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Dig, Hammer, Spin, Weave

Miles Taylor: Richard Cobden, Class Warrior, 12 March 2009

The Letters of Richard Cobden. Vol. I: 1815-47 
edited by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 529 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 921195 1
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... before the First World War, by 1920 he had become an ‘international man’. In the 1950s, A.J.P. Taylor retrospectively enlisted him as a member of CND, but a decade later he was being pulled in the opposite direction by the free marketeers of the Mont Pélérin Society in Europe and the Foundation for Economic Education in the US. This volume of letters ...

Town Planner?

Miles Taylor: Engels, 17 December 2009

The Frock-Coated Communist: The Revolutionary Life of Friedrich Engels 
by Tristram Hunt.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9852 8
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The Condition of the Working Class in England 
by Friedrich Engels.
Penguin, 307 pp., £10.99, May 2009, 978 0 14 119110 2
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... The best of friends started as the closest of rivals. When Marx first met Engels in 1842 he immediately disliked his theology, his military uniform and the company he kept in the beerhalls of Berlin. Within a couple of years the two were housemates in Paris, co-authoring and co-conspiring their way towards The Communist Manifesto of 1848 and the revolutionary barricades of that momentous year ...

Thanks to the Fels-Naptha Soap King

Miles Taylor: George Lansbury, 22 May 2003

George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour 
by John Shepherd.
Oxford, 407 pp., £35, September 2002, 0 19 820164 8
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... Hollesley Bay Prison in Suffolk is an unlikely spiritual home for English socialism. Britain’s most easterly lock-up, its seaside location, stud-farm and dairy have earned it the nickname ‘Holiday Bay’, and, given such luxury, it seems unsurprising that Jeffrey Archer is now seeing out his stretch there. Almost a hundred years ago, however, Hollesley Bay was one of the labour ‘colonies’ set up by the Poor Law guardians of Poplar in London’s East End, who sought to ease the Poor Law crisis in the capital by relocating unemployed men and their families to the coast ...

Bring back the 19th century

Miles Taylor, 22 June 2000

British Society 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change 
by Richard Price.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £40, October 1999, 0 521 65172 7
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... Like the Swiss, British historians prefer their centuries to begin at a different time from everyone else. The 18th century has always begun in 1688 and, depending on your taste for military matters, the 20th century usually starts in 1914 or 1918. Even the 19th century continues to defy logic. Despite the territorial completion of the United Kingdom in 1801 and the death of Victoria almost exactly one hundred years later, historians still opt for a split at 1815 and an end in the 1880s ...

Knife and Fork Question

Miles Taylor: The Chartist Movement, 29 November 2001

The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-50 
edited by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, April 2001, 1 85196 330 8
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... Thomas Carlyle was quite fond of the Chartists – until they opened their mouths. In an essay on Chartism published in 1839, the Sage of Chelsea harangued the political establishment and spoke up for the stoic dignity of the English working man: ‘Chartism with its pikes, Swing with his tinder box,’ he wrote, ‘speak a most loud though inarticulate language ...

Dictators on the Loose

Miles Taylor: Modelling Waterloo, 6 January 2005

Wellington’s Smallest Victory: The Duke, the Model Maker and the Secret of Waterloo 
by Peter Hofschröer.
Faber, 324 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 571 21768 0
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... The Duke of Wellington may have defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but it was English surgeons who finally cut the French emperor down to size. After his death on St Helena in May 1821, an autopsy was hastily arranged in order to quash claims that he had died from neglect. Napoleon’s height was recorded as a diminutive 5’2”, although he was actually 5’6” ...

When the Jaw-Jaw Failed

Miles Taylor: Company Rule in India, 3 March 2016

The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon & Schuster, 784 pp., £12.99, January 2016, 978 1 4711 2946 9
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... Sir John Low​ finally hung up his helmet seventy years after joining the Madras army in 1804, having served the East India Company as soldier, jailer, agent and councillor. As a rookie lieutenant, his regiment mopped up in Mysore when the British took over the old kingdom of Tipu Sultan. He helped see off the Marathas at the battle of Mahidpur in 1817, and kept their chief minister, Baji Rao, under house arrest on the banks of the Ganges ...

Spurning at the High

Edward Pearce: A poet of Chartism, 6 November 2003

Ernest Jones, Chartism and the Romance of Politics 1819-69 
by Miles Taylor.
Oxford, 290 pp., £45, January 2003, 0 19 820729 8
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... altogether harder and more brutal than anything hinted at in Eliot’s envoi for Will Ladislaw. Miles Taylor has assembled the evidence of an unfashionable life with enormous care, and what emerges is not a character who could be played on television by Rufus Sewell, but someone closer to the world of Gissing, to Edwin Reardon sweating away at the next ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... In February, two elderly men met in a Middle Eastern suburb and took afternoon tea. As old men do, they reminisced, chatted about their grandchildren and speculated on the perilous state of the world. The younger of the two had a problem: he had a reputation for being an aggressor and none of his neighbours, or his neighbours’ powerful friends, believed him when he said he had put away his weapons for good ...

Strange Little Woman

Ferdinand Mount: First and Only Empress, 22 November 2018

Empress: Queen Victoria and India 
by Miles Taylor.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, August 2018, 978 0 300 11809 4
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Eastern Encounters: Four Centuries of Paintings and Manuscripts from the Indian Subcontinent 
by Emily Hannam.
Royal Collections Trust, 256 pp., £45, June 2018, 978 1 909741 45 4
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Splendours of the Subcontinent: A Prince’s Tour of India 1875-76 
by Kajal Meghani.
Royal Collections Trust, 216 pp., £29.95, March 2017, 978 1 909741 42 3
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... one, not least for the unexpected light it shines on India’s emergence as a nation state. Miles Taylor is better known as a historian of Chartism and Victorian radical politics generally, but this background comes in handy here, as he takes the queen out of court politics and into the popular arena, where she proves surprisingly at ...

Ruling the Roast

David A. Bell: A Nation of Beefeaters, 25 September 2003

Beef and Liberty: Roast Beef, John Bull and the English Nation 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 207 pp., £17.99, April 2003, 9780701169800
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... bovine symbols of Englishness: the bulldog, and John Bull (here he draws heavily on the work of Miles Taylor). Both supposedly represented the same qualities of directness, determination and courage. In the case of the bulldog, which took its name from the grisly sport of bull-baiting rather than from any resemblance to the animal, these qualities ...

Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... turn’ in an essay published in Social History in 1992, a tempest ensued. Jon Lawrence and Miles Taylor, two of Stedman Jones’s recent PhD students, insisted that Mayfield and Thorne had entirely misunderstood their mentor’s work, which they felt should be judged not in terms of its theoretical affiliations but according to an empiricist ...

Up to Islip

Rosalind Mitchison, 2 August 1984

An Old Man’s Diary 
by A.J.P. Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 155 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 241 11247 8
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... I can settle to a collection of diary pieces from our most distinguished modern historian, A.J.P. Taylor. Of course these are not real diary entries. A real diary entry is full of personal items which the law of libel or the proscription of the totally trivial contrive to rule out. Journalism diaries have to be compiled on principles of their own. Names can ...

Misbehavin’

Susannah Clapp, 23 July 1987

A Life with Alan: The Diary of A.J.P. Taylor’s Wife, Eva, from 1978 to 1985 
by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 250 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 241 12118 3
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The Painted Banquet: My Life and Loves 
by Jocelyn Rickards.
Weidenfeld, 172 pp., £14.95, May 1987, 0 297 79119 2
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The Beaverbrook Girl 
by Janet Aitken Kidd.
Collins, 240 pp., £12.95, May 1987, 0 00 217602 5
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... When the London Review of Books began to run a Diary in 1982, A.J.P. Taylor was one of its authors. He always delivered to an exact length, well before the deadline, and often in person. A new editorial assistant, handed copy by the small seventy-five-year-old in a deerstalker who had scaled the steep stairs to our earlier offices, decided he must be a Mercury messenger ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... was discovered in 1819, when Edward Drury, a young Stamford bookseller, wrote to his cousin John Taylor, who was also a bookseller – what we would now call a publisher – and told him that he had discovered a wholly untutored genius: Your hopes of good grammar and correct verse, depend on the inspiration of the mind; for Clare cannot reason; he writes ...

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