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Let’s have your story

Adam Phillips: Why do we give reasons?, 25 May 2006

Why? What Happens When People Give Reasons . . . and Why 
by Charles Tilly.
Princeton, 202 pp., £15.95, March 2006, 9780691125213
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... our behaviour rather than the mysteries of human existence or technology or the universe. For Charles Tilly, people give reasons not ‘because of some universal craving for truth or coherence’ but because they want to confirm, negotiate or repair their relationships. The whole business of giving reasons for what we do and for what happens is ...


Peter Burke, 5 March 1981

State and Society in Europe 1550-1650 
by Victor Kiernan.
Blackwell, 309 pp., £12, December 1980, 0 226 47080 6
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... Professor Kiernan is aware of the more rigorously analytical approach to his subject offered by Charles Tilly, Samuel Finer and Stein Rokkan, but he does not really engage with their work. There is still room for a book which would discuss the relationship between state and society in the early modern period in a more systematic way, and explain the ...

Was it because of the war?

Rogers Brubaker: Building Europe, 15 October 1998

Birth of the Leviathan: Building States and Regimes in Medieval and Early Modern Europe 
by Thomas Ertman.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, April 1997, 0 521 48222 4
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... and 18th-century Europe and showed the rest of the world ‘the image of its own future’. As Charles Tilly has put it, ‘war made the state, and the state made war.’ But how (and when and where) did war make the state? This question is at the heart of Thomas Ertman’s challenging study. Historians and sociologists have treated Prussia as the ...

Legitimate Violence

James Sheehan: After the Armistice, 5 July 2018

The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917-23 
by Robert Gerwarth.
Allen Lane, 446 pp., £10.99, June 2017, 978 0 14 197637 2
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... the most important source of violence both between and within states. ‘War made states,’ Charles Tilly wrote, ‘and vice versa.’ This admirably concise comment on the relationship between warfare and state-making might be true, but it’s important to keep in mind that different kinds of war – and once again, ‘the battle ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris, 9 May 2002

Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... basic scenario’? Many onlookers have asked the question, most notable among them the sociologist Charles Tilly who, in The Contentious French (1986), engaged with a much broader swathe of French violence, from food riots to civil wars, and offered a nuanced sociological explanation. Burton, by focusing more narrowly on ‘expiatory’ violence, with its ...

The New Cold War

Anatol Lieven: The New Cold War, 4 October 2001

... War structures and attitudes have continued to dominate the US foreign policy and security elites. Charles Tilly and others have written of the difficulty states have in ‘ratcheting down’ wartime institutions and especially wartime spending. In the 1990s, this failure on the part of the US to escape its Cold War legacy was a curse, ensuring ...

Constitutional Fantasy

Jan-Werner Müller: Verhofstadt’s Vision, 1 June 2017

Europe’s Last Chance: Why the European States Must Form a More Perfect Union 
by Guy Verhofstadt.
Basic, 304 pp., £20, January 2017, 978 0 465 09685 5
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... rules. Most states became states because of external threats, or, in the words of the sociologist Charles Tilly: ‘War made the state, and the state made war.’ By contrast, the EU as we know it has grown out of a market project; states may be able to make a market, but a market won’t make a state. The European elites simply do not agree on what it ...

Scribbles in a Storm

Neal Ascherson: Who needs a constitution?, 1 April 2021

The Gun, the Ship and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions and the Making of the Modern World 
by Linda Colley.
Profile, 502 pp., £25, March, 978 1 84668 497 5
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... and its costs as the most reliable stimulus for constitution-making. As the American sociologist Charles Tilly wrote, states make war and war makes states, and the collateral creativity of war has always impressed Colley. At the core of her path-breaking study Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 (1992) was the proposal that ‘Britishness’ as a ...

At the Science Museum

Peter Campbell: The Rolls-Royce Merlin and other engines, 3 February 2005

... roll before diving after their quarry. An interim engineering solution to the problem was found by Tilly Shilling, of the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough (she was a remarkable woman, a racing motorcyclist as well as a professional engineer). ‘Miss Shilling’s Orifice’ was a metal disc with a small hole in the middle, fitted into the ...

Gisgo and his Enemies

John Bayley, 13 February 1992

The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo 
by Russell Weigley.
Indiana, 608 pp., £22.50, June 1991, 0 253 36380 2
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... wedges of pikemen and musketeers called tercios, the Imperial troops under their veteran commander Tilly fought rather like a Greek or Macedonian phalanx. Their opponents, Gustavus’s Swedes, borrowed the more flexible formation of Roman cohorts and maniples, presenting a composite front of foot, cavalry and light artillery – the famous Swedish ‘leather ...

Boxing the City

Gaby Wood, 31 July 1997

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell 
by Deborah Solomon.
Cape, 426 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 224 04242 4
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... New York in 1954, he sent her one of his owl boxes in tribute. She had it sent back to his home. Tilly Losch, the international good-time girl, and a recipient of Cornell’s object-gestures, had to ask her friend Robert Motherwell whether ‘this mad, distant suitor was for real or not’. Solomon’s narration is so calm, so objective, that it is only at ...

The King and I

Alan Bennett, 30 January 1992

... historical characters got a tick if they were on the side of liberty (Cromwell, Chatham), a cross (Charles I, James II) if they held up the march of progress. Because he went in for active royalty and made some attempt to govern on his own account rather than leaving it to the Whig aristocracy, George III had been written up as a villain and a clumsy ...

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