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Protestant Country

George Bernard

14 June 1990
Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 0 521 34034 9
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The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation 
by Robert Whiting.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 521 35606 7
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The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society, 1485-1603 
by Stanford Lehmberg.
Princeton, 319 pp., £37.30, March 1989, 0 691 05539 4
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Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Weidenfeld, 271 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 297 79343 8
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The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Patrick Collinson.
Macmillan, 188 pp., £29.50, February 1989, 0 333 43971 6
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Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing 
by John Sym, edited by Michael MacDonald.
Routledge, 342 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 415 00639 2
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Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 
by Nigel Smith.
Oxford, 396 pp., £40, February 1989, 0 19 812879 7
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... rather than a general view: it undermines still further any claim that what emerged was a Protestant nation, rather than Puritan attitudes shared by just a number of the godly. The Reformation, MichaelMacDonald maintains in a stimulating introduction to a facsimile reprint of John Sym’s Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing (1637), strengthened and deepened Medieval arguments that suicide ...
11 November 1999
Marx on Suicide 
edited by Eric Plaut and Kevin Anderson, translated by Gabrielle Edgcomb.
Northwestern, 152 pp., £11.20, May 1999, 0 8101 1632 4
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Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol I: The Violent Against Themselves 
by Alexander Murray.
Oxford, 510 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 19 820539 2
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A History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Johns Hopkins, 420 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 8018 5919 0
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... common than it is nowadays. Whether it was less common than in the 16th century is a problem. There does seem to be a galloping increase after 1500 or so, but those who have written about it, like MichaelMacDonald and Terence Murphy in their wonderful Sleepless Souls, have thought it an optical illusion. Murray suggests that this may not be entirely so. One of his ideas is that the Reformation ...

Appreciating Paisley

Charles Townshend

22 January 1987
God save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism 
by Steve Bruce.
Oxford, 308 pp., £15, November 1986, 0 19 827487 4
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Children of Wrath: Political Violence in Northern Ireland 
by Michael MacDonald.
Polity, 194 pp., £19.50, September 1986, 0 7456 0219 3
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... the culture of the community. The Protestant constitution was established by force of arms and colonial settlement in the 17th century, and has been defended in a frontier siege spirit ever since. As MichaelMacDonald’s book never tires of pointing out, it is an inherently divisive spirit, incapable of generating consensus. Protestant loyalty is premised upon Catholic disloyalty, Protestant rightness ...
5 November 1981
Michael​ Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... Edwardian pioneers had no settled leader (the SDP has sound scriptural precedent here): Keir Hardie’s talents were other than those of a Parliamentary chairman; Arthur Henderson was dull; Ramsay MacDonald was both great orator and skilled tactician, though his critics within the Party were numerous well before the First World War broke out. During that war, a number of Labour men served in government ...

Every Latest Spasm

Christopher Hitchens

23 June 1994
A Rebel in Defence of Tradition: The Life and ‘Politics’ of Dwight Macdonald 
by Michael​ Wreszin.
Basic Books, 590 pp., £17.99, April 1994, 0 465 01739 8
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... joke, on himself and others. ‘Quite a funny idea ...’ she wrote, ‘that Dwight is a kind of self-made invention or impersonation masquerading as himself.’ Well, it’s certainly true that Macdonald wore the aspect of a large and shaggy animal, not all that good at judging the master’s mood but nonetheless valued and patronised. Perhaps privately longing to be thought fierce or dangerous, he ...
26 November 1987
The Korean War 
by Max Hastings.
Joseph, 476 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 9780718120689
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The Origins of the Korean War 
by Peter Lowe.
Longman, 256 pp., £6.95, July 1986, 0 582 49278 5
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Korea: The War before Vietnam 
by Callum MacDonald.
Macmillan, 330 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 333 33011 0
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... long business of peace-making could begin. Altogether it is an astonishing story. The Korean War was a struggle, not only between two power-blocs for the control of the Korean peninsula, as Callum MacDonald bleakly concludes, nor for the vindication of international law, as Max Hastings is still inclined to believe, but for the soul of America: a bitter debate over what kind of super-power the United ...
2 June 1983
... the 18th century, especially in the taxonomical work of Boissier de Sauvages, is ‘practically a rebirth’. Certainly it doesn’t appear in the striking list of words for mad states reproduced in MichaelMacdonald’s Mystical Bedlam, a study of 17th-century English sources. Instead we have ‘mad’, ‘lunatic’, ‘melancholy’, ‘stubborn’, ‘suspicious’, ‘fancies and conceits ...


A.J.P. Taylor: No doubt I am old-fashioned

1 April 1982
... play in South Africa or academics who once provided Soviet agents with a lot of harmless information. There is another question on which I am out of line, this time in disagreement with my old friend Michael Foot. Five 20th-century prime ministers and one non-premier (Joseph Chamberlain) have statues in the lobby of the House of Commons: Balfour, Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill and Attlee. The inclusion ...
7 December 1989
Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... a heartless tycoon, big business, journalism, pornographic movies, triplets, apparent schizophrenia, flashbacks over forty years, strange doings between psychiatrists and patients. It is as if Ross Macdonald or Raymond Chandler had gone Gothic, while the principal movement of the fiction remained the same: California tilted into American allegory, skeletons in every designer closet, the glossy present ...


John Bossy: Simon Forman

22 February 2001
The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... simply too male. Aside from the Shakespearian angle, Rowse was mainly interested in Forman’s accounts of his prolific (hetero)sexual adventures: he had, says a more up-to-date historian than Rowse, MichaelMacDonald, ‘a mesmerising personality and the sexual appetite of a goat’, and studded his diary with his ‘haleking’, as he put it, with an A to Z of his women, and with planning or avoiding ...


A.J.P. Taylor: On Not Being Egocentric Enough

4 August 1983
... course the Labour Party is not good at producing a leader. I calculate that there have only been two good leaders of the Party since it made its real start at the end of the First World War. Ramsay MacDonald was the first and he ended by making a lamentably false move. Clem Attlee was the second and he was too careful about his moves ever to make a false one. As to the Conservative Party, it stands for ...
19 June 1997
American Original: A Life of Will Rogers 
by Ray Robinson.
Oxford, 288 pp., $30, January 1997, 0 19 508693 7
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... he is on record as using the more familiar tag-line is on a 1926 visit to the Soviet Union. Rogers regretted having missed Leon Trotsky, ‘for I never met a man I didn’t like.’ The young Dwight MacDonald, on the path that would take him from American Trotskyist to mass culture critic, didn’t like Rogers. MacDonald raged at the ‘cheerfully trivial tone’ of his Depression-era movie State Fair ...
14 November 1996
Hugh Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... a line of descent – in a word, heroes. In this respect the Labour Party has always had some difficulty. The obvious candidate would have been the first man to lead Labour to power, but Ramsay MacDonald put himself beyond the pale: indeed, the psychological wound he left as ‘the lost leader’ was of more lasting significance than anything he achieved in power. Oswald Mosley, the most impressive ...

Something of Importance

Philip Williamson

2 February 1989
The Coming of the First World War 
edited by R.J.W. Evans and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann.
Oxford, 189 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 19 822899 6
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The Experience of World War One 
by J.M. Winter.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 333 44613 5
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Russia and the Allies 1917-1920. Vol II: The Road to Intervention, March-November 1918 
by Michael​ Kettle.
Routledge, 401 pp., £40, June 1988, 0 415 00371 7
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Douglas Haig 1861-1928 
by Gerald De Groot.
Unwin Hyman, 441 pp., £20, November 1988, 0 04 440192 2
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Nothing of Importance: A Record of Eight Months at the Front with a Welsh Battalion 
by Bernard Adams.
The Strong Oak Press/Tom Donovan Publishing, 324 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9781871048018
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1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War 
by Lyn Macdonald.
Joseph, 346 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7181 3188 6
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... 24th that ‘we are within measurable ... distance of a real Armageddon,’ he meant a purely Continental war, for he added: ‘Happily there seems no reason why we should be more than spectators.’ Michael Brock shows with great skill that it was not so much the German invasion of Belgium but the precise nature of that invasion which produced a wide British consensus for war 11 days later. In most ...
26 September 1991
Bernard Shaw. Vol. III: 1918-1950, The Lure of Fantasy 
by Michael​ Holroyd.
Chatto, 544 pp., £21, September 1991, 0 7011 3351 1
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... now 62, is expressing strong views, sensible but not attended to, on the conduct of the nation’s affairs in a difficult postwar period. He began this long last lap of life by campaigning for Ramsay MacDonald, and the other anti-Coalition candidates, in Lloyd George’s opportunistic general election of December 1918. He opposed the blockade of Germany, the demand for reparations and the hanging of the ...

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