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Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... An Englishman addressing himself to Irish history and contemporary politics ought always to bear in mind John Stuart Mill’s provocative remark, that it was not Ireland but England that was the exception: ‘Ireland is in the mainstream of human existence and human feeling and experience; it is England that is one of the lateral channels.’ Of the authors under discussion, the first is an Englishman who, in The Offshore Islanders, has anatomised just that lateral channel, the second an Anglo-American journalist, the third a leading Irish politician and writer of uniquely varied experience, and the last the broadcaster and historian reponsible for the current remarkable television series on Ireland ...

Facing the Future

Keith Middlemas, 17 December 1981

Fifty Years of Political and Economic Planning: Looking Forward, 1931-1981 
edited by John Pinder.
Heinemann, 228 pp., £9.50, June 1981, 0 435 83690 0
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... Commemorative pieces tend to be pious rather than memorable, omitting or evading growing pains or the clashes of personality endemic in any institution. Some sections of this short collection of essays by past or present PEP workers are little more than catalogues of worthy research projects. But PEP (since its merger in 1978, now the Policy Studies Institute) has rarely been flatulent or woolly-minded, and the contributors, not always intentionally, reveal quite a lot about a characteristic institution of the 20th-century British political élite ...

Great Scream

Keith Middlemas, 2 July 1981

Uprising! One Nation’s Nightmare: Hungary 1956 
by David Irving.
Hodder, 628 pp., £13.50, March 1981, 0 340 18313 6
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... This volume marks an extension of Mr Irving’s historiography: indeed, its critical reception has already provoked him to reply (in the New Statesman, 8 May) that he sees himself as ‘dedicated to the Augean task of revising modern history’. There are, of course, similarities with his earlier work: the vast mass of detail, painstakingly gathered from an impressive range of oral and written sources (although the rewards are rarely commensurate with the amount of energy used up); the same idiosyncratic use of evidence, as he proceeds from quite minor discoveries to challenging generalisations; and the same bewildering mixture of detailed narrative garnished with reported speech and snippets of broad analysis ...

Poland’s Special Way

Keith Middlemas, 4 February 1982

The Polish August: What Happened in Poland 
by Neal Ascherson.
Allen Lane, 316 pp., £12.50, December 1981, 0 7139 1469 6
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... In the six months since Neal Ascherson’s intricate but lucid account of the rise of Solidarity was finished, Poland’s affairs have become the latest world-heroic saga. While the climax, Soviet invasion, seems to have been replaced by General Jaruzelski’s quite unforeseen takeover, myth has already taken on the force of history, and two themes are now becoming established: that the ‘extremists’ in Solidarity overplayed their hands, thereby challenging the Soviet Union’s interest in a friendly Poland; and that by inducing Jaruzelski to move, Moscow invaded by proxy ...


Peter Sedgwick, 17 September 1981

The Changing Face of Western Communism 
edited by David Childs.
Croom Helm, 288 pp., £12.50, March 1980, 0 85664 734 9
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The Politics of Eurocommunism: Socialism in Transition 
edited by Carl Boggs and David Plotke.
Macmillan, 476 pp., £12.50, June 1980, 0 333 29546 3
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Power and the Party: Changing Faces of Communism in Western Europe 
by Keith Middlemas.
Deutsch, 400 pp., £14.95, July 1980, 0 233 97151 3
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... to a permanent, structural revision of the political orientation of these parties. The comments of Keith Middlemas on the class composition of the mass CPs of the West (a matter given little attention in the otherwise interesting chapters of Kindersley’s collection) must be treated with particular seriousness in relation to the Spanish party. The PCE ...

What’s wrong with Britain

David Marquand, 6 March 1980

... Thirty years ago, as Keith Middlemas reminds us in his messy, but important and sometimes brilliant new book,* Britain served as the model for the reconstruction of European democracy. Not only the British themselves, but their Continental neighbours, took it for granted that the secret of ordered freedom had been learned more successfully here than anywhere else, and that that secret had been encapsulated in the British version of parliamentary government ...

Homage to Wilson and Callaghan

Ross McKibbin, 24 October 1991

Power, Competition and the State. Vol. II: Threats to the Post-War Settlement, Britain, 1961-1974, Vol. III: The End of the Post-War Era, Britain since 1974 
by Keith Middlemas.
Macmillan, 480 pp., £50, March 1990, 0 333 41413 6
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Labour’s Economic Policies, 1974-1979 
edited by Michael Artis and David Cobham.
Manchester, 310 pp., £40, June 1991, 0 7190 2264 9
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... In the second, we now have a significant scholarly literature on the Sixties and Seventies. Keith Middlemas, for example, has completed his remarkable study of Britain’s post-war political economy (a remarkable study even if the conclusions the reader draws from this mass of material are – as in my case – not always Professor ...

Desperate Responses

Richard Hyman, 5 April 1984

Industry, Unions and Government: Twenty-One Years of NEDC 
by Keith Middlemas.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £17.50, January 1984, 0 333 35121 5
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Strikes in Post-War Britain: A Study of Stoppages of Work Due to Industrial Disputes, 1946-73 
by J.W. Durcan, W.E.J. McCarthy and G.P. Redman.
Allen and Unwin, 448 pp., £20, November 1983, 0 04 331093 1
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Picketing: Industrial Disputes, Tactics and the Law 
by Peggy Kahn, Norman Lewis, Rowland Livock and Paul Wiles.
Routledge, 223 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 7100 9534 1
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... at GCHQ has provoked the eventual rupture. In what is effectively an official history of NEDC, Keith Middlemas is anxious to assert its virtues: a vehicle for the pursuit of consensus, the Council ‘has stood for steady, reasoned adjustment to national and international long-term trends, as against the oscillating, hasty patterns and reversals of ...
... to be found on the right, among economic liberals of the school of Hayek, whose influence, via Sir Keith Joseph and Milton Friedman, has produced the astonishing spectacle of a British Conservative leadership acting more dogmatically and ideologically, and more precipitately, than any Labour government has ever done. Two favourable reviewers of my recent ...

Hattersley’s Specifics

Michael Stewart, 19 March 1987

Choose freedom: The Future for Democratic Socialism 
by Roy Hattersley.
Joseph, 265 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 7181 2483 9
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Power, Competition and the State. Vol. I: Britain in Search of Balance, 1940-61 
by Keith Middlemas.
Methuen, 404 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 333 41412 8
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... years. When Crosland was writing, Britain was far from immune to balance-of-payments crises – as Keith Middlemas’s book amply documents. Nevertheless, manufactured imports were equivalent to a much smaller proportion of the GDP than they are today, and were subject to greater restrictions; exchange controls were still extensive; and Euro-markets were ...

What’s the big idea?

Jonathan Parry: The Origins of Our Decline, 30 November 2017

The Age of Decadence: Britain 1880 to 1914 
by Simon Heffer.
Random House, 912 pp., £30, September 2017, 978 1 84794 742 0
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... Party, policy-making was delegated to committees, which were rarely temples of high-mindedness. Keith Middlemas described the politics of industrial society as a battle of economic interests – capital and labour – that became bureaucratised and accommodated within the processes and institutions of government. Parties appealed to voters mostly in ...

Why Do the Tories Always Have the Luck?

Peter Clarke, 23 February 1995

Conservative Century: The Conservative Party since 1900 
edited by Anthony Seldon and Stuart Ball.
Oxford, 842 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 19 820238 5
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... Service to bear, notably on the way in which Whitehall was ‘de-privileged’ under Thatcher. Keith Middlemas, an authority on the corporate institutions with which the 20th-century state has become imbricated, writes lucidly on the party’s relations with industry and the City, making the valid point that these have often been more problematic than ...

The great times they could have had

Paul Foot, 15 September 1988

Wallis: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor 
by Charles Higham.
Sidgwick, 419 pp., £17.95, June 1988, 0 283 99627 7
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The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor 
by Michael Bloch.
Bantam, 326 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 9780593016671
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... British interests and German interests were on a collision course. As the biographers of Baldwin, Keith Middlemas and John Barnes, observed, ‘the government had awakened to a danger that had nothing to do with any question of marriage.’ Charles Higham quotes an FBI file in Washington: ‘Certain would-be state secrets were passed on to Edward, and ...

The Europe to Come

Perry Anderson, 25 January 1996

The Rotten Heart of Europe 
by Bernard Connolly.
Faber, 427 pp., £17.50, September 1995, 0 571 17520 1
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Orchestrating Europe: The Informal Politics of European Union 1973-93 
by Keith Middlemas.
Fontana, 821 pp., £27.50, November 1995, 0 00 255678 2
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... and strangely zestful guide through the institutional maze and informal log-rolling of the Union, Keith Middlemas looks out on a somewhat broader scene. Europe, he suggests, is surrounded by an arc of potential threat curving from Murmansk to Casablanca. To hold it at a distance, the Union needs a belt of insulation, comprising a ‘second circle’ of ...


Alan Ryan, 6 November 1986

The Enemies Within: The Story of the Miners’ Strike 1984-5 
by Ian MacGregor and Rodney Tyler.
Collins, 384 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 00 217706 4
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A Balance of Power 
by Jim Prior.
Hamish Hamilton, 278 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 9780241119570
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... It was a recipe for encouraging extremism in all directions; within the Cabinet itself, it set Sir Keith Joseph and Mrs Thatcher to dreaming of what might have been achieved but for weakness of will and a tendency to U-turns; in the country it made the most moderate union leaders wonder what they might get by flexing their muscles. The Government failed to get ...

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