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How should they remember it?

John Foot: War in the Alps

9 April 2009
The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front 1915-19 
by Mark Thompson.
Faber, 455 pp., £9.99, April 2009, 978 0 571 22334 3
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... or region than with the nation. Most of the fighting took place around the Isonzo River in the north-east, but the front stretched west through Trentino and Alto Adige, and it was here that what MarkThompson describes as ‘the white war’ really took place. The spectacular paths that lead to the mountain refuges high above Pinzolo were built to serve the front line on the peaks above – in ...
27 May 1993
The Spirit of the Age: An Account of Our Times 
by David Selbourne.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 388 pp., £20, February 1993, 1 85619 204 0
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... In his brilliant account of collapsing Yugoslavia, A Paper House, MarkThompson meets a leader of the Vojvodina Ruthenes called Professor Julijan Tamas. Since 1989 this tiny people has been struggling back into political existence. In 1991 they managed to stage the first World ...

Greater Croatia

Mark Thompson

13 May 1993
... The famous gentility of Zagreb is wearing thin. Croatia’s tidy capital has been degraded by almost two years of war, as has the regime which has held power since the free elections of 1990. Across the country, queues for black bread form before dawn. Subsidised by the state, black bread is far cheaper than other kinds; with the average monthly wage sinking below the equivalent of £40, only one in ...
25 August 2011
... These conditions were, a senior insider tells me, a potential deal breaker in the negotiations in which the BBC secured the licence fee – frozen at the current level – for the next six years. MarkThompson, the BBC’s director general, told me in June that the Foreign Office’s continuing control is ‘a fine constitutional point’ which can be addressed in the next charter renewal – no ...

Charmed Lives

Patrick Parrinder

23 April 1987
Memoirs of a Fortunate Jew: An Italian Story 
by Dan Vittorio Segre.
Peter Halban, 273 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 1 870015 00 2
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To the Land of the Reeds 
by Aharon Appelfeld, translated by Jeffrey Green.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £9.95, February 1987, 0 297 78972 4
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by Daphne Merkin.
Hamish Hamilton, 288 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 241 12113 2
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by Umberto Saba, translated by Mark Thompson.
Carcanet, 166 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 559 3
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... Kermode has recently remarked in this paper, memoirs and confessions are still to some extent separate genres, then it may be said that a conviction of his own good fortune is the distinguishing mark of the memoirist. The memoirs of famous sportsmen, actors and television personalities seem constantly to be saying: ‘Look what a fortunate person I am!’ There are primitive and more or less ...


Sean Maguire: In Sarajevo

10 September 1992
... defence, collects more exhibits. The dead are buried communally, civilians on one side, soldiers on the other. Fresh mounds of earth press up to the boundaries of the graveyard. Plain wooden planks mark each plot, a different shape for each religion, with white plastic lettering spelling out name and life-span. There is a certain rigid beauty to the multiple symmetry of the dates. The Sarajevans ...

What are we telling the nation?

David Edgar: Thoughts about the BBC

7 July 2005
Uncertain Vision: Birt, Dyke and the Reinvention of the BBC 
by Georgina Born.
Vintage, 352 pp., £10.99, August 2005, 0 09 942893 8
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Building Public Value: Renewing the BBC for a Digital World 
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... but made similar demands. Eventually, back at the BBC, the play got its perfect casting – Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Joanna Lumley – and was ‘bought’ in 1998 by the then BBC2 controller MarkThompson for broadcast at Christmas. Andrew Davies symbolised the great success of 1990s BBC drama: the reinvention of the classic serial, whose high points (including Davies’s Pride and Prejudice ...

Memories of Tagore

E.P. Thompson

22 May 1986
... Encounter (1972) is one gate-of-entry into these problems of mismatch between the expectations of Western Orientalism and of Eastern Occidentalism, both of which Tagore confounded. Edward John Thompson (1886-1946) was then an educational missionary at the Wesleyan College at Bankura. He had published several volumes of verse, and was approaching proficiency in Bengali. After a brief meeting in ...

What’s Missing

Katrina Navickas: Tawney, Polanyi, Thompson

11 October 2018
The Moral Economists: R.H. Tawney, Karl Polanyi, E.P. Thompson​ and the Critique of Capitalism 
by Tim Rogan.
Princeton, 263 pp., £30, December 2017, 978 0 691 17300 9
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... period’. Charting the social and economic impact of the Protestant Reformation in 16th-century Europe, Tawney’s book also served as a warning against the moral perils of a market economy. E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class, published in 1963, was ‘surely the most widely read and most influential work of history published in English during the 20th century’. Thompson, like ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin

4 April 2019
The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... reviled him were most fulsome in their tributes.’ So this isn’t going to be Corbyn’s story, at least not yet. Instead, the book follows the fortunes of Perkins’s former press secretary, Fred Thompson, who was portrayed in the first novel (and especially by Keith Allen who played him in the TV version) as a proto Seumas Milne, all flinty attitudes and angry disdain for the bastards trying to do ...

But she read Freud

Alice Spawls: Flora Thompson

19 February 2015
Dreams of the Good Life: The Life of Flora Thompson​ and the Creation of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ 
by Richard Mabey.
Allen Lane, 208 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 14 104481 1
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... An outsider​ by birth as well as by disposition, Flora Thompson took solitary pleasure in observing her fellow villagers. She stored away characters and scenes from an early age – the naughty children who pulled her hair, Queenie who spoke to bees, the annual ...

Rolodex Man

Mark​ Kishlansky

31 October 1996
Liberty against the Law: Some 17th-Century Controversies 
by Christopher Hill.
Allen Lane, 354 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 7139 9119 4
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The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary England: An Essay on the Fabrication of 17th-Century History 
by Alastair MacLaclan.
Macmillan, 431 pp., £13.99, April 1996, 0 333 62009 7
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... It is becoming difficult to remember how influential Christopher Hill once was. When E.P. Thompson dedicated Whigs and Hunters to ‘Christopher Hill – Master of more than an old Oxford college’ he was recognising Hill’s stature as a historian, academic and public figure. From his perch as ...


Marina Warner: Baba Yaga

27 August 2009
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg 
by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
Canongate, 327 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84767 066 3
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... Dubravka Ugrešić’s Baba Yaga Laid an Egg is the latest, most inventive and most substantial volume in Canongate’s series of revisioned myths. The first was Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad, a harsh retelling in Penelope’s voice of the concluding scenes of the Odyssey. With her own special bite, Atwood singles out for dramatic treatment the girls who worked in the palace and fraternised with Penelope’s ...
10 November 1994
Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629-1640 
by Roger Thompson.
Massachusetts, 305 pp., £39.50, April 1994, 0 87023 893 0
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Adapting to a New World: English Society in the 17th-century Chesapeake 
by James Horn.
North Carolina, 461 pp., $65, September 1994, 0 8078 2137 3
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... major, established topics as Anglo-American diplomatic and military relations, the Revolution, the Civil War, race relations, the New Deal and the Cold War. The intersection of two elements seems to mark a new area of peculiarly intense interest: in the early colonial period, much of North America was an immediate part of the British world (and some of its most important records are available ...

Unmaking mysteries

Mark​ Ridley

1 September 1983
Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... pastures of the fields of Elysium rather than in Pluto’s republic. Such are Jim Watson, despite his childish understanding of science; J.B.S. Haldane, despite his political ineptitude; and D’Arcy Thompson. But more importantly, Medawar uses unscientific ideas to explore his own philosophy of science. Practising scientists rarely bother to develop their philosophy; some are called upon from time to ...

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