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Kiss Count

John Campbell, 19 April 1984

Speak for yourself: A Mass-Observation Anthology 1937-1949 
edited by Angus Calder and Dorothy Sheridan.
Cape, 272 pp., £12.50, March 1984, 0 224 02102 8
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Voices: 1870-1914 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 292 pp., £9.95, April 1984, 0 224 02103 6
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... The spectacle of members of the upper class setting out solemnly and in a spirit of scientific research to study the lower classes in their natural habitat is a peculiarly Thirties phenomenon. Earlier social investigators, like the Webbs, had quarried their material at second hand from mountains of blue books, reports and statistical abstracts. Young men from the public schools, like Clement Attlee, had gone to live and work among the poor, but to help rather than to observe ...


John Campbell, 19 December 1985

The Kitchener Enigma 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 436 pp., £15, September 1985, 0 7181 2385 9
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Kitchener: The Man behind the Legend 
by Philip Warner.
Hamish Hamilton, 247 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 0 241 11587 6
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... and cholera, was both unimaginative and inhumane. His were the ‘methods of barbarism’ at which Campbell-Bannerman protested so bravely in the House of Commons. Once again, however, Kitchener won in the end. Moreover he was notably generous, more so than Milner, in his desire to conclude hostilities before the last Boer had been shot in the last ditch. This ...

Bertie pulls it off

John Campbell, 11 January 1990

King George VI 
by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 506 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 79667 4
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... The British monarchy was tested almost to destruction in 1936-37. The crisis had three phases, of which the actual abdication of King Edward VIII was only the most visible. The monarchy had already been placed under acute strain by Edward’s unkingly conduct in the few months since his father’s death – his feckless hedonism, his dangerous political naivety and his neglect of the more tedious duties of his role ...

Hit and Muss

John Campbell, 23 January 1986

David Low 
by Colin Seymour-Ure and Jim Schoff.
Secker, 180 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 9780436447556
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... In its own small sphere, the destruction by Express Newspapers of the Beaverbrook Library must rank as one of the worst acts of intellectual vandalism in recent years. No one who had the privilege of working there during its brief existence in the late Sixties and early Seventies will ever forget it. There, instantly accessible in their sliding metal racks, were the Lloyd George, Bonar Law, Beaverbrook and other papers; on a quiet day, when one was trusted, one could actually get out one’s own files ...

Bevan’s Boy

John Campbell, 20 September 1984

The Making of Neil Kinnock 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 571 13266 9
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Neil Kinnock: The Path to Leadership 
by G.M.F. Drower.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 297 78467 6
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... For several years, until he became Labour leader and had to watch his entry more carefully, Neil Kinnock claimed in Who’s Who to be the author of an anthology of the writings and sayings of Aneurin Bevan entitled What Nye said: each year the supposed publication date was authoritatively amended, although the book has never appeared. When asked about it by G ...

Why did it end so badly?

Ross McKibbin: Thatcher, 18 March 2004

Margaret Thatcher. Vol. II: The Iron Lady 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 913 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 224 06156 9
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... Si monumentum requiris, circumspice. Even those, John Campbell suggests, who have little or no memory of Margaret Thatcher, live in a world she created; and from which there is no going back. More than any other British prime minister, even Gladstone, she conforms to Max Weber’s type of the modern demagogic politician: the leader who appeals directly to the electorate over the heads of the party machine; and who subordinates the machine to his or her political personality ...

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 ...

In the Front Row

Susan Pedersen: Loving Lloyd George, 25 January 2007

. . . If Love Were All: The Story of Frances Stevenson and David Lloyd George 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 557 pp., £25, June 2006, 0 224 07464 4
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... duties; and Stevenson’s competence at her job (not to mention the fact that she looked, as John Campbell notes, ‘too prim to be anything so improper as a mistress’) warded off suspicion. But the real reason this triangular relationship endured unmolested was surely that, in some crucial sense, all three principals played by the ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Books are getting too long, 1 December 1983

... me today? A book of virtually nine hundred pages on F.E. Smith, first Earl of Birkenhead, by John Campbell, has appeared on my desk this morning. John Campbell has written first-rate biographies. I even have a vague recollection that F.E. Smith, Lord Birkenhead, was once a figure of some political ...

Maximum Embarrassment

David Marquand, 7 May 1987

Nye Bevan and the Mirage of British Socialism 
by John Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £15.95, March 1987, 0 297 78998 8
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The Political Diary of Hugh Dalton: 1918-40, 1945-60 
edited by Ben Pimlott.
Cape, 752 pp., £40, January 1987, 0 224 01912 0
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... to office in the following decade, than some of their old opponents from the right. But, as John Campbell makes clear in this marvellously lucid and moving reassessment of the political career of Aneurin Bevan, the similarities with the Thirties were only skin-deep. This time, the schisms did touch the core of party purpose. Though Left and Right ...

Little Havens of Intimacy

Linda Colley: Margaret Thatcher, 7 September 2000

Margaret Thatcher. Vol. I: The Grocer’s Daughter 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 512 pp., £25, May 2000, 0 224 04097 9
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... and redemption, of long-awaited messiahs and of betrayals with a Judas kiss. The challenge John Campbell has set himself is to write an authoritative though not authorised biography of Margaret Thatcher that acknowledges its subject’s calibre while sorting through and sifting the legends that have grown up around her. In this, the first of two ...

Le Roi Jean Quinze

Stefan Collini: Roy Jenkins and Labour, 5 June 2014

Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, March 2014, 978 0 224 08750 6
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... the dreams that attached themselves to him. In choosing ‘a well-rounded life’ as his subtitle, John Campbell risks some obvious jibes about his increasingly portly subject, but he delivers on its promise. It is a persuasive, if at times indulgent, portrait of a life rich in satisfactions. At its heart were a long, close marriage and three children, to ...

The Great NBA Disaster

John Sutherland, 19 October 1995

... In 1851 the trade referred its dispute to a tribunal headed by the author and judge Lord John Campbell. His decision was delivered on 19 May 1852 and published in its entirety by the triumphant Times. Campbell came down uncompromisingly for free trade. The Regulations, they said, were indefensible, and ...

Tale from a Silver Age

Peter Clarke, 22 July 1993

Edward Heath: A Biography 
by John Campbell.
Cape, 876 pp., £20, July 1993, 0 224 02482 5
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... length by Major, how is the recent history of the Conservative Party to be written and rewritten? John Campbell’s biography addresses this question with admirable erudition, insight and dispassion. It sets out to make the case for Heath in much the same way that Ben Pimlott’s biography did for Wilson last year: that is, not to argue for a favourable ...
... Wyndham Lewis’s portrait of Stephen Spender upstages a row of portraits by Lamb, Coldstream and John because of its linear clarity and bite, and a Matthew Smith holds your eye by force of juicy paint and saturated colour alone. Yet thin paint in the work of Stanley Spencer and Paul Nash is part of an Englishness (or rather of two sorts of ...

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