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Manchester’s Moment

Boyd Hilton, 20 August 1998

Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 
by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 336 pp., £45, December 1997, 9780198201465
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The Origins of War Prevention: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1730-1854 
by Martin Ceadel.
Oxford, 587 pp., £55, December 1996, 0 19 822674 8
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... Everybody agrees mat the British, and especially the English, are suffering from an identity crisis. The standard explanation is loss of Empire and failure to find an alternative role. And yet in many ways it was the Empire which sowed the seeds of our present uncertainties. Until about 1800 the lineaments of national self-identity were fairly clear, but during the 19th century what it was to be British or English became a far more contested question ...

Mere Party

Robert Stewart, 22 January 1987

Pillars of Government, and Other Essays on State and Society c.1770-c.1880 
by Norman Gash.
Arnold, 202 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7131 6463 8
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Sir Robert Peel: The Life of Sir Robert Peel after 1830 
by Norman Gash.
Longman, 745 pp., £12.50, July 1986, 0 582 49722 1
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... evidence to sustain it: but it needs to be considered against a quite different likeness which Boyd Hilton, for example, has recently painted (‘Peel: A Reappraisal’, Historical Journal, 1979). Gash has produced a finished canvas in oils and Boyd Hilton only a preliminary sketch. Even so, Gash has never ...

Little Englander Histories

Linda Colley: Little Englandism, 22 July 2010

A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 
by Boyd Hilton.
Oxford, 757 pp., £21, June 2008, 978 0 19 921891 2
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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1939 
by James Belich.
Oxford, 573 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 19 929727 6
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... because of the chronology he was allotted, these ambiguities become particularly pronounced in Boyd Hilton’s contribution to the series, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846. Trenchant, vivid, massively researched and very well written, it begins in the year that saw both the formal end of what was erroneously called the ‘First British ...


Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... am an American, one of those interlopers whose contribution to British history has been, in Boyd Hilton’s words, ‘respectable at best’) – I stand at a slight distance from them. The three men honoured in these books seem cast in a common mould. All were born in the early 1940s and did DPhils at Oxford, although McKibbin arrived there from ...

Powers of Darkness

Michael Taylor: Made by Free Hands, 21 October 2021

Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition 
by Bronwen Everill.
Harvard, 318 pp., £31.95, September 2020, 978 0 674 24098 8
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... where the abolitionists held most sway.According to this worldview, which has been illuminated by Boyd Hilton and Anthony Waterman, true liberty was spiritual, personal and economic: it depended on hearing the Gospel, accepting salvation through Christ and assuming that the Holy Spirit moved what Adam Smith called the ‘invisible hand’ of the ...

A Slight Dash of the Tiresome

Brian Harrison, 9 November 1989

The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism 
edited by Lawrence Goldman.
Cambridge, 199 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 521 35032 8
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... college in 1984. After a well-balanced and informative introduction by Goldman, Collini (with Boyd Hilton as respondent) explains the relationship between Fawcett and his first biographer, and shows how integral the concept of ‘manliness’ was to their affinity and to their faith in political economy. Collini’s somewhat mannered and ...


Conrad Russell, 7 November 1985

F.W. Maitland 
by G.R. Elton.
Weidenfeld, 118 pp., £12.95, June 1985, 0 297 78614 8
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Renaissance Essays 
by Hugh Trevor-Roper.
Secker, 312 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 436 42511 4
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History, Society and the Churches: Essays in Honour of Owen Chadwick 
edited by Derek Beales and Geoffrey Best.
Cambridge, 335 pp., £30, May 1985, 0 521 25486 8
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... in a way few historians have ever been, and sheds important light on why he refused the crown. Boyd Hilton, on Evangelicals and Providence, distinguishes between those Evangelicals who believed, with Strafford, that ‘the prerogative is to be used, as God doth his omnipotency, on extraordinary occasions,’ and those who believed, with Calvin, in a ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... we’ve relativised its brazen iniquities into carnival fun. Historians like David Cannadine and Boyd Hilton argue that the system made for political stability by turning the power game of the elite into a spectator sport, thus creating the illusion of popular participation. If this was so, it’s difficult to understand why there was such a clamour ...

Why Not Eat an Eclair?

David Runciman: Why Vote?, 9 October 2008

Free Riding 
by Richard Tuck.
Harvard, 223 pp., £22.95, June 2008, 978 0 674 02834 0
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... the 1832 Reform Act was passed in the House of Commons on 23 March 1831 by a single vote. As Boyd Hilton writes in A Mad, Bad and Dangerous People: ‘The decisive vote was that of John Calcraft, who . . . finding his own seat threatened with disfranchisement, spoke violently against the Reform Bill, but changed his mind at the last moment, and ...

What’s It All About?

Tom Lubbock, 6 April 1995

Shark-Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the Nineties 
by Sarah Kent.
Zwemmer, 270 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 302 00648 6
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The Reviews that Caused the Rumpus, and Other Pieces 
by Brian Sewell.
Bloomsbury, 365 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1872 6
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... the Tate – defending, Michael Craig-Martin, leading light at Goldsmiths’ College; prosecuting, Hilton Kramer, editor of the New Criterion (it’s telling that there was no obvious British champion on this side). It was made a condition that the speakers should not address each other. Afterwards I went to look at Rachel Whiteread’s House by floodlight. A ...

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