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Robert Tombs: Biography, 28 October 1999

Le Monde retrouvó de Louis-François Pinagot: Sur let Traces d’un Inconnu, 1798-1876 
by Alain Corbin.
Flammarion, 344 pp., frs 135, November 1998, 2 08 212520 3
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... readiness to immerse himself in the archives and tease out the meaning of details reminds me of Richard Cobb, though perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be another famous archival mole, Jules Michelet, who also wrote about women and the sea, and tried to unravel the substance from which France was made. As Michelet put it in a famous ...

For the duration

John McManners, 16 June 1983

The Oxford Book of Death 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 351 pp., £9.50, April 1983, 0 19 214129 5
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Idéologies et Mentalités 
by Michel Vovelle.
Maspéro, 264 pp., £7.15, May 1982, 2 7071 1289 5
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... Ariès’s contribution to historical knowledge, however.) The other contemporary historian is Richard Cobb. For once, I am one up on him, for he rates only a single entry. Admittedly, it is a marvellous passage, his reflections on the suicides recorded in Box D4U17 in the Archives de la Seine, the dossiers of the morgue in the old Châtelet of Paris ...

A City of Sand and Puddles

Julian Barnes: Paris, 22 April 2010

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris 
by Graham Robb.
Picador, 476 pp., £18.99, April 2010, 978 0 330 45244 1
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The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps 
by Eric Hazan, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 384 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84467 411 4
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... rigour; but it lies discreetly behind a non-academic joyfulness. The French used to celebrate Richard Cobb as le grand Cobb; and perhaps it isn’t too early to hail his successor as le grand Robb. Of Robb’s 19 chapters, three are set in the late 18th century, six in the 19th, eight in the 20th and two in the ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... most harrowing account of such an exile in his story ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’. But many others, Richard Rhodes James for example, have recorded their experiences as ‘orphans of the Raj, paying the price of empire by a separation from parents’. Parents, too, of course had to pay the price, especially mothers, who were forced to choose between living for ...

Hitler’s Belgian Partner

Robert Paxton, 27 January 1994

Collaboration in Belgium: Léon Degrelle and the Rexist Movement 
by Martin Conway.
Yale, 364 pp., £30, October 1993, 0 300 05500 5
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... ruled by what was usually the least abusive type of occupation regime, a military government. As Richard Cobb has told us, the governor, General von Falkenhausen, was happy enough in Brussels to return there in 1952 to marry his Belgian mistress. Falkenhausen’s assistant, General Reeder, who conducted day-to-day affairs, was a reasonably correct ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Chicanery and Fantasy, 6 June 2019

... 1959. ‘It will make far more interesting reading than The Quest for Corvo.’ In the late 1970s, Richard Cobb took the view that Peters merited ‘further study, perhaps even a short biography, as he is fairly outstanding both as an academic fraud and as a bigamist’. To complain that the account we have at last been given is somewhat unrelenting, that ...


Gabriele Annan, 7 June 1984

Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... heart’. She fosters nostalgie de la banlieue, the feeling that made one wish V. S. Pritchett and Richard Cobb would never get to the last page of their childhood memories. You could adapt the famous remark about religious sects and say that England has sixty kinds of suburb and only one sauce – except that sixty would be an underestimate and all of ...

Falling for Desmoulins

P.N. Furbank, 20 August 1992

A Place of Greater Safety 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 896 pp., £15.99, September 1992, 0 670 84545 0
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... place both in France and in Britain, but certainly not in the same manner. Social historians like Richard Cobb have done such amazing work on the French Revolution, studying the minutest lineaments of ‘the real thing’, that one begins to look for their sort of history in a historical novel and to feel thwarted when such topics are ruled out of court ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... the name of a group, would serve just as well.31 October. I’m reading a volume of letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and others, edited by Tim Heald. Seeing it advertised and having devoured everything Cobb wrote I get hold of the book straightaway only to be slightly disappointed. It’s gossipy without ...

Megalomaniac and Loser

Norman Hampson, 21 March 1985

Beyond the Terror: Essays in French Regional and Social History 1794-1815 
edited by Gwynne Lewis and Colin Lucas.
Cambridge, 276 pp., £22.50, October 1983, 0 521 25114 1
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Chouannerie and Counter-Revolution: Puisaye, the Princes and the British Government in the 1790s 
by Maurice Hutt.
Cambridge, 630 pp., £60, December 1983, 0 521 22603 1
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Britain and Revolutionary France: Conflict, Subversion and Propaganda 
edited by Colin Jones.
Exeter, 96 pp., £1.75, June 1983, 0 85989 179 8
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... that they were all dead. The volume of essays, edited by Gwynne Lewis and Colin Lucas in honour of Richard Cobb, deals mostly with the later years of the Revolution, between the fall of Robespierre and the advent of Bonaparte. The period has always been rather an embarrassment to historians who are looking for patterns. If the Terror represented some kind ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn, 10 January 1991

City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... is to weave through place and time with a guide as robust and detailed in his knowledge as, say, Richard Cobb is about France, albeit with diametrically opposite political analysis and enthusiasms. As a pamphleteer and radical, Davis is still very much on active service, though, as he remarked not so long ago, the programme of a radical in Los Angeles ...

Rogue’s Paradise

R.W. Johnson: The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova, 16 July 1998

The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War 
by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova.
Human and Rousseau/Combined Book Services, 287 pp., £17.99, June 1998, 0 7981 3804 1
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... as a world-historical figure, died destitute in Cape Town in 1950. There is more than a touch of Richard Cobb in the way Davidson and Filatova tease out these bizarre biographies and, in so doing, they have opened up a new front in a war long thought to be over. But it is the novel refraction of the British imperial world through St Petersburg which is ...

Fear in the Miracle Nation

R.W. Johnson, 2 November 1995

The Liberal Slideaway 
by Jill Wentzel.
South African Institute of Race Relations, 430 pp., R 59.99, October 1995, 0 86982 445 7
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... UDF was to blame for its violence against Inkatha, Inkatha were not goodies either. The work of Richard Cobb should have made us expect all revolutions to be shot through with villainy, banality and irony. For every saintly Mandela or heroic Steve Biko there were always likely to be several murderous Harry Gwalas, fraudulent Allan Boesaks and others ...

Down with Weathercocks

Tom Stammers: Mother Revolution, 30 November 2017

Liberty or Death: The French Revolution 
by Peter McPhee.
Yale, 468 pp., £14.99, July 2017, 978 0 300 22869 4
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... to be more powerful than kings.’The cacophony of voices in McPhee’s book recalls the work of Richard Cobb; it shows a similar sensitivity to regional variation and delight in anarchic individualism. McPhee offsets popular devotion to the revolution with evidence of apathy, frustration and profanity. ‘Vive le roi! The republic can get ...

Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... in his life, an older man was seduced by his combination of energy and deference. T.H. (‘Tim’) Cobb, the headmaster of a respectable public school, Dover College in Kent, decided to appoint him the school’s sports master and extra geography teacher. There were several other more impressively qualified candidates, and Archer’s previous employer had ...

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