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Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Gordon Brown, 7 June 2007

... Why do politicians write books? Sometimes money is the simple answer. Disraeli and Churchill were both scribbling before they entered Parliament, and Churchill ended with more than one small fortune through some startling and, on occasion, clandestine publishing and movie contracts, as David Reynolds has shown in his riveting In Command of History. Then there is self-justification after retirement, which almost always produces memoirs of numbing boredom: I assume – or hope – that no one alive has actually read every page of all the volumes published under Attlee’s, Eden’s and Macmillan’s names ...


Geoffrey Wheatcroft, 18 December 1980

The Rise and Fall of Prussia 
by Sebastian Haffner.
Weidenfeld, 183 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 297 77810 2
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The Northern Crusades: The Baltic and the Catholic Frontier 1100-1525 
by Eric Christiansen.
Macmillan, 296 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 333 26243 3
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... Nations rise and fall: some which were once great no longer are – Sweden, say, or Holland – while Russia, which wasn’t, now is. Sometimes countries – the United States or Israel – arise from nothing. But the subject of Mr Haffner’s book is odder. It first appeared from nowhere and then disappeared quite without trace: to him, a sad disappearance ...

A Little Holiday

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Ben Hecht’s Cause, 23 September 2021

A Child of the Century 
by Ben Hecht.
Yale, 654 pp., £16, April 2020, 978 0 300 25179 1
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Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures 
by Adina Hoffman.
Yale, 245 pp., £10.99, April 2020, 978 0 300 25181 4
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... many years ago. ‘In suburban homes of the late 1950s within commuting distance of Manhattan,’ Geoffrey O’Brien wrote in the NYRB in 2019, ‘it was not unusual to come upon a paperback copy of Ben Hecht’s A Child of the Century.’ In suburban London homes in the early 1960s it was very unusual indeed. Hecht said he had managed to ‘anger the whole ...

On Trying to Be Portugal

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Zionist Terrorism, 6 August 2009

‘A Senseless, Squalid War’: Voices from Palestine 1945-48 
by Norman Rose.
Bodley Head, 278 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 224 07938 9
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Major Farran’s Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain’s War against Jewish Terrorism 1945-48 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 290 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 434 01844 4
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... Why should the conflict between the state of Israel and the Palestinians absorb the attention of the world, as it does? It makes no sense when you look objectively at the Holy Land (a convenient term to describe the territory between Jordan and the sea: British Mandatory Palestine from 1920 to 1948 and controlled by Israel one way or another since 1967), which is about the size of New Hampshire or Wales, and has a smaller total population than Portugal or Ohio ...

Lucky Lad

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Harold Evans, 17 December 2009

My Paper Chase: True Stories of Vanished Times – An Autobiography 
by Harold Evans.
Little, Brown, 515 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 1 4087 0203 1
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... As the 19th century turned into the 20th, the English press was diverse and vigorous. Apart from the Times, whose threepenny price marked it as the newspaper of record for the ruling class, London had a clutch of what were conveniently known as penny papers. On one side were the Tory Morning Post, Daily Telegraph and Standard, on the other, the Liberal Daily News and Daily Chronicle, surviving or even thriving on circulations well under 50,000 ...

The First New War

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Crimea, 25 August 2011

Crimea: The Last Crusade 
by Orlando Figes.
Penguin, 575 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 101350 3
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... At its high tide under Suleiman the Magnificent and his immediate successors, the Ottoman Empire stretched from the Persian Gulf in the south to the Balkans in the north and reached the gates of Vienna in 1683. Then came the long ebb, as the Turks retreated from Europe and others competed to replace them. One power in particular had grown rapidly in importance ...

The Finchley Factor

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Thatcher in Israel, 13 September 2018

Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East 
by Azriel Bermant.
Cambridge, 274 pp., £22.99, September 2017, 978 1 316 60630 8
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... by Francis Pym, until Thatcher won her crushing victory in the 1983 election and replaced him with Geoffrey Howe. He stayed for six years until he was kicked sideways and then, in his quietly devastating resignation speech in November 1990, precipitated Thatcher’s fall. The Israelis made frequent attempts to separate Thatcher from the Foreign Office by ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... the op-ed page was dominated by a gloating ‘Good Riddance to the Net Book Agreement, says Geoffrey Wheatcroft.’ Wheatcroft wrapped up what was evidently a rushed piece with the Maoist-Thatcherite slogan: ‘Let a hundred flowers bloom, nourished by the marketplace.’ One hundred might be thought a ...

Murder in the Cathedral

Anthony Howard, 7 December 1989

The Crockford’s File: Gareth Bennett and the Death of the Anglican Mind 
by William Oddie.
Hamish Hamilton, 232 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12613 4
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Absent Friends 
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
Hamish Hamilton, 291 pp., £15.95, November 1989, 0 241 12874 9
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... Preface. Fortunately, a rival assessment of Bennett – the opening and longest essay in Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s engaging book of character sketches Absent Friends – is a good deal more forthright. A former history pupil of Bennett’s at New College, Wheatcroft writes with sympathy and understanding of the ...

Painting the map red

William Boyd, 5 September 1985

The Randlords: The Men who made South Africa 
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
Weidenfeld, 314 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 297 78437 4
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... all manner of sources, from rambunctious Victorian travel books to dry works of Bantu topography. Wheatcroft is particularly good on the financial machinations that went into the making of the vast fortunes achieved at Kimberley and on the Rand. For the history of the gold and diamond fields – superficially a glamorous, adventurous one of strikes and ...

On the Blower

Peter Clarke: The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt, 18 February 1999

The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt: Volume I 
edited by Sarah Curtis.
Macmillan, 748 pp., £25, November 1998, 0 333 74166 8
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... The spirit in which Wyatt proceeded is apparent from the very first entry. The journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft is berated for his ‘terrible manners’ in turning up late for a Tote lunch and for having brought, ‘uninvited and without warning, a woman who looked like a bedraggled, tired prostitute’ – Germaine Greer, as it turns out. Within ...

No Meat and Potatoes – Definitely No Chocolate

James Fletcher: Haydn studies, 8 February 2001

Haydn Studies 
edited by Dean Sutcliffe.
Cambridge, 343 pp., £47.50, October 1998, 0 521 58052 8
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... on; and this is especially true in France, for reasons that we cannot fathom.’ Sutcliffe quotes Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who described Haydn as the composer whom ‘concert promoters have always regarded as box office death, even if true musicians have a passion for him almost beyond any other composer.’ Botstein notes: In contemporary concert life, we ...

Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh, 7 November 2019

A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... described Jesus having sex with a variety of men, including Pontius Pilate. John Mortimer and Geoffrey Robertson appeared for the defence, but lost. Gay News was fined and its publisher given a suspended prison sentence. ‘I have an open mind about queer-bashing,’ Waugh’s diary reflected, ‘from one point of view it seems rather cruel … I simply ...

They never married

Ian Hamilton, 10 May 1990

The Dictionary of National Biography: 1981-1985 
edited by Lord Blake and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 518 pp., £40, March 1990, 0 19 865210 0
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... that ordinarily quite lively writers are not at their most sparky when working for the DNB: Geoffrey Wheatcroft on Shiva Naipaul, for instance, or Richard Ingrams on Claud Cockburn (although Ingrams has taken the trouble, it seems, to check through the Times’s files in search of that famous Cockburn headline: ‘Small Earthquake in Chile. Not ...

Other People’s Capital

John Lanchester: Conrad and Barbara Black, 14 December 2006

Conrad and Lady Black: Dancing on the Edge 
by Tom Bower.
Harper, 436 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 00 723234 9
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... and his successor, Charles Moore, though one with a strong ideological slant which may – as Geoffrey Wheatcroft recently argued – have damaged the Tories by losing the historic thread of fuzzy, inclusive One Nation Conservatism. It certainly did a brilliant job of backing the wrong candidate in the Tory Party’s many leadership contests, in ...

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