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25 July 1991
The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol I.: Regions and Communities 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 608 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25788 3
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The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol II.: People and Their Environment 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 392 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25789 1
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The Temper of the Times: British Society since World War Two 
by Bill Williamson.
Blackwell, 308 pp., £30, August 1990, 0 631 15919 3
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... it possible for social historians to write the history of feeling and sentiment, and if so, how would such a history be related to economic and social structure? In his book The Temper of the Times BillWilliamson has bravely attempted to solve the problems. His theme is the withering of collective hopes and culture in post-war Britain, and the rise in their place of an aggressive, anti-social ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning

24 September 2014
Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... all the weight they’ve been made to carry. What is there is unmistakeable: Elvis’s laughing-gas exuberance and obvious delight at his own just accepted dare; Scotty Moore’s rattlesnake guitar; Bill Black’s rail-jumping bass. You can find the music itself a bit thin, jerky, underwhelming, and still see why it ignited all the brush fires up ahead. (In sonic terms, Moore and Phillips were ...

Steely Women in a World of Wobbly Men

David Runciman: The Myth of the Strong Leader

20 June 2019
... of key legislation a vote of confidence. Given this Parliament’s understandable terror of facing the electorate again any time soon, May might well have secured the passage of her Withdrawal Bill had she been able to issue that threat. But the Fixed-Term Parliament Act has deprived her of it. The other great instrument of executive coercion is the ability to hire and fire ministers. Maybe ...

Showboating

John Upton: George Carman

9 May 2002
No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman 
by Dominic Carman.
Hodder, 331 pp., £18.99, January 2002, 0 340 82098 5
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... which his wives collectively hold responsible for his bad behaviour and which Dominic tackles with the finesse of the National Theatre of Brent: ‘He was indeed, as his first teenage girlfriend Mary Williamson said, “a man of many secrets”.’ Carman was academically brilliant, winning a scholarship to Balliol in 1949, where he took one of two top firsts in law, decided to become a barrister, and wrote ...

We Are Many

Tom Crewe: In the Corbyn Camp

10 August 2016
... Owen ‘what’s-his-name’, declaring that ‘if he was that left-wing we would have known about him’ (Smith was, until a few weeks ago, Corbyn’s shadow work and pensions secretary). Chris Williamson, the former Labour MP for Derby North, described the behaviour of the 172 as ‘sickening, disgusting’. It was as if, he said, they had been planted as sleepers in the Labour Party thirty years ago ...

Diary

Kathleen Jamie: In the West Highlands

14 July 2011
... wasn’t without precursors. For decades there had been books in which a man or a woman adopted an animal, lived with it, named it, wrote about it. Most were non-fiction, or claimed to be. Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter was fiction, but written from the animal’s point of view, and was at least an attempt to see the world through animal eyes. It was published in 1927. In the 1930s came the ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights

21 June 2018
The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... a climate-change denier, and Bari Weiss, a campus agitator known for persecuting Arab scholars, away from the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal. The Atlantic hired, then a few days later fired, Kevin Williamson, a prose stylist at the National Review who suggests that women who have abortions – a quarter of all American women – should be hanged. In this free-for-all, ‘thought leaders’ rise without a ...

Belt, Boots and Spurs

Jonathan Raban: Dunkirk, 1940

4 October 2017
... The brigadier is referred to throughout as ‘the Brig’; the general commanding the division is known as Bulgy and another junior officer is Puffer; Haywood himself acquires the nickname Big Bill, after Big Bill Haywood, the leader of the Industrial Workers of the World (the ‘Wobblies’). When Big Bill refers to a fellow subaltern as Crumpets I can hear his boarding school accent and catch ...

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