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Making things happen

Ross McKibbin, 26 July 1990

Heroes and Villains: Selected Essays 
by R.W. Johnson.
Harvester, 347 pp., £25, July 1990, 9780745007359
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... diaries and Hilary Wainwright’s Labour: A Tale of Two Parties) and ‘Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson’. The first began, I imagine, simply as a critique of the Bennite Left and ended (famously) as a critique of Neil Kinnock. It argued that the political judgments and electoral sociology upon which the Bennites had based their strategies were ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine, 16 August 1990

Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... philistine that in retrospect he appears almost pathetically comical. In his books on Edward VIII, Michael Bloch has washed a great deal of the Abdication dirty linen in public, and much of the mud has stuck to the Duke of Windsor himself, to say nothing of the Duchess. Sarah Bradford’s biography of George VI portrayed him as the ultimate sacrificial ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, 30 November 2017

Murder on the Orient Express 
directed by Kenneth Brannagh.
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... there a (fictional) man behind the moustache? Well, there is a director, who is also Branagh, and Michael Green, a thoughtful and inventive scriptwriter. They give shape and sense to a particular notion of Poirot. But it is Branagh’s acting that makes the notion work. I say this as a non-fan of his Shakespeare films (Hamlet, Henry V, Much Ado about ...

Out of a job in Aberdeen

Roger Penrose, 26 September 1991

The Scientific Letters and Papers of James Clerk Maxwell 
edited by P.M. Harman.
Cambridge, 748 pp., £125, November 1990, 0 521 25625 9
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... world of physicists was later to reach such a pinnacle. His slightly older contemporary William Thompson (later Lord Kelvin) was even more precocious than Maxwell, matriculating at the University of Glasgow at the astonishing age of ten and becoming a professor there at a mere 22. Thompson’s scientific standing among ...

Thinking the unthinkable

John Naughton, 4 September 1980

... is as close as it is unappreciated.7 It is this connection which interests the historian E. P. Thompson and which informs his best-selling polemic ‘Protest and Survive’.8 Like all good polemics, Mr Thompson’s takes the form of a sermon on a text – in this case, a letter published in the Times of 30 January 1980 ...

It’s a riot

Michael Ignatieff, 20 August 1981

‘Civil Disturbances’: Hansard, Vol. 8, Nos 143-144, 16 July 1981 – 17 July 1981 
HMSO, £80Show More
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... riots. In the adjournment debate on ‘Civil Disturbances’, MPs as far apart as Joan Lestor and Michael Heseltine agreed that the speeches had transcended party politics. Of course there were exceptions. No Tory MP joined Stuart Holland and John Fraser in their criticism of the Police in Brixton, and no Labour MP supported Winston Churchill’s call for an ...

Country Life

David Cannadine, 5 November 1981

The Victorian Countryside 
edited by G.E. Mingay.
Routledge, 380 pp., £25, July 1981, 0 7100 0734 5
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... and Kegan Paul published The Victorian City: Images and Realities, edited by H.J. Dyos and Michael Wolff, a Wagnerian epic in which history went to town in exuberant, zestful and flamboyant fashion. Understandably, the two volumes won immediate and widespread acclaim as a tour de force of entrepreneurial inspiration and editorial skill: ‘a study in ...

Sexual Politics

Michael Neve, 5 February 1981

Edward Carpenter, 1844-1929: Prophet of Human Fellowship 
by Chushichi Tsuzuki.
Cambridge, 237 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 521 23371 2
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... Peculiar alliances are struck over this dislike, most notably between Taylor himself and E.P. Thompson. The two men united in their pronouncements as to the emptiness of Carpenter’s ‘individualism’, the weedy, private-income vegetarianism that he embodied, the hopeless blend of mysticism and retreatism that took the place of politics. The now ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: What on earth should I talk about? , 4 March 1982

... formidable figures have recently announced their unshakable faith in nuclear armoury. Professor Michael Howard tells us in the columns of the Times that the peace of the world will be imperilled if we relinquish nuclear weapons. Field-Marshal Lord Carver, I hear, is writing a book preaching the same doctrine. These are authorities whom I much respect. It ...

A Kind of Greek

Jeremy Harding: Frank Thompson, 7 March 2013

A Very English Hero: The Making of Frank Thompson 
by Peter Conradi.
Bloomsbury, 419 pp., £18.99, August 2012, 978 1 4088 0243 4
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... canvas of the Cold War were already under way in the Balkans in the summer of 1944 when Frank Thompson was executed. Bulgaria was a member of the Axis and Frank, older brother of the historian E.P. Thompson, was on a mission in the country for Special Operations Executive: the idea was that anti-Nazi partisans should be ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 5 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... managed to reveal quite so many things that the [British] government wanted kept secret,’ writes Michael Goodman of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. And yet Pincher believes he never threatened the security of the state – that would be the work of a traitor, which is the way he described Snowden in a recent television ...

Politician’s War

Tam Dalyell, 3 March 1983

The Battle for the Falklands 
by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins.
Joseph, 384 pp., £10.95, February 1983, 0 7181 2228 3
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... ever there was a politicians’ battle, then Goose Green was to be it.’ Brigadier Julian Thompson, the senior officer ashore at the time, found himself summoned to the satellite terminal at Ajax Bay. The headquarters at Northwood told the Brigadier exactly what to do. The command in Britain considered it essential that the landing force should engage ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake, 14 December 2000

... perhaps Blake used the copper plate as a sketchpad, as Peter Ackroyd suggests in his biography. Michael Phillips’s replicas of the original plates testify to the artist’s industry and also to the devotion of modern Blakeans. The lay observer can hardly bear to contemplate the toil involved in all that neat, packed engraving, let alone in having to do ...

Designing criminal policy

David Garland, 10 October 1991

Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914 
by Martin Wiener.
Cambridge, 391 pp., £30, February 1991, 9780521350457
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... histories much more sceptical and critical than the first. Writers such as Douglas Hay, E.P. Thompson, Michael Ignatieff, and especially Michel Foucault, retold the story in a much more analytical and sophisticated way, showing how criminal justice developments were tied into wider social movements such as the rise of ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... prose to celestial poetry. (They hadn’t read, these promoters of the Penman in Hollywood fable, Michael Moorcock’s minatory letters to J.G. Ballard, the grind of lost years and aborted projects.) So, obviously, when I met Penman, this Schrader yarn was the one I put to him. Why did he come back? Where did it all go wrong? The truth was less ...

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