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The Glorious Free Market

Michael Kulikowski: The Ancient Free Market, 16 June 2016

Poiesis: Manufacturing in Classical Athens 
by Peter Acton.
Oxford, 384 pp., £51, December 2014, 978 0 19 933593 0
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... so proudly as to approve the abolition of academic study lacking in immediate ‘relevance’. Peter Acton throws out a red herring on page one – ‘agriculture was the real capitalism, contributing to social inequality’ – but agriculture and class analysis are both wilfully absent here. Poiesis is a book about making things and selling ...

Former Lovers

Michael Mason, 6 September 1984

The Bourgeois Experience. Victoria to Freud Vol. I: Education of the Senses 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 608 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 19 503352 3
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Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd 
by Polly Longsworth.
Farrar, Straus, 449 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 374 10716 5
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The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds 
edited by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hutchinson, 319 pp., £14.95, May 1984, 0 09 154170 0
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... to be entitled to a powerful sexual overtone, even if not the customary one. The reviewers of Peter Gay’s book have been very receptive to the thought that we have got Victorian sexuality wrong: for it is a leading part of the author’s argument that the Victorians were not prevailingly ignorant, inhibited, prudish and hypocritical about sex. But the ...

What do we mean by it?

J.G.A. Pocock, 7 January 1993

The Cambridge History of Political Thought: 1450-1700 
edited by J.H. Burns and Mark Goldie.
Cambridge, 798 pp., £60, August 1991, 0 521 24716 0
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... to follow. These furthermore are ‘Cambridge histories’ in the classic sense, laid down by Lord Acton a century ago: general editors co-ordinate a series of chapters on related topics, each written by an authority in the field it defines. Academic culture today teems with multi-author volumes, many no more than the proceedings of particular conferences; and ...

Half-Way up the Hill

Frank Kermode, 7 July 1988

Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... and informants. Flagging only in the last stretch of the alphabet, they range from Sir Harold Acton to Douglas Woodruff, and like his subject the author has evidently ‘made it his business to know people whom he thought worth knowing’. He dissociates himself from what he calls ‘the vacuum-cleaner school’ of biographers, but remains defiant about ...

Whipping the wicked

Peter Clarke, 17 April 1980

The Optimists: Themes and Personalities in Victorian Liberalism 
by Ian Bradley.
Faber, 301 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 571 11495 4
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... value in explaining the historical ascendancy of Liberal ideas: ‘the faith in liberty of Mill, Acton and Morley was the product of an exceptional period in British history when reason did actually seem to prevail over force and political problems could be solved by counting heads rather than breaking them.’ If this seems a rather idealised picture, he is ...

Nit, Sick and Bore

India Knight: The Mitfords, 3 January 2002

The Mitford Girls: The Biography of an Extraordinary Family 
by Mary Lovell.
Little, Brown, 611 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 316 85868 4
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Nancy Mitford: A Memoir 
by Harold Acton.
Gibson Square, 256 pp., £16.99, September 2001, 1 903933 01 3
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... briefly flirted half-heartedly with Mosley’s British Union of Fascists herself. ‘Prod’ – Peter Rodd, her quite fabulously dull husband – ‘looked very pretty in his black shirt,’ she wrote to Evelyn Waugh years later, ‘but we were younger and high-spirited then, and didn’t know about Buchenwald.’ Fans of Nancy Mitford have her novels, her ...

Porter for Leader

Jenny Diski, 8 December 1994

London: A Social History 
by Roy Porter.
Hamish Hamilton, 429 pp., £20, October 1994, 0 241 12944 3
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A City Full of People: Men and Women of London, 1650-1750 
by Peter Earle.
Methuen, 321 pp., £25, April 1994, 9780413681706
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... it liked to boost its profits. The speculators and get-rich-quick merchants date from long before Peter Rachman’s Sixties and the Yuppie Eighties. In the history of London, Porter suggests, greed had carte blanche. The free-for-all continued, with neither local nor Parliamentary government overseeing London’s growth, until the setting up of the London ...

When the Mediterranean Was Blue

John Bayley, 23 March 1995

Cyril Connolly: A Nostalgic Life 
by Clive Fisher.
Macmillan, 304 pp., £20, March 1995, 0 333 57813 9
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... point for the regrets and frustrations of his literary generation. He was a mixture of Pan and Peter Pan. Clive Fisher, who has written a very good book on Noel Coward, was quite right to give this elegant study the subtitle ‘A Nostalgic Life’. Being Anglo-Irish helped the nostalgia. Connolly senior had been a Major in the British Army and when he ...

Serial Evangelists

Peter Clarke, 23 June 1994

Thinking the Unthinkable: Think-Tanks and the Economic Counter-Revolution, 1931-83 
by Richard Cockett.
HarperCollins, 390 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 00 223672 9
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... Friedman, on his first trip to Europe, looked distinctly under-age. Hayek had thought of it as the Acton-Tocqueville Society: others favoured Burke and Smith; the free-market solution was to call it after the mountain on which it convened. The Mont Pèlerin Society offered an escape from the dreary post-war Britain of food rationing and exchange controls into ...


Geoffrey Hawthorn, 15 November 1984

Social Scientist as Innovator 
by Michael Young.
Abt Books, 265 pp., $28, April 1984, 0 89011 593 1
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Revolution from Within: Co-operatives and Co-operation in British Industry 
by Michael Young and Marianne Rigge.
Weidenfeld, 188 pp., £12.95, July 1983, 0 297 78234 7
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Dilemmas of Liberal Democracies: Studies in Fred Hirsch’s ‘Social Limits to Growth’ 
edited by Adrian Ellis and Krishan Kumar.
Tavistock, 212 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 0 422 78460 5
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... the Institute of Community Studies in Bethnal Green and did a series of studies from there with Peter Willmott and others, there was simply no adequate information on what most people might want from politics. This research – done, it is true, in the South-East, away from the areas of heavy industry – strengthened his conviction that there were no ...

In Praise of Barley Brew

E.S. Turner: Combustible Belloc, 20 February 2003

Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc 
by Joseph Pearce.
HarperCollins, 306 pp., £20, July 2002, 0 00 274095 8
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... think that, in the end, I shall go to Trevelyan’s enemies, Hilaire Belloc or Lord Acton, both Catholics, for an understanding of modern England.’ Belloc wrote no autobiography: he felt it was not really a gentlemanly thing to do; autobiographers usually offered too little or far too much. His now hackneyed and rather inferior quip ...

Museums of Melancholy

Iain Sinclair: Silence on the Euston Road, 18 August 2005

... bodies could not be reassembled, bones picked from the mud. ‘The government of the time,’ Peter Ashley wrote in his English Heritage booklet, Lest We Forget (2004), ‘refused to acknowledge the concept of the repatriation of the dead, so these monuments became the focal points for grief.’ The fallen of King’s Cross are uniformly capitalised: a ...

Out of the jiffybag

Frank Kermode, 12 November 1987

For Love and Money: Writing, Reading, Travelling 1969-1987 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins Harvill, 350 pp., £11.50, November 1987, 0 00 272279 8
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Original Copy: Selected Reviews and Journalism 1969-1986 
by John Carey.
Faber, 278 pp., £9.95, August 1987, 0 571 14879 4
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... a slasher – though there is a very severe notice of the autobiographies of Anthony Powell and Peter Quennell – and he seems to enjoy being generous to other reviewers, as when he justly praises John Updike. He is full of gratitude to literary editors, commemorating Ian Hamilton’s work on the New Review in terms only this side of idolatry. Such writers ...

Boarder or Day Boy?

Bernard Porter: Secrecy in Britain, 15 July 1999

The Culture of Secrecy in Britain 1832-1998 
by David Vincent.
Oxford, 364 pp., £25, January 1999, 0 19 820307 1
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... all began to take on some credence once more. The last, especially, though a marginal theme of Peter Wright’s book (he couldn’t see what all the fuss was about: Wilson was obviously a rotter), rocked people’s trust in MI5. That could be taken to justify the secret services’ strategy all along. Any publicity would inspire paranoia, which they ...


Terry Eagleton: Anonymity, 22 May 2008

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature 
by John Mullan.
Faber, 374 pp., £17.99, January 2008, 978 0 571 19514 5
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... this migration. Waiting for Godot as performed in San Quentin prison is not quite the same play as Peter Hall’s first London production. We cannot simply put Auschwitz out of our minds while watching The Merchant of Venice. Writerly meaning does not always trump readerly meaning. Walter Benjamin believed that works of literature secreted certain meanings ...

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