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The Art of Self-Defeat

Noël Annan, 19 July 1984

Faces of Philip: A Memoir of Philip Toynbee 
by Jessica Mitford.
Heinemann, 175 pp., £9.95, July 1984, 0 434 46802 9
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... a pass than to bring them to bed. He may have yearned to face danger during the war as his friends Robert Kee and Paddy Leigh-Fermor did, but he made it impossible to do so. Having somehow survived basic training in the Guards depot at Caterham, he was sent to Sandhurst as an officer cadet. He lay in the three-tonner apparently incapably drunk, but as it ...

Wizard of Ox

Paul Addison, 8 November 1990

... and the human touch which made him such a fine teacher. The long list of his pupils runs from Robert Kee at Magdalen in the Thirties to Kathy Burk, the last of his postgraduate students, in the Seventies. But a survey of the many historians he taught would show that in various respects they did not agree with Alan Taylor or indeed with one ...


Conor Gearty: On Michael Collins, 28 November 1996

... in Michael Collins. None matters much to me nor, it seems, have any mattered to the Irish public. Robert Kee put it well when he wrote that the film’s intentions were honest and its central themes ‘historically wholly acceptable’. Not for the first time, however, Kee is in a minority position. The film’s ...

Sexual Tories

Angus Calder, 17 May 1984

The Common People: A History from the Norman Conquest to the Present 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Croom Helm and Flamingo, 445 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7099 0125 9
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British Society 1914-45 
by John Stevenson.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 503 pp., £16.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1390 8
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The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £11.95, April 1984, 0 297 78287 8
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Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 272 pp., £4.50, April 1984, 0 86068 417 2
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... commonly posed or faked, to its over-simplistic headlines and its unintentional absurdities. Robert Kee’s The World We Left Behind shows that one can make up an interesting and agreeable book almost solely from this source. It isn’t ‘social history’, since, as it moves from 1 January 1939 to 31 December, it is largely concerned with ...

UK Law

John Horgan, 16 August 1990

Stolen Years: Before and After Guildford 
by Paul Hill and Ronan Bennett.
Doubleday, 287 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 385 40125 6
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Proved Innocent 
by Gerry Conlon.
Hamish Hamilton, 234 pp., £12.99, June 1990, 0 241 13065 4
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Cage Eleven 
by Gerry Adams.
Brandon, 156 pp., £4.95, June 1990, 0 86322 114 9
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The Poisoned Tree: The untold truth about the Police conspiracy to discredit John Stalker and destroy me 
by Kevin Taylor and Keith Mumby.
Sidgwick, 219 pp., £15, May 1990, 0 283 06056 5
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... under way in Britain, with contributions by Yorkshire Television, Lords Devlin and Scarman, and Robert Kee. Irish public opinion, provincial to the last, finally fell in behind its UK counterpart. What is most unexpected about the Hill and Conlon books, perhaps, is the intensity of their descriptions of prison life. Innocence may sharpen the memory: at ...


Susan Pedersen: A.J.P. Taylor, 10 May 2007

A.J.P. Taylor: Radical Historian of Europe 
by Chris Wrigley.
Tauris, 439 pp., £25, August 2006, 1 86064 286 1
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... children and sell the paintings off the walls in amorous pursuit of first, the then undergraduate Robert Kee and second, the egomaniacal and usually drunken Dylan Thomas. Even thirty years later, Taylor recalled this period as ‘a decade of intense, almost indescribable misery’, and it is impossible to contemplate the blighted hopes and bewildered ...

Cod on Ice

Andy Beckett: The BBC, 10 July 2003

Panorama: Fifty Years of Pride And Paranoia 
by Richard Lindley.
Politico’s, 404 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 1 902301 80 3
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The Harder Path: The Autobiography 
by John Birt.
Time Warner, 532 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 316 86019 0
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... the ardent Galahad who will never take for granted that men are sometimes wicked on purpose; Robert Kee, the hot-eyed public prosecutor … When John Birt arrived at the BBC as Deputy Director-General at the end of the 1980s, apocalyptic assessments of the programme were back in fashion. According to Birt, the BBC’s Chairman, Marmaduke ...

Imaginary Homelands

Salman Rushdie, 7 October 1982

... but, she stated, this was all false. Nothing of this type had ever occurred. The interviewer, Robert Kee, did not probe this statement at all. Instead he told Mrs Gandhi that she had proved many times over her right to be called a democrat. So literature can, and perhaps must, give the lie to official facts. But is this a proper function of those of ...

What did they do in the war?

Angus Calder, 20 June 1985

Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... more crazy if we were to have more casualties on our side to save the Japanese. This is quoted in Robert Kee’s 1945 – The World We Fought For. Kee’s method is to construct an account of the year from contemporary newspapers and journals. Its vice is that it can look rather lazily tacked together. Its virtue is ...

Criminal Justice

Ronan Bennett, 24 June 1993

... of the Guildford Four are a politically heterogeneous bunch: at one end, Cardinal Basil Hume, Robert Kee, Merlyn Rees, Lord Scarman and the late Lord Devlin; at the other, rhetoric-ridden, far-left Trotskyist groupings. And in between the world and its dog. The only thing on which all are agreed – some with more knowledge of the facts than others ...


Stephen Sedley: At the Courtroom, 5 March 1987

... last year: Chris Mullin’s on the Birmingham case, Paul Foot’s on the Bridgewater case and then Robert Kee’s* on the Guildford case. Kee’s is a drier, less passionate book than the other two, partly because its prose is more visibly marked by the size-12 footprints of the libel lawyer. Once again we have a crime ...

Into the Eisenshpritz

Elif Batuman: Superheroes, 10 April 2008

Life, in Pictures: Autobiographical Stories 
by Will Eisner.
Norton, 493 pp., £18.99, November 2007, 978 0 393 06107 9
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by David B..
Cape, 368 pp., £12.99, March 2006, 0 224 07920 4
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by Adrian Tomine.
Faber, 108 pp., £12.99, September 2007, 978 0 571 23329 8
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Misery Loves Comedy 
by Ivan Brunetti.
Fantagraphics, 172 pp., £15.99, April 2007, 978 1 56097 792 6
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... 1960s, the comic-book landscape was being altered by the ‘underground comix’ movement, led by Robert Crumb. Among Crumb’s most popular creations are the suave adventurer Fritz the Cat (whose conquests include a female ostrich and his own sister) and Mr Natural, a fountainhead of exasperatingly vague advice, outfitted in a Tolstoyan beard and ...

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