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Powers of Darkness

Michael Taylor: Made by Free Hands, 21 October 2021

Not Made by Slaves: Ethical Capitalism in the Age of Abolition 
by Bronwen Everill.
Harvard, 318 pp., £31.95, September 2020, 978 0 674 24098 8
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... Every thing is wet,’ Martin Benson recorded, after inspecting his cargo. ‘Not a single hogshead that we have yet opened, but has been wet with salt water.’ Benson came from Newport, Rhode Island, and had sailed from there with tobacco, cotton cloths and rum to the British colony of Sierra Leone. A former slave trader, Benson now worked in the service of abolition, and his concern about the wet goods was not simply for his own fortune; he also worried for the cause of ‘legitimate commerce’, one of two key concepts at the heart of Bronwen Everill’s incisive history of political economy and ‘ethical capitalism’ in the age of abolition ...

Later, Not Now

Christopher L. Brown: Histories of Emancipation, 15 July 2021

Murder on the Middle Passage: The Trial of Captain Kimber 
by Nicholas Rogers.
Boydell, 267 pp., £16.99, April 2020, 978 1 78327 482 6
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The Interest: How the British Establishment Resisted the Abolition of Slavery 
by Michael Taylor.
Bodley Head, 382 pp., £20, November 2020, 978 1 84792 571 8
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... the social ladder. ‘The West India interest was not just a handful of planters and merchants,’ Michael Taylor writes in the final paragraph of his excellent new book, The Interest, but involved ‘hundreds of MPs, peers, civil servants, businessmen, financiers, landowners, clergymen, intellectuals, journalists, publishers, sailors, soldiers and ...


A.J.P. Taylor: A New Carl, 5 September 1985

... long ago as Catherine Andrassy, a member of the high Hungarian aristocracy. In 1909 she married Michael Karolyi, also a high aristocrat but with left-wing views. In 1919 the Habsburg dynasty was overthrown and Michael became the first President of the Hungarian Republic. Michael and ...

Shady Acquisitions

Michael Ledger-Lomas: Corporate Imperialism, 21 September 2023

Empire, Incorporated: The Corporations That Built British Colonialism 
by Philip J. Stern.
Harvard, 408 pp., £30.95, May, 978 0 674 98812 5
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... of information on which the cultural cohesion of settler colonies depended. Felix Waldmann, Michael Taylor and Timothy Twining’s recent study of John Ellerman, Edwardian Britain’s richest man, notes that he viewed himself as a ‘modern Francis Drake: a cynosure for the extension of British rule across the globe’. Edward VII made Ellerman a ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... only one or two bees per bonnet. The Pevsnerian approach was different.In a witty essay, Michael Taylor, who drove Pevsner round Warwickshire, recalls the experience as stimulating and slightly nightmarish, ‘like viewing a video of a thousand years … of history … fast-forwarded’. Pevsner ‘robbed the word “specialist” of its meaning ...


Norman Stone, 22 January 1981

Politicians, Socialism and Historians 
by A.J.P. Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £12.50, October 1980, 0 241 10486 6
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A.J.P. TaylorA Complete Annotated Bibliography 
by Chris Wrigley.
Harvester, 607 pp., £35, August 1980, 0 85527 981 8
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... with culture, I reach for my revolver when offered philosophies of history,’ wrote A.J.P. Taylor some years ago, when the ‘What is History’ theme was going the rounds. He likes to parade himself as a simple, practical man – ‘an old-fashioned, penny-counting historian’. He thinks that history’s only function is ‘fun’, dismisses the rest ...

Where the Apples Come From

T.C. Smout: What Makes an Oak Tree Grow, 29 November 2007

by Oliver Rackham.
Collins, 609 pp., £25, September 2006, 0 00 720243 1
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Beechcombings: The Narratives of Trees 
by Richard Mabey.
Chatto, 289 pp., £20, October 2007, 978 1 85619 733 5
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Wildwood: A Journey through Trees 
by Roger Deakin.
Hamish Hamilton, 391 pp., £20, May 2007, 978 0 241 14184 7
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The Wild Trees: What if the Last Wilderness Is above Our Heads? 
by Richard Preston.
Allen Lane, 294 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 1 84614 023 5
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... fact-checked the latter may be. Nevertheless, it is fascinating that a college dropout called Michael Taylor, who worked as a knife salesman and grocery clerk, came to figure out which were the world’s tallest trees: everyone knew they were redwoods, but the precise trees had not been identified. Another student called Steve Sillett began to climb ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Cleopatra’ , 8 August 2013

... Age cannot wither her, but it doesn’t improve her much either. Not when she is Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. Age seems simply to have left her alone, as it often does with movie actors. But then the chance of time travel is very real, especially since a restored print of the film is now showing at various cinemas around the country ...

Fishing for Potatoes

James Lasdun: Nissan Rogue, 27 January 2022

Collision Course: Carlos Ghosn and the Culture Wars That Upended an Auto Empire 
by Hans Greimel and William Sposato.
Harvard, 368 pp., £22, June 2021, 978 1 64782 047 3
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... time he learned of the double trial, he had already had four clandestine meetings with the son of Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret who specialised in springing wealthy people out of tricky situations in foreign countries, and an escape plan was largely in place. A few days later it went into effect. Retracing the steps of ...

Getting it right

Tam Dalyell, 18 July 1985

The Ponting Affair 
by Richard Norton-Taylor.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £5.95, June 1985, 0 900821 74 4
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Who Killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Judith Cook.
New English Library, 182 pp., £1.95, June 1985, 0 450 05885 9
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... Without Richard Norton-Taylor of the Guardian, there would be no Belgrano affair, and doubtless Mr Clive Ponting OBE would be plying his way, ever upwards, in the Ministry of Defence. This is no exaggeration. Simply a statement of fact. I am in a position to know. However right Paul Rogers, Lee Chadwick, Arthur Gavshon and I may have been, the fact is that without the sustained interest of Guardian readers, and, in my case, the Labour Party up and down the country, there was no way which the professors of Belgrano Studies, as David Frost has christened us, could have carried on ...

Small America

Michael Peel: A report from Liberia, 7 August 2003

... had just emerged from another devastating civil conflict, in which the current President, Charles Taylor, played a leading role. A former Government minister who fell out with the military regime of Samuel Doe, Taylor managed to escape from a Massachusetts jail in 1985: he was being held pending extradition on embezzlement ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Hungarians and Falklanders, 17 February 1983

... to the end of time. Sooner or later this folly must be ended, but who is there left to say so? Michael Foot was as bellicose as Mrs Thatcher, and most of the Labour MPs followed his line. With deep grief I now set down my conviction that Michael Foot was wrong last year when I applauded him and is still wrong now that I ...

There’s a porpoise close behind us

Michael Dobson, 13 November 1997

The Origins of English Nonsense 
by Noel Malcolm.
HarperCollins, 329 pp., £18, May 1997, 0 00 255827 0
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... by the most prolific of the poets reprinted by Malcolm: the celebrated scribbling wherryman John Taylor, known as the Water-Poet, enough of whose publications are in this vein to earn him the distinction of being England’s first professional manufacturer of nonsense. Taylor’s subsequent work includes, along with ...


R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... College, Oxford, the fact that my vote at college meetings counted the same as that of A.J.P. Taylor seemed to me, as it still does, a glorious democratic quirk of the Oxford collegiate system. I was just 26 and the youngest fellow; he was probably the most famous historian in the world. I was not long to think of him by his initials, for Alan was the ...


A.J.P. Taylor: Living with Prime Ministers, 2 December 1982

... Disraeli, a miscellany of works which I also passed by, Disraeli not being my favourite man – Michael Foot can have him; Asquith, 600 pages of love-letters to a girl not half his age; Churchill, first of two volumes of biography by an American writer, a disquisition on his political philosophy, and a massive collection of documents relating to his career ...

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