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Townlords

Sidney Pollard, 2 April 1981

Lords and Landlords: The Aristocracy and the Towns, 1774-1967 
by David Cannadine.
Leicester University Press, 494 pp., £19, July 1980, 0 7185 1152 2
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... had been in relative decline for over a century, is something that has puzzled numerous observers. Michael Thompson raised the question among economic historians nearly twenty years ago, and whole generations of political historians have offered alternative solutions. It is something which occurs, different in detail but similar in outline, in many other ...

Can the virtuous person exist in the modern world?

Jonathan Lear: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Virtues, 2 November 2006

The Tasks of Philosophy: Selected Essays, Vol. I 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Cambridge, 230 pp., £40, June 2006, 0 521 67061 6
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Ethics and Politics: Selected Essays, Vol. II 
by Alasdair MacIntyre.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £40, June 2006, 0 521 67062 4
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... discuss the fascinating work in virtue ethics being done by Philippa Foot, Rosalind Hursthouse, Michael Thompson and Candace Vogler. As at least an opening move, they have turned away from the contribution a particular culture or political organisation may make to a person’s character – his so-called ‘second nature’. Instead, they are ...

Knocking Through

Bernard Williams, 6 March 1980

Rubbish Theory 
by Michael Thompson.
Oxford, 229 pp., £7.50, July 1979, 0 19 217658 7
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... other well-known changes to convert a collapsing slum into a thing of pride and a joy for ever. Thompson’s sharp descriptions of these operations, and of the contrasts between the attitudes of those who own these gentrified residences and their working-class neighbours, who regard few of their possessions as things of pride or joy, and certainly not for ...

Victorian Consumers

Michael Mason, 16 February 1989

The Rise of Respectable Society: A Social History of Victorian Britain, 1830-1900 
by F.M.L. Thompson.
Fontana, 382 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 0 00 686157 1
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Victorian Things 
by Asa Briggs.
Batsford, 440 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 9780713445190
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... and fascinating claim, with radical implications for the historiography of the period. Michael Thompson has had something of the same intuition about Victorian society, and it is one of several themes in his new book which makes this much more than the undergraduate or A-level toolkit which it might appear to be. We know a great deal about the ...

Dismantling the class war

Paul Addison, 25 July 1991

The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol I.: Regions and Communities 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 608 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25788 3
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The Cambridge Social History of Britain, 1750-1950. Vol II.: People and Their Environment 
edited by F.M.L. Thompson.
Cambridge, 392 pp., June 1990, 0 521 25789 1
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The Temper of the Times: British Society since World War Two 
by Bill Williamson.
Blackwell, 308 pp., £30, August 1990, 0 631 15919 3
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... up into a mass of unrelated specialisms. The Cambridge Social History, edited in three volumes by Michael Thompson, looks very much like an ambitious attempt to restore coherence and direction. But the stated aim is the more modest one of communicating ‘the fruits of recent writing and the most recent research in social history to the wider audience of ...

Memories of Tagore

E.P. Thompson, 22 May 1986

... 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 Calcutta, Tagore invited him to visit him at his school ...

Final Jam

Michael Irwin, 2 June 1988

The Sykaos Papers 
by E.P. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 482 pp., £13.95, May 1988, 0 7475 0117 3
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... of nautical jargon and Swift can maroon his unlucky hero and get down to satirical business. Thompson has equipment to sort out. Oi Paz must be provided with a Translator, a device that can ‘command any language through a process of recording, sorting into grammatical parts, decoding and storing of vocabulary’. Thus assisted, he can soon speak and ...

Michael Foot’s Fathers

D.A.N. Jones, 4 December 1980

My Life with Nye 
by Jennie Lee.
Cape, 277 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 224 01785 3
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Debts of Honour 
by Michael Foot.
Davis-Poynter, 240 pp., £9.50, November 1980, 0 7067 6243 6
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... If Jennie Lee, Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot had achieved Cabinet rank together in the 1960s, the United Kingdom would be in better shape now. ‘That is my truth,’ as Bevan used to say. ‘Now tell me yours.’ What have they in common, though, this leftist Gang of Three, the Englishman, the Welshman and the Scot, Bevan, his wife and his friend, all from such different backgrounds? They have similar opinions, of course: but what of their human and moral nature, their style of writing and speaking? It may be worth noting that all three are childless and parentful: all three have been devoted to Protestant Christian parents and have (to my regret) firmly rejected the faith of their fathers ...

The First Person, Steroid-Enhanced

Hari Kunzru: Hunter S. Thompson, 15 October 1998

The Rum Diary 
by Hunter S. Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 204 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 9780747541684
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The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters. Vol. I 
by Hunter S. Thompson, edited by Douglas Brinkley.
Bloomsbury, 720 pp., £9.99, July 1998, 0 7475 3619 8
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... the chance to speak in an unmediated first person fulfilled a more urgent necessity. It allowed Michael Herr, on assignment in Vietnam for Esquire and Rolling Stone, to write about his own terror and confusion as he drifted through the war zone, and it allowed Joan Didion, in The White Album, to weave details of her anxious upscale-Californian life into a ...

Cheesespreadology

Ian Sansom, 7 March 1996

Garbage 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 121 pp., £7.50, February 1995, 0 393 31203 8
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Tape for the Turn of the Year 
by A.R. Ammons.
Norton, 205 pp., £8.95, February 1995, 0 393 31204 6
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Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 93 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17431 0
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The Unemployed Fortune-Teller: Essays and Memoirs 
by Charles Simic.
Michigan, 127 pp., £30, January 1996, 0 472 06569 6
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Frightening Toys 
by Charles Simic.
Faber, 101 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17399 3
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The Ghost of Eden 
by Chase Twichell.
Faber, 78 pp., £6.99, April 1995, 0 571 17434 5
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... In a gloss on the snot riddle in his book Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value, Michael Thompson explains that the riddle succeeds by playing upon that which is residual to our system of cultural categories. When, in the context of wealth and poverty, we talk of possessable objects we unquestioningly assume that we are talking about ...

Travels on the left

Paul Foot, 2 December 1993

John Strachey: An Intellectual Biography 
by Noel Thompson.
Macmillan, 288 pp., £27.50, May 1993, 0 333 51154 9
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John Strachey 
by Michael Newman.
Manchester, 208 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 9780719021749
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... Policy Studies. These two books, by contrast, deal almost exclusively with Strachey’s politics. Michael Newman writes only briefly about Strachey’s private life, though he does reveal that young Charles Strachey, born at the height of his father’s revolutionary fervour, was promptly put down for Eton. Noel ...

The Partisan Coffee House

Nicholas Faith, 1 June 2017

... left came in 1957 after the majority of communism’s finest intellects, headed by Edward Thompson and John Saville, quit the Communist Party following the Soviet invasion of Hungary. As the exhibition’s curator, the historian Mike Berlin, explains in the catalogue, the venture ‘deserves to be celebrated. The Partisan embodied a radical tradition ...

In Love

Michael Wood, 25 January 1996

Essays in Dissent: Church, Chapel and the Unitarian Conspiracy 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 264 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85754 123 5
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... Elmer More whether his God was some kind of Santa Claus. Davie’s eloquent disagreement with E.P. Thompson allows us to see the strength of Davie’s uncompromising position, and also to see what he himself won’t see – or won’t allow himself to say he sees. Davie wishes to divorce Dissent and the Left in Britain, to show that Dissenters in religion ...

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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... 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 Tawney, lamented ...

Spookery, Skulduggery

David Runciman: Chris Mullin, 4 April 2019

The Friends of Harry Perkins 
by Chris Mullin.
Scribner, 185 pp., £12, March 2019, 978 1 4711 8248 8
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... in 1981 – it was a close-run thing, but it was also the closest he would ever get to the top. Michael Foot, the party leader, was facing the brute realities of the Falklands War and the defection of the so-called Gang of Four to the SDP. The Labour left wasn’t about to have power wrested from it. It was beginning to dribble away. The sense of nostalgia ...

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