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When the spear is thrown

J.G.A. Pocock, 8 October 1992

Two Worlds: First Meetings between Maori and Europeans, 1642-1772 
by Anne Salmond.
Viking, 477 pp., £18.99, March 1992, 0 670 83298 7
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... A society which seriously determines, or discovers, that it is a convergence of two cultures needs a history of two cultures; and since history is a product of culture, this means that it needs two histories, the history of two experiences and two ways of looking at history. This has been the case of New Zealand since it was realised – or since the realisation was forced upon the Pakeha – that the Maori remember a different history and, in consequence, remember history differently ...

What do we mean by it?

J.G.A. Pocock, 7 January 1993

The Cambridge History of Political Thought: 1450-1700 
edited by J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie.
Cambridge, 798 pp., £60, August 1991, 0 521 24716 0
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... This volume is one of a series. Professor Burns has already edited the Cambridge History of Medieval Political Thought: c. 250-c. 1450 (1988), Dr Goldie is to join with Robert Wokler in editing the Cambridge History of 18th-Century Political Thought, and a volume on the 19th century is to follow. These furthermore are ‘Cambridge histories’ in the classic sense, laid down by Lord Acton a century ago: general editors co-ordinate a series of chapters on related topics, each written by an authority in the field it defines ...

Was He One of Them?

J.G.A. Pocock, 23 February 1995

Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vols I-VI 
edited by David Womersley.
Allen Lane, 1114 pp., £75, November 1994, 0 7139 9124 0
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... David Womersley’s massive and elegant edition of Gibbon is the better timed because it comes a century after the edition scholars have been obliged to use as the nearest to a critical text. It was in 1896 that J.B. Bury brought out the first volume of his edition, which he reissued in 1909 and which until now has been considered standard. We can therefore look back from Womersley to Bury, across a century of upheavals in both historiography and history, and wonder, Neoclassically, what will have become of both text and new edition when the next fin de siècle is on its way out ...

Removal from the Wings

J.G.A. Pocock, 20 March 1997

Making Peoples: A History of the New Zealanders from Polynesian Settlement to the End of the 19th Century 
by James Belich.
Allen Lane, 497 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 7139 9171 2
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... For a people accustomed to govern itself, history is the past of its sovereignty, modified by such other pasts as appear relevant. What is such a people to do when the historical conditions which have defined its sovereignty are radically changed, and the future of sovereignty itself appears uncertain? A possible answer is that it may set about rewriting its history in the light of these new questions, emphasising the precariousness of its historical autonomy, and asking whether sovereignty has in fact been exercised and if so, by whom ...

Rangatiratanga

J.G.A. Pocock: Maori, 8 September 2011

Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921 
by Judith Binney.
Bridget Williams, 670 pp., £50, May 2009, 978 1 877242 44 1
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Stories without End: Essays, 1975-2010 
by Judith Binney.
Bridget Williams, 424 pp., £30, May 2010, 978 1 877242 47 2
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... To explain why Judith Binney – who died in New Zealand in February – is a major figure in contemporary historiography it is necessary to explain why the history of her country has become a field of which contemporary historians do well to take notice. They have not always done so. New Zealand has been considered a safe, dull Anglo-democracy, with a welfare state 75 years old and reasonable race relations, small and remote enough – even in times of world war – to be dismissed as happy in having no history; none at least, to which historians need bother to attend ...

The devil has two horns

J.G.A. Pocock, 24 February 1994

The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography and Commented Anthology of Edmund Burke 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Minerva, 692 pp., £8.99, September 1993, 0 7493 9721 7
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... Conor Cruise O’Brien’s majestic study takes rise from two lines of Yeats: American colonies, Ireland, France and India Harried, and Burke’s great melody against it. The problem is how to use the first line to answer two questions: how did the ‘great melody’ come to be uttered; and what exactly was ‘it’? Yeats answered the latter: Whether they knew or not, Goldsmith and Burke, Swift and the Bishop of Cloyne All hated Whiggery; but what is Whiggery? A levelling, rancorous, rational sort of mind That never looked out of the eye of a saint Or out of a drunkard’s eye ...

The Ironist

J.G.A. Pocock: Gibbon under Fire, 14 November 2002

Gibbon and the ‘Watchmen of the Holy City’: The Historian and His Reputation 1776-1815 
by David Womersley.
Oxford, 452 pp., £65, January 2002, 0 19 818733 5
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... Since two pioneering studies appeared in 1954, Arnaldo Momigliano’s ‘Gibbon’s Contribution to Historical Method’, and Giuseppe Giarrizzo’s Edward Gibbon e la cultura europea del Settecento, the historian of the Roman Empire has himself become the object of serious historical study. It can still be maintained that his work is, in D.R. Woolf’s words, ‘probably the most famous and perhaps the most misunderstood history written in the past three centuries’, and that this is the consequence of an excessive focus on the Decline and Fall’s first volume, which appeared in 1776 and had no successor until 1781 ...

Deconstructing Europe

J.G.A. Pocock, 19 December 1991

... History is about process and movement: yet up to now, it has taken as given the perspectives furnished by relatively stable geographical communities, of whose pasts, and the processes leading to their presents, history is supposed to consist. All that may be changing, with the advent of the global village, in which no one’s home is one’s own; with the advent, too, of a universally-imposed alienation, in which one’s identity is presupposed either as some other’s aggression against one, or as one’s own aggression against someone else, and in either case scheduled for deconstruction ...

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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... history the history of political thought has travelled since the middle of the 20th century. John Pocock is often associated with the Cambridge School, with good reason. He took his doctorate at Cambridge, where he came into contact with Laslett, and has played a leading role, alongside Skinner, in the contextualist revolution. Yet his formative experience ...

Pocock’s Positions

Blair Worden, 4 November 1993

Political Discourse in Early Modern Britain 
edited by Nicholas Phillipson and Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 444 pp., £35, March 1993, 9780521392426
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... in Early Modern Britain, that it is a Festschrift for the historian of political thought J.G.A. Pocock. Publishers are generally wary of Festschrifts, which are liable to interest the recipient’s friends and colleagues more than a wider audience; but this is not an ordinary Festschrift. There are no hushed tributes, no rehearsals for obituary notices. By ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’, 7 October 2015

‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... A friend​ who teaches in New York told me that the historian Peter Lake told him that J.G.A. Pocock told him that Conrad Russell told him that Bertrand Russell told him that Lord John Russell told him that his father the sixth Duke of Bedford told him that he had heard William Pitt the Younger speak in Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars, and that Pitt had this curious way of talking, a particular mannerism that the sixth Duke of Bedford had imitated to Lord John Russell who imitated it to Bertrand Russell who imitated it to Conrad Russell who imitated it to J ...

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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... Tall, silver-haired and bearded, with a mesmerising voice and beguiling manner of delivery, John Pocock has long struck me as the Gandalf of the historical profession. The range, altitude and stylistic sophistication of his writing seem almost other-worldly, though legend has it that his distinctive accent derives from a small community of Channel Islanders in New Zealand ...

Tory History

Alan Ryan, 23 January 1986

English Society 1688-1832 
by J.C.D. Clark.
Cambridge, 439 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 30922 0
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Virtue, Commerce and History 
by J.G.A. Pocock.
Cambridge, 321 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 521 25701 8
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... of History’ is a case in point. Herbert Butterfield slew it in 1931, and here come John Pocock and Jonathan Clark to slay it again. There is next to nothing in common between them, save their opposition to the Whig Interpretation and its offspring: but it is that opposition which provides both of them with the structure of their argument and the ...

No Trousers

Claude Rawson, 20 December 1990

The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. VIII: The French Revolution 1790-1794 
edited by L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, March 1990, 0 19 822422 2
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Reflections on the Revolution in France 
by Edmund Burke, edited by J.G.A. Pocock.
Hackett, 236 pp., $5.95, January 1987, 0 87220 020 5
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APhilosophical Enquiry 
by Edmund Burke, edited by Adam Phillips.
Oxford, 173 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 19 281807 4
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... Tory’, both for those who liked the label and those who didn’t. To Burke himself, as J.G.A. Pocock points out in an outstanding introduction which should not be allowed to remain buried in a paperback textbook, excellent though it is, the word ‘Tory’ suggested an antediluvian extremism: ‘Jacobites ... or Anglican ultras who silently held that the ...

Writing to rule

Claude Rawson, 18 September 1980

Boileau and the Nature of Neo-Classicism 
by George Pocock.
Cambridge, 215 pp., £12.50, June 1980, 0 521 22772 0
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‘The Rape of the Lock’ and its Illustrations 1714-1896 
by Robert Halsband.
Oxford, 160 pp., £11.50, July 1980, 0 19 812098 2
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... a bit like dropping the word ‘candidate’ because such persons no longer wear a white toga. Mr Pocock is untroubled by problems of nomenclature, ignoring (I suppose in the French as well as the English sense of ignoring) the existence of this particular non-problem. He uses ‘Augustan’ of English poets as readily as he uses ‘Neo-Classic’ of the ...

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