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Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... of justice, ‘the promotion of mediocrity’ and ‘marital break-ups’: why, the cover asks, ‘do so many husbands don an apron at the lodge when they wouldn’t be seen dead in one at home?’ British fears of Masonic conspiracy have never risen to the same pitch as on the Continent or in the United States, not least because our history lacks an ...

Clear Tartan Water

Colin Kidd: The election in Scotland, 27 May 1999

... share of the vote than the 30.4 per cent it attained in the October 1974 general election. How do we explain the coexistence of apathy, unionism and genuine nationalist enthusiasm? During the referendum campaign Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State for Scotland, presented devolution as a plan to secure the Union; put another way, in the partisan words of ...

Sing Tantarara

Colin Kidd, 30 October 1997

Secret and Sanctioned: Covert Operations and the American Presidency 
by Stephen Knott.
Oxford, 258 pp., £19.50, November 1996, 0 19 510098 0
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The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 367 pp., £25, December 1996, 1 85619 637 2
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American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson 
by Joseph Ellis.
Knopf, 365 pp., $26, February 1997, 0 679 44490 4
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Slave Laws in Virginia 
by Philip Schwarz.
Georgia, 253 pp., $40, November 1996, 0 8203 1831 0
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... the role of ‘the American Cicero or Demosthenes’, found they ‘had more important things to do’ on the floor of the Continental Congress. Jefferson’s draft betrays an anxious, casuistical triangulation. Even as Congressmen prepared to cast off their allegiance to George III, they felt compelled to delete a passage which mixed together ‘an implicit ...

Writing the History of Middle Earth

Colin Kidd: Edward Gibbon, 6 July 2000

Barbarism and Religion Vol 1: The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbon, 1737-64 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 339 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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Barbarism and Religion Vol 2: Narratives of Civil Government 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 422 pp., £55, October 1999, 0 521 77921 9
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... high culture. Pocock – perhaps alone among early modern British historians – is also able to do justice to Gibbon’s global vision. Indeed, the central thesis – among the many compelling ideas to be found in Barbarism and Religion – involves a major recasting of the celebrated historian of the Latin West as an unexpected historian of a Eurasian ...

Damnable Deficient

Colin Kidd: The American Revolution, 17 November 2005

1776: America and Britain at War 
by David McCullough.
Allen Lane, 386 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 7139 9863 6
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... gives space to the voices of British Americans disillusioned with the so-called patriot cause. Dr Sylvester Gardiner, for instance, in a letter to his son-in-law, contrasted the benign governance of the colonies under British rule with the mob rule he encountered in Boston: ‘I don’t believe there ever was a people in any age or part of the world that ...

Europe, what Europe?

Colin Kidd: J.G.A. Pocock, 6 November 2008

The Discovery of Islands: Essays in British History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 344 pp., £18.99, September 2005, 9780521616454
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Barbarism and Religion. Vol. III: The First Decline and Fall 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 527 pp., £19.99, October 2005, 0 521 67233 3
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Barbarism and Religion. Vol. IV: Barbarians, Savages and Empires 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £17.99, February 2008, 978 0 521 72101 1
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... worlds. Behind Gibbon’s vision of the Old World, Pocock shows, was the French Orientalist Joseph De Guignes’s Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mogols et des autres Tartares occidentaux (1756-58). Notwithstanding the prevailing legend that the story of Oriental despotism was one of stasis and torpor, ...

William Wallace, Unionist

Colin Kidd: The Idea of Devolution, 23 March 2006

State of the Union: Unionism and the Alternatives in the United Kingdom since 1707 
by Iain McLean and Alistair McMillan.
Oxford, 283 pp., £45, September 2005, 0 19 925820 1
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... less fanciful Edinburgh partners, RMJM. The attack on the Twin Towers imposed additional costs to do with improving security and strengthening the building. Above all, it was impossible to meet all the published objectives of the Holyrood project – a significant building in a central site, built to a tight timeframe and giving value for the ...


Colin Kidd: The Invention of Globalisation, 2 September 2004

Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons 
by C.A. Bayly.
Blackwell, 568 pp., £65, January 2004, 0 631 18799 5
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... of the non-Western world was not yet a fact of the global economy. Drawing on the work of Jan de Vries, Bayly emphasises the multiple centres of ‘industrious revolution’ across Eurasia based on indigenous artisanal industries in South and East Asia and specialised local dominance of lucrative trades in precious commodities such as tea and spices. Some ...

Smut-Finder General

Colin Kidd: The Dark Side of American Liberalism, 25 September 2003

Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History 
by James Morone.
Yale, 575 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09484 1
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... and racist prejudices – lurking in the neglected penumbra of American liberalism: ‘How do Americans get around all their constitutional safeguards and repress rivals, strangers and scary others? Morality. We are bound to honour our fellow citizens and their rights, unless the neighbours turn out to be bad. Then they can be – and often are ...

A Matter of Caste

Colin Kidd: Alexis de Tocqueville, 22 March 2007

Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution 
by Hugh Brogan.
Profile, 724 pp., £30, December 2006, 1 86197 509 0
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... Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) presents several faces to the modern world. His measured acceptance of the new forces of democracy unleashed by the American and French Revolutions made him an icon of moderate centrist liberalism. However, he has also had his champions on the right, at least among sophisticated Cold Warriors determined to maintain connections with a broader liberal tradition, including, in his native France, Raymond Aron and Jean-François Revel, for whom Tocqueville’s oeuvre was the sole haven of grace and trust within a canon of modern political philosophy whose prescriptions – from right as much as left – seemed to lead to mass extermination or indoctrination ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith, 7 October 2010

Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... Sir David Dalrymple predicted that ‘Mr Charles Townshend will make a very indifferent compagnon de voyage out of a very able professor of ethics.’ In particular, Smith, who was to take his young charge first of all to Paris, to smooth his manners, had ‘so bad an ear’, according to Dalrymple, that ‘he will never learn to express himself intelligibly ...

The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... the question whether we have a responsibility to be healthy. But if his main concern is fiscal, do we then owe it to society to pass on the greens and tuck in to the chips? Welfare reform raises thorny issues of its own. Is dependency on the state bad for taxpayers or bad for the recipients of welfare? Cameron risks reviving the distinction between the ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... The pro-Europeans defeated the antis by a margin of 67 per cent to 33 per cent on the question ‘Do you think the United Kingdom should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?’ History might not take exactly the same course, but it seemed unlikely that the 2016 result would defy both of these historical parallels. In the event history did not ...

Gove or Galtieri?

Colin Kidd: Popular Conservatism, 5 October 2017

Crown, Church and Constitution: Popular Conservatism in England 1815-67 
by Jörg Neuheiser, translated by Jennifer Walcoff Neuheiser.
Berghahn, 320 pp., £78, May 2016, 978 1 78533 140 4
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Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy 
by Daniel Ziblatt.
Cambridge, 450 pp., £26.99, April 2017, 978 0 521 17299 8
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Edmund Burke and the Invention of Modern Conservatism, 1830-1914: An Intellectual History 
by Emily Jones.
Oxford, 288 pp., £60, April 2017, 978 0 19 879942 9
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Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir 
by Ken Clarke.
Pan, 525 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 1 5098 3720 5
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... with significant democratic breakthroughs ‘followed by complete democratic breakdowns or coups d’état’. Democratisation took a more sedate course in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, where – despite some resistance and occasional hazards – there was steady incremental progress towards settled democracy. Old ...

You Know Who You Are

Colin Kidd: About Last Year, 25 January 2018

Fall Out: A Year Of Political Mayhem 
by Tim Shipman.
William Collins, 559 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 0 00 826438 3
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... resort to expletives. So it’s no big deal in itself that May’s political advisers do a lot of swearing. But that they did it in front of the clean-living daughter of a vicar, without rebuke or frown or raised eyebrow, suggests that the prime minister’s emotional costiveness is not simply a result of on-stage nerves. It is hardwired into her ...

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