had already been surprised by the success of Smiles’s biography of George Stephenson, his father, which had appeared one year earlier. Robert Stephenson died before the first volume of the Lives of the Engineers appeared in 1861 ...
25 April 1991
The Pencil: A History 
by Henry Petroski.
Faber, 434 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 0 571 16182 0
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... What in its fullest sense is the idea conveyed in the respective words Paper, Pen and Ink?’ asked George Wilson, a future Regius Professor of Technology at Edinburgh University. The subtitle of his article, ‘Paper, Pen and Ink’, published in Macmillans Magazine in 1859, was ‘an excursus in technology’, and he went on to survey all kinds of pens including, by a convenient extension of the ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School

10 January 1991
... tells, as well as a puzzlement that for no reason which anyone could explain to me the publishers were not allowed to offer us the customary plonk and snacklets then and there. Instead, after AsaBriggs had introduced Cannadine and Cannadine had given us an encouragingly comical puff for his book, Robert Rhodes James reminded us that Lloyd George, despite doing so much to reduce the Upper House to ...

Booker Books

Frank Kermode

22 November 1979
... like a win on the pools as possible. By now the world as well as the contenders knows who’s in, who’s out, the matter having been decided by a non-competing novelist, three literary critics, and AsaBriggs. This is the 11th time the Booker Prize has been awarded. It is much larger than any comparable prize, either here or in the US. Last year it was increased from £5,000, so it must be worth ...
3 December 1992
G.M. Trevelyan: A life in History 
by David Cannadine.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £18, September 1992, 0 00 215872 8
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... universities in much the same way as it is in those of the late 20th century. And similarly the wide readership and powerful television presence of historians such as A.J.P. Taylor, E.P. Thompson, AsaBriggs, and Cannadine himself, suggest that although history may no longer define communal national consciousness it has not lost its capacity to engage and entertain a large mass of individuals ...

Politics First

José Harris

19 April 1984
The Chartists 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Temple Smith, 399 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 85117 229 6
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Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History 1832-1982 
by Gareth Stedman Jones.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £22.50, January 1984, 0 521 25648 8
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Class Power and State Power 
by Ralph Miliband.
Verso, 310 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 86091 073 3
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... the scattered events of Chartism a historical meaning far beyond their immediate importance – which in terms of tangible political triumphs and achievements was remarkably slight. Moreover, as AsaBriggs plausibly argued in Chartist Studies, all these viewpoints tended to endow Chartism with an inner coherence and organisational identity not justified by the historical facts. In Briggs’s view ...
16 February 1989
The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain, 1830-1900 
by F.M.L. Thompson.
Fontana, 382 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 0 00 686157 1
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Victorian Things 
by Asa Briggs.
Batsford, 440 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 9780713445190
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... omission), and a reader with some knowledge of the literature will quickly see that there is a great deal more reading behind the text than is mentioned in the bibliographies to each chapter. AsaBriggs’s Victorian Things does not have footnotes either; this was generally the rule in Victorian Cities and Victorian People, the earlier parts of the trilogy now completed by the new book. But the ...
2 May 1985
Founders of the Welfare State 
edited by Paul Barker.
Gower, 138 pp., £14.95, February 1985, 0 435 82060 5
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The Affluent Society 
by John Kenneth Galbraith.
Deutsch, 291 pp., £9.95, February 1985, 0 233 97771 6
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... were also its midwives, and its ancestry can be traced back to the great Victorian philanthropists, and even, perhaps, to the cruel though well-meaning Poor Law of 1834. In top-and-tail essays AsaBriggs and David Donnison make what they can of a disparate assembly which ranges from Josephine Butler and Charles Booth to R.I. Morant and William Beveridge. As Donnison points out, equality was seldom ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement

29 November 2001
The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... ever, making Carlyle’s unthinking and inarticulate mass more liable to manipulation by clever speakers and racy journalists. And that is precisely what the Chartist leaders were. Many years ago AsaBriggs noted how few of the original delegates to the Chartist Convention in 1839 were bona fide working men. Seldom have so many preachers, booksellers, printers, lawyers, newsagents, travelling ...


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

23 June 1988
... close the parallels are between then and now I have come to realise thanks to an earlier paper by Alan Deacon which was published in 1977 in the volume Essays in Labour History 1918-1939 edited by AsaBriggs 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 ...

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