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Stanley and the Activists

Philip Williamson

13 October 1988
Baldwin and the Conservative Party: The Crisis of 1929-1931 
by Stuart Ball.
Yale, 266 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 300 03961 1
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... During the present century the British political system has undergone three periods of severe stress – of strains so serious that the leaders of all the major parties felt obliged to suspend party politics and to combine in coalition governments. The first and third periods of crisis are obvious: the world wars. Here the nature of the threat is evident, and the domestic consequences are familiar ...
1 June 2000
Stanley Baldwin: Conservative Leadership and National Values 
by Philip Williamson.
Cambridge, 378 pp., £25, September 1999, 0 521 43227 8
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... How bogus was Baldwin? When he said in 1925, ‘I give expression, in some unaccountable way, to what the English people think’, the statement was, as PhilipWilliamson notes in this ambitious new assessment, ‘in any literal sense … untrue’. Similarly with his claim to be ‘voicing what is in the minds of the dumb millions of this country’, though there the ...

Something of Importance

Philip Williamson

2 February 1989
The Coming of the First World War 
edited by R.J.W. Evans and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann.
Oxford, 189 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 19 822899 6
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The Experience of World War One 
by J.M. Winter.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 333 44613 5
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Russia and the Allies 1917-1920. Vol II: The Road to Intervention, March-November 1918 
by Michael Kettle.
Routledge, 401 pp., £40, June 1988, 0 415 00371 7
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Douglas Haig 1861-1928 
by Gerald De Groot.
Unwin Hyman, 441 pp., £20, November 1988, 0 04 440192 2
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Nothing of Importance: A Record of Eight Months at the Front with a Welsh Battalion 
by Bernard Adams.
The Strong Oak Press/Tom Donovan Publishing, 324 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9781871048018
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1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War 
by Lyn Macdonald.
Joseph, 346 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7181 3188 6
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... Publications about the Great War continue to proliferate, hardly needing additional stimulation from the 70th anniversary of the Armistice. The present books are just a few on the subject to appear during 1988, and despite publication dates close to 11 November only one of these seems to be a largely opportunistic production. The reasons for such persistent attention are plain. The war was a huge rupture ...
21 November 1985
Money into Light 
by John Boorman.
Faber, 241 pp., £4.95, September 1985, 0 571 13731 8
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... power in the industry plays a part; and Boorman, who repeats a delicious story of Sir Richard Attenborough rumbled in a restaurant playing the part of the sober producer by his fellow-actor Nicol Williamson, throws himself with a will into the diarist’s role. The material is shaped and worked-up to considerable effect. Boorman’s instincts, however, are not those of a Woodward or McClintick ...
1 June 2000
The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography 
by Simon Singh.
Fourth Estate, 402 pp., £16.99, September 1999, 1 85702 879 1
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In Code: A Mathematical Journey 
by Sarah Flannery.
Profile, 292 pp., £14.99, April 2000, 1 86197 222 9
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Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption 
by Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau.
MIT, 346 pp., £10.50, April 1999, 0 262 54100 9
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... functions and no doubt other algorithms. Indeed, as Singh makes clear, it appears that public-key cryptography was actually invented some years earlier by the English mathematicians Malcolm Williamson and Clifford Cocks at GCHQ Cheltenham, but was kept secret at the time for reasons of security. Independently of this, a mathematically gifted Irish schoolgirl, 16-year-old Sarah Flannery, recently ...


Blair Worden

10 January 1983
Neostoicism and the Early Modern State 
by Gerhard Oestreich, edited by Brigitta Oestreich and H.G. Koenigsberger, translated by David McLintock.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 521 24202 9
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... the Stoic mistrust of the body, of instinct, of the irrational. Yet he was probably the most widely read and influential thinker of his time. Kings and cardinals queued and competed for his company. Philip II of Spain made him historiographer royal. Rubens, his devoted pupil, painted him as the modern Seneca; and it was through the medium of Lipsius’s edition and commentary that Seneca reached a wide ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood

22 July 2004
Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... occurring, for instance, in the Mahabharata. Its variants are also cross-cultural. At the end of Robin and Marian, Robin (Sean Connery), on his death-bed, shoots an arrow and asks Little John (Nicol Williamson) to bury him and Marian (Audrey Hepburn) close together where it falls. This variant comes from an ancient Indian motif best known in our day from Kipling’s Kim, whose Lama seeks his final ...

The Mask It Wears

Pankaj Mishra: The Wrong Human Rights

21 June 2018
The People v. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It 
by Yascha Mounk.
Harvard, 400 pp., £21.95, March 2018, 978 0 674 97682 5
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Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World 
by Samuel Moyn.
Harvard, 277 pp., £21.95, April 2018, 978 0 674 73756 3
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... a climate-change denier, and Bari Weiss, a campus agitator known for persecuting Arab scholars, away from the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal. The Atlantic hired, then a few days later fired, Kevin Williamson, a prose stylist at the National Review who suggests that women who have abortions – a quarter of all American women – should be hanged. In this free-for-all, ‘thought leaders’ rise without a ...

It could be me

Joanna Biggs: Sheila Heti

24 January 2013
How Should a Person Be? 
by Sheila Heti.
Harvill Secker, 306 pp., £16.99, January 2013, 978 1 84655 754 5
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... throw the book across the room or to stock up on copies to give to friends, sometimes both. Feminist bloggers clamoured to interview and in some cases canonise her. Heti has been called the heir to Philip Roth, or to Joan Didion, and the literary equivalent of the filmmaker Lena Dunham or the songwriter Frank Ocean, who astonished the luridly heterosexual R’n’B scene last year by recording love ...

Belt, Boots and Spurs

Jonathan Raban: Dunkirk, 1940

4 October 2017
... for a commission. He went about getting one in the old-fashioned way, by visiting the Big House, Oddingley Grange on Trench Lane, whose châtelaine was a Mrs White, aunt of Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Robinson, commanding officer of the Royal Artillery 67th Field Regiment, Territorial Army. Lt Col Robinson approved, and a gruff handshake transformed my father into a second lieutenant, though he ...

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