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Spinoza got it

Margaret Jacob: Radical Enlightenment, 8 November 2012

A Revolution of the Mind: Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy 
by Jonathan Israel.
Princeton, 276 pp., £13.95, September 2011, 978 0 691 15260 8
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... Once primarily interested in economic history, Jonathan Israel has more recently turned his attention to the intellectual roots of Western modernity in the 18th-century Enlightenment. In the 1980s, critics on the left would have told him not to bother. During that decade the Enlightenment became a prime target in the American culture wars. Postmodernists found it masculine, universalist and Eurocentric; fiscal conservatives read its texts selectively, finding value in Locke on government, or praising the free market philosophy of Adam Smith ...

More Pasts Than One

Eric Foner, 23 March 1995

Telling the Truth about History 
by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob.
Norton, 322 pp., £19.95, August 1994, 0 393 03615 4
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... an intellectually plausible lineage for the nation state. As Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob demonstrate, a particular version of history has played a major role in defining the American nation. What they call the ‘self-congratulatory national history’ of the 19th century helped to recast the experience of a few million people on ...

Counter-Factuals

Linda Colley, 1 November 1984

The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism 
edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob.
Allen and Unwin, 333 pp., £18.50, February 1984, 0 04 909015 1
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Insurrection: The British Experience 1795-1803 
by Roger Wells.
Alan Sutton, 312 pp., £16, May 1983, 9780862990190
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Radicalism and Freethought in 19th-Century Britain 
by Joel Wiener.
Greenwood, 285 pp., $29.95, March 1983, 0 313 23532 5
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For King, Constitution and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution 
by Robert Dozier.
Kentucky, 213 pp., £20.90, February 1984, 9780813114903
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... Just the place for a snark, the Bellman said. And with equal assurance, political activists from Tom Paine to Friedrich Engels and historians from Elie Halévy to Edward Thompson have hailed 18th and 19th-century Britain as just the place for a revolution. For superficially – though only superficially – the conditions seem to have been almost ideal ...

Newton and God’s Truth

Christopher Hill, 4 September 1980

A Portrait of Isaac Newton 
by Frank Manuel.
Muller, 478 pp., £11.75, April 1980, 0 584 95357 7
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Philosopher at War: The Quarrel between Newton and Leibniz 
by Rupert Hall.
Cambridge, 338 pp., £15, July 1980, 0 521 22732 1
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... outward forms in which this genius was expressed. Work published since 1968 – notably that of Margaret Jacob – amplifies some of Manuel’s conclusions and reinforces my feeling – with which Manuel would not disagree – that many of Newton’s peculiarities can be explained in sociological terms, or in terms of his religious inheritance and of ...

Jacob and Esau

Giles Merritt, 24 November 1988

Upwardly Mobile 
by Norman Tebbit.
Weidenfeld, 280 pp., £14.95, October 1988, 0 297 79427 2
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Reflect on things past: The Memoirs of Lord Carrington 
Collins, 406 pp., £17.50, October 1988, 9780002176675Show More
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... Lord Carrington and Norman Tebbit must be the Jacob and Esau of the Tory Party. Peter Carrington is beyond question a smooth man, and Tebbit is, if not hairy, certainly very prickly. They are also chalk and cheese politically, even though both have in their time been chairman of the Conservative Party. Lord Carrington is the scion of generations of Whigs, a man bred to the ideal of public service and in many ways an unrepentant ‘wet ...

I love her to bits

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Testaments’, 7 November 2019

The Testaments 
by Margaret Atwood.
Chatto, 419 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 78474 232 4
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... anyone it can exploit to empty bedpans. I once imagined that The Children of Men was a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), just set a few years later, and in a less benighted country. In Atwood’s novel, it’s still possible to see a pregnant woman, but she’s a ‘magic presence’, a ‘flag on a hilltop, showing us what ...

Making saints

Peter Burke, 18 October 1984

Saints and Society: The Two Worlds of Western Christendom 1000-1700 
by Donald Weinstein and Rudolph Bell.
Chicago, 314 pp., £21.25, February 1983, 0 226 89055 4
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The Norman Conquest and Beyond 
by Frank Barlow.
Hambledon, 318 pp., £22, June 1983, 0 907628 19 2
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Miracles and the Medieval Mind 
by Benedicta Ward.
Scolar, 321 pp., £17.50, November 1983, 0 85967 609 9
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The Great Debate on Miracles: From Joseph Glanvill to David Hume 
by R.M. Burns.
Associated University Presses, 305 pp., £17.50, July 1983, 0 8387 2378 0
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Saints and their Cults: Studies in Religious Sociology, Folklore and History 
edited by Stephen Wilson.
Cambridge, 435 pp., £35, December 1983, 0 521 24978 3
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... important books on closely related subjects: the work of Michael Hunter, for example, or that of Margaret Jacob. Some of the author’s concepts could have been defined with more rigour. Although he is aware of the problems involved in using the term ‘puritan’, this awareness is not extended to ‘latitudinarian’ – or to ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... between the Schaw statutes of 1598 and Anderson’s appearance in London. His leading critic, Margaret Jacob, concedes that pre-1707 Freemasonry might have been a ‘phenomenon ... truly British avant la lettre’, but notes that the English terminology and constitutionalism of Anderson’s invented traditions were then re-exported north of the ...

Dear Prudence

Steven Shapin: Stephen Toulmin, 14 January 2002

Return to Reason 
by Stephen Toulmin.
Harvard, 243 pp., £16.95, June 2001, 0 674 00495 7
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... terms it carries plausibility, and the work of such historians as Rudolph Meyer, Richard Popkin, Margaret Jacob and Simon Schaffer tends broadly to support it: the bloody wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries appeared as a crisis in the authority and unity of knowledge; the thinking classes reckoned that peace could be secured and guaranteed ...

The Brothers Koerbagh

Jonathan Rée: The Enlightenment, 14 January 2002

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750 
by Jonathan Israel.
Oxford, 810 pp., £30, February 2001, 0 19 820608 9
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... the monarchical forms of political power that went with it. The new pattern was first traced by Margaret Jacob in a monograph boldly entitled The Radical Enlightenment (1981). Her aim was to discredit the old picture of unworldly Philosophes who were ‘incapable of political action’, and replace it with a roguish gallery of ‘freemasons and ...

Can I have my shilling back?

Peter Campbell, 19 November 1992

Epstein: Artist against the Establishment 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Joseph, 532 pp., £20, September 1992, 9780718129446
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... Jacob Epstein made, roughly speaking, three kinds of sculpture. There were busts and portrait heads in bronze, which pretty well everybody liked. I remember returning again and again to the photographs of them in his autobiography, particularly to the long-necked high-cheekboned girls who seemed as romantic as Picasso’s sad blue and pink people, but more substantial ...

The Two Jacobs

James Meek: The Faragist Future, 1 August 2019

... will live in a nice house in the middle of London, but it won’t be his house. Nigel Farage, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Arron Banks bought it for him. They own 10 Downing Street, and they own him. Amid a cascade of extreme events and consequences, we all tend to lose focus – not just the humble citizen but those charged with steering us through. Early in the ...

Poetry to Thrill an Oyster

Gregory Woods: Fitz-Greene Halleck, 16 November 2000

The American Byron: Homosexuality and the Fall of Fitz-Greene Halleck 
by John W.M. Hallock.
Wisconsin, 226 pp., £14.95, April 2000, 0 299 16804 2
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... to frequent moments of absurdity. For instance, a female character in one of the poems is called Margaret, so we are told that ‘close to the time when’ (but far from the place where) Halleck wrote this poem, ‘Margaret’ was an alternative term for the ‘mollies’ (cross-dressing, man-loving men) of old ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... we must be grateful to scholars who have done it well. Two names spring at once to mind: those of Jacob Burckhardt, whose Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy, written in 1860, is still required reading on its subject; and Johan Huizinga, who wrote in Burckhardt’s shadow about the same centuries (though not the same area), and in 1919 achieved the same ...

Anglo-America

Stephen Fender, 3 April 1980

The London Yankees: Portraits of American Writers and Artists in England, 1894-1914 
by Stanley Weintraub.
W.H. Allen, 408 pp., £7.95, November 1979, 0 491 02209 3
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The Americans: Fifty Letters from America on our Life and Times 
by Alistair Cooke.
Bodley Head, 323 pp., £5.95, October 1979, 0 370 30163 3
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... in the Austrian Tyrol, continued undisturbed.’ Pound carried on fighting for T.S. Eliot. Jacob Epstein told his patron John Quinn: ‘My business as I see it is to get on with my work ... Everybody here is war-mad. But my life has always been war.’ Well, in a manner of speaking, perhaps. James took the figurative mode to greater heights: ‘My ...

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