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14 September 1989
Namier 
by Linda Colley.
Weidenfeld, 132 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79587 2
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Hume 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79592 9
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... In the Sixties J.H.Plumb euphorically announced the death of the ‘past’ – that comforting mythology conjured up to serve the present and make sense of things as they are – in the face of an advancing scholarship ...
3 February 1983
The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialisation of 18th-Century England 
by Neil McKendrick, John​ Brewer and J.H. Plumb.
Europa, 355 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 905118 00 6
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... but not, thus far, what the embourgeoisement of the 18th century meant for the average English consumer. In a book as lively, as diverse and as rich as the society it describes, Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and their joint mentor, Sir JohnPlumb, have gone far to rectify this omission. Moving from pots to strops, McKendrick explains the varied entrepreneurial skills of a tycoon, Josiah Wedgwood ...
22 May 1986
The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... to reduce general interest in knowledge about the past. Yet Lowenthal is optimistic that Clio is still very much among the muses on Helicon and that the power of the past is no less than when J.H.Plumb began to toll its knell. Why and how we change the past – the third part of the book – is an individual as well as a collective matter, a conscious as well as an unconscious process. At the ...

Pudding Time

Colin Kidd: Jacobites

14 December 2006
1715: The Great Jacobite Rebellion 
by Daniel Szechi.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, June 2006, 0 300 11100 2
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... to reflect an era of ordered prosperity referred to in the song ‘The Vicar of Bray’ as ‘pudding time’. The conventional wisdom of the Whigs was repackaged for a modern audience by J.H.Plumb during the 1960s. Plumb redirected attention towards the patronage systems that had secured political stability in the first third of the 18th century. For him, Jacobitism’s primary significance ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve

5 February 1981
Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... fitting untidily with the cleansed, scientific precisions of anti-humanist literary criticism of the kind Eagleton now favours. Only one famous historian came out on Carpenter’s behalf: J.H.Plumb. In an essay reprinted in his collection In the Light of History (1969), Plumb surveyed the world of Edwardian cranks, mystics and nature freaks, and gave his opinion: ‘they were right.’ History ...
17 July 1980
Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... as base-superstructure models, it is no news to them that the political and legal powers of the state have an integrity and persistence of their own. Academic historians such as Maurice Cowling and John Vincent have for years been plotting the political seduction of the aspiring middle classes into primrose leagues. It was all in Bagehot anyway. Similarly it is striking, but in some ways rather ...
26 September 1991
The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... A small news item with a large history behind it: John Sylvester, an inhabitant of Lancashire, was released last month from a life spent in mental hospitals and institutions, aged 81. He had been incarcerated when he was six years old, and his offence ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment

8 March 2001
Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... even among professional historians, the expression ‘English Enlightenment’ still offends the ear. Curiously, the first historian to query this complacent picture was the future arch-Eurosceptic, John Redwood, in his Reason, Ridicule and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England 1660-1750 (1976). This told the story of the assault on orthodox Christianity launched during the Augustan age by a ...
4 September 1980
Queen Anne 
by Edward Gregg.
Routledge, 483 pp., £17.50, April 1980, 0 7100 0400 1
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... her views on the great men of the day’, and to preside over and/or dominate the age which fittingly bears her name. He acknowledges a heavy debt to established scholars in the field, notably J.H.Plumb, Geoffrey Holmes, G.V. Bennett and Henry L. Snyder, and the extent of the debt is very evident in the book. But he is also his own man, able to draw upon his own published articles and unpublished ...

Futures

John​ Dunn

5 February 1981
History of the Idea of Progress 
by Robert Nisbet.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 435 82657 3
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... and his intellectually rather more invigorating critique of evolutionary social theory, Social Change and History. The present work comes with handsome puffs from the eminent. Professor J.H.Plumb describes its author on the jacket as both ‘a political philosopher with a most acute analytical mind’ and ‘a scholar of very wide and precise scholarship’. Of its width there can indeed be ...
19 June 1980
George Macaulay Trevelyan: A Memoir 
by Mary Moorman.
Hamish Hamilton, 253 pp., £9.95, April 1980, 0 241 10358 4
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Public and Private 
by Humphrey Trevelyan.
Hamish Hamilton, 208 pp., £8.95, February 1980, 0 241 10357 6
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... G.M. Trevelyan (1876-1962) burnt all his papers. His ‘Autobiography of an Historian’ (1949) is as the title suggests both narrow and concise. The sketch by a pupil, J.H.Plumb, published in 1951, is a survey of the books rather than the man. Mrs Moorman, herself the biographer of Wordsworth as well as a loyal daughter, rightly considers this is not enough, and has ...

Diary

Keith Thomas: Working Methods

10 June 2010
... to mark key passages by underlining them or drawing lines and pointing fingers in the margin – the early modern equivalent of the yellow highlighter. According to the Jacobean educational writer John Brinsley, ‘the choycest books of most great learned men, and the notablest students’ were marked through, ‘with little lines under or above’ or ‘by some prickes, or whatsoever letter or ...
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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... own ashes, somewhat changed in appearance, but detectably the same creature as before. The ‘Whig Interpretation 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 ...

Whigissimo

Stefan Collini: Herbert Butterfield

21 July 2005
Herbert Butterfield: Historian as Dissenter 
by C.T. McIntire.
Yale, 499 pp., £30, August 2005, 0 300 09807 3
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... though it could still be used occasionally ‘to express adherence to moderate or antiquated Liberal principles’. The illustrative quotations reinforced this emphasis: ‘The term Whig,’ Lord John Russell said in the 1850s, ‘has the convenience of expressing in one syllable what Conservative Liberal expresses in seven.’ The entry ranged widely over the (mainly pejorative) extensions of the ...
6 June 1985
The BBC: The First 50 Years 
by Asa Briggs.
Oxford, 439 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 0 19 212971 6
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The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. I: Words, Numbers, Places, People 
Harvester, 245 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 7108 0094 0Show More
The Collected Essays of Asa Briggs. Vol. II: Images, Problems, Standpoints, Forecasts 
Harvester, 324 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 7108 0510 1Show More
The 19th Century: The Contradictions of Progress 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Thames and Hudson, 239 pp., £18, April 1985, 0 500 04013 3
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... the larger the target. Compared with his immediate contemporaries, Briggs’s writing lacks the combative forcefulness of G.R. Elton, the olympian grandeur of Owen Chadwick, the stylish verve of J.H.Plumb, the cosmopolitan allusiveness of E.J. Hobsbawm, and the impassioned radicalism of Christopher Hill. Some have criticised his work for being too bland, for lacking analytical bite, for being more ...

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