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The Idea of Poverty: England in the Early Industrial Age 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 595 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 571 13177 8
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... Divine authority and empirical observation are, by definition, rarely in accord, but they do at least agree on this: that the poor are always with us. Chastity may have gone the way of all flesh, and obedience may have been banished from the marriage service, but poverty – grinding, inexorable, ineradicable – remains: not a state voluntarily embraced on the road to salvation, but a condition unavoidably endured with little prospect of relief ...

Perpetual Sunshine

David Cannadine, 2 July 1981

The Gentleman’s Country House and its Plan, 1835-1914 
by Jill Franklin.
Routledge, 279 pp., £15.95, February 1981, 0 7100 0622 5
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... With the possible and significant exception of the steam-engine, no artifact in modern England has been the object of such fanciful, romanticised and well-articulated veneration as the country house. Nineteenth-century novelists, like Surtees or Trollope, tended to give minutely-detailed accounts of country-house life, which were more precise than rhapsodic ...

Country Life

David Cannadine, 5 November 1981

The Victorian Countryside 
edited by G.E. Mingay.
Routledge, 380 pp., £25, July 1981, 0 7100 0734 5
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... The rural proletariat (both male and female) also gets its due, and in the concluding essay, David Hey reminds us of the industrialised villages that lurked in the countryside. Here, fully revealed for the first time, is the world of the rural town, with middle-class, skilled artisans and labourers in vivid and original abundance. The penultimate section ...

Something to Do

David Cannadine, 23 September 1993

Witness of a Century: The Life and Times of Prince Arthur of Connaught, 1850-1942 
by Noble Frankland.
Shepheard-Walwyn, 476 pp., £22.95, June 1993, 0 85683 136 0
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... Few reputations are so fragile or ephemeral as those of minor modern royalty – the brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, younger sons and daughters, cousins and more distant relatives of big daddy and the queen bee. By birth and by definition, they are lifelong occupants of the substitutes’ bench, permanent understudies for the starring roles which rarely if ever come their way, too near the throne to be ordinary people, too far removed to be right royally important ...

Odd Union

David Cannadine, 20 October 1994

Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 415 pp., £18, October 1994, 0 670 84159 5
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... The task of rescuing women from the chauvinistic condescension of male posterity has thus far been unevenly undertaken and incompletely accomplished. Writers and actresses, suffragettes and nuns, servants and prostitutes, have fared relatively well. But upper-class women – Clio’s own sisters, cousins and aunts – have received much less attention ...

Victorian Piles

David Cannadine, 18 March 1982

The Albert Memorial: The Monument in its Social and Architectural Context 
by Stephen Bayley.
Scholar Press, 160 pp., £18.50, September 1981, 0 85967 594 7
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Victorian and Edwardian Town Halls 
by Colin Cunningham.
Routledge, 315 pp., £25, July 1981, 9780710007230
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... The English were not very good at commemorating their great men during the first three-quarters of the 19th century. The competition to select designs for the Nelson memorial was not held until 1838, and another three decades elapsed before the Trafalgar ensemble was completed with the addition of Landseer’s lions. The first major Wellington statue was placed, King Kong-like, atop Decimus Burton’s arch on Constitution Hill in 1846, but was so derided that it was removed in 1883 and consigned to the rustic obscurity of Aldershot’s military scrubland ...

Down and Out in London

David Cannadine, 16 July 1981

Rothschild Buildings: Life in an East End Tenement Block 1887-1920 
by Jerry White.
Routledge, 301 pp., £11.50, September 1980, 0 7100 0603 9
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East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding 
by Raphael Samuel.
Routledge, 355 pp., £11.50, April 1981, 0 7100 0725 6
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... One of the most spectacular examples of embourgeoisement in the 1970s was the transformation of the history workshops held at Ruskin College, Oxford from ephemeral, marginal, near-clandestine activities into a permanent, recognised and well-publicised part of the contemporary historical scene. The most significant evidence of this development was the appearance of the History Workshop Journal, the first issue of which has already become something of a collector’s item, and the launching of the History Workshop Series, of which these books are, respectively, the fifth and seventh to appear ...

Cousinhood

David Cannadine, 27 July 1989

The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry 1880-1920 
by Eugene Black.
Blackwell, 428 pp., £35, February 1989, 9780631164913
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The Persistence of Prejudice: Anti-Semitism in British Society during the Second World War 
by Tony Kushner.
Manchester, 257 pp., £29.95, March 1989, 0 7190 2896 5
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The Club: The Jews of Modern Britain 
by Stephen Brook.
Constable, 464 pp., £15.95, April 1989, 0 09 467340 3
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... How should the history of the Jews be written? Ever since the compilation of the Old Testament – a pioneering work of collaborative authorship, sometimes inaccurate and inadequately documented, and biased throughout by teleological distortion – it has been an understandably difficult and daunting task. For the most part, this is because of the diversity and the intensity of the Jewish experience ...

Time, Gentlemen, Please

David Cannadine, 19 July 1984

The Culture of Time and Space 1880-1918 
by Stephen Kern.
Weidenfeld, 372 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 297 78341 6
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Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World 
by David Landes.
Harvard, 482 pp., £17, January 1984, 0 674 76800 0
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... In a characteristically versatile display of cultural, technological and economic history, David Landes looks at the evolution of the clock as a machine, and at the triumph of public time as a discipline. And in an exceptionally wide-ranging foray into intellectual history, Stephen Kern explores the ways in which private notions of time (and ...

Owning Mayfair

David Cannadine, 2 April 1981

Survey of London. Vol. 40: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2. The Buildings 
edited by F.H.W. Sheppard.
Athlone, 428 pp., £55, August 1980, 0 485 48240 1
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... When, in The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell imagined the terrible spectre of social revolution, she spoke feelingly of ‘acts of violence in Grosvenor Square’. In this, as in her later strictures against ‘the Brighton line’, she demonstrated a sound understanding of the social geography of late 19th-century London. For while Berkeley Square might boast its nightingale, and Belgrave Square was saluted in Iolanthe, neither quite rivalled the cachet of Grosvenor Square, the most glamorous address in London, the social centre and status summit of Mayfair, where the rich, the wellborn and the powerful lived lives of exclusive, glamorous opulence and privileged, aristocratic grandeur ...

Social Workers

David Cannadine, 5 October 1995

Royal Bounty: The Making of a Welfare Monarchy 
by Frank Prochaska.
Yale, 352 pp., £19.95, October 1995, 0 300 06453 5
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... The second chapter of the Gospel according to St Matthew records the most celebrated example of royal generosity in human history, as the Three Kings, atop their camels, and guided by the star in the east, bear their gold, frankincense and myrrh to Bethlehem. As this story makes plain, monarchs are customarily supposed to be vastly richer than ordinary mortals, and to give with truly regal generosity to those many unfortunates huddled at the opposite end of the wealth, power and status spectrum ...

Severnside

David Cannadine, 21 March 1985

Elgar, the Man 
by Michael De-la-Noy.
Allen Lane/Viking, 340 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 7139 1532 3
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Edward Elgar: A Creative Life 
by Jerrold Northrop Moore.
Oxford, 841 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 315447 1
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Spirit of England: Edward Elgar in his World 
by Jerrold Northrop Moore.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £10.95, February 1984, 0 434 47541 6
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The Elgar-Atkins Friendship 
by E. Wulstan Atkins.
David and Charles, 510 pp., £15, April 1984, 0 7153 8583 6
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... There is a famous photograph of Elgar taken at the moment he completed the orchestral scoring of The Dream of Gerontius. He wears a buttoned-up jacket and a wing collar, and sports a walrus moustache of formidable proportions. In dress and demeanour, he looks stiff, starched and stuffed: Colonel Blimp before his time. And yet the eyes suggest a very different personality: dreamy, passionate, visionary, a man of poetic imagination with his sights set surely on the sublime ...

Brideshead Revered

David Cannadine, 17 March 1983

The Country House 
by James Lees-Milne.
Oxford, 110 pp., £4.50, November 1982, 0 19 214139 2
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English Country Houses and Landed Estates 
by Heather Clemenson.
Croom Helm, 244 pp., £15.95, July 1982, 0 85664 987 2
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The Last Country Houses 
by Clive Aslet.
Yale, 344 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 300 02904 7
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... One of the many contradictory qualities of the British,’ James Lees-Milne rightly notes in his attractive if angry anthology in piam memoriam Bladesover, ‘is to revere, and even lament, the things they are in the process of destroying.’ You cannot, he seems to be saying, have conservation without destruction, or a stay of execution without a sentence ...

Lord Bounder

David Cannadine, 19 January 1984

F.E. Smith, First Earl of Birkenhead 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 918 pp., November 1983, 0 224 01596 6
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... There is,’ John Lord Campbell observed in his multi-volume, Mid-Victorian Lives of the Lord Chancellors, ‘no office in the history of any nation that has been filled with such a long succession of distinguished and interesting men as the office of Lord Chancellor.’ A roll-call which included such illustrious history-makers as Wolsey, More, Bacon and Clarendon lent some credence to Campbell’s hyperbole ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... Mr Stephen is editing a little dictionary,’ a friend explained to a clergyman foolhardy enough to ask whether Leslie ‘did any writing’. The enterprise in question was the DNB, one of those grandiosely-conceived and indefatigably-executed works of late 19th-century self-regard, comparable to the Victoria County Histories and the Survey of London ...

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