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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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... spectrum from state ownership of land to zero taxation. Hailed as a ‘little Englander’ 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 ...

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. Over ...

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.’ Eleven years later, however, as ...

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”. His vital organs ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...
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 ...

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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... could have slipped comfortably into any number of Victorian novels. His experience of public life was altogether harder and more brutal than anything hinted at in Eliot’s envoi for Will Ladislaw. MilesTaylor 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 ...

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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... shied away from closer examination of Queen Victoria’s role as empress, but the subject is a fascinating one, not least for the unexpected light it shines on India’s emergence as a nation state. MilesTaylor 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 ...

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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... two young American scholars, cited Stedman Jones and Joyce as exemplars of social history’s ‘linguistic turn’ in an essay published in Social History in 1992, a tempest ensued. Jon Lawrence and MilesTaylor, 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 ...

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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... from the stomach’s point of view.’ Rogers also has sharp chapters on the rise of two other bovine symbols of Englishness: the bulldog, and John Bull (here he draws heavily on the work of MilesTaylor). 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 ...

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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... hillside watching the blue shadows of the clouds on the mountains. Later in luxury in an Appin hotel 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 ...
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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... that he was much more successful in his lifetime than Keats, with whom he shared a publisher). Clare 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 ...

The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell: On the trail of the mysterious John Taylor

1 April 2004
... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us, to ‘every crowned head in Europe’. He was as famous for his womanising as for his knowledge of ophthalmology, but most ...

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