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Route to Nowhere

Peter Mair: European parties of the Left, 4 January 2001

The Heart Beats on the Left 
by Oskar Lafontaine, translated by Ronald Taylor.
Polity, 219 pp., £12.99, September 2000, 0 7456 2582 7
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... European social democrats have never had it so good. By the end of the 20th century, they were in government, either alone or in coalition, in 14 of the 19 Western European democracies, ruling over some 88 per cent of Western Europe’s citizenry. Only on the periphery – in Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Spain – did they remain in opposition ...

Smoking for England

Paul Foot, 5 July 1984

Smoke Ring: The Politics of Tobacco 
by Peter Taylor.
Bodley Head, 384 pp., £9.95, March 1984, 0 370 30513 2
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... This theory later became the central slogan of the Thatcher-Reagan reaction of the Eighties. Peter Taylor’s marvellous book does awful damage to it. He deals with the power of the tobacco companies, especially the six giant ones which control the production, distribution and marketing of the crop all over the world. Tobacco has been around for some ...

A Toast at the Trocadero

Terry Eagleton: D.J. Taylor, 18 February 2016

The Prose Factory: Literary Life in England since 1918 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 501 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 7011 8613 5
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... D.J. Taylor​ is the most charitable of critics. However absurd, third-rate or pretentious the authors he examines, he can always find something to say in their favour. In this latest study, he even puts in a good word for the preposterous Sitwell family, having first given them a roasting for their insufferable self-importance, on the grounds that Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell were at least serious about literature ...

Give her a snake

Mary Beard, 22 March 1990

Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions 
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.
Bloomsbury, 338 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 7475 0093 2
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... by ponderous appeals to the work of an ill-assorted range of academic luminaries: from Lacan to Ronald Syme; from Mary Douglas to Nietzsche. It is not that Douglas’s views on the Abominations of Leviticus and on the symbolic role of ‘the anomalous’ are no longer interesting. But, at least in the page-long summary by Hughes-Hallett, they are an ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bob Dylan’s Tall Tales, 21 October 2004

... still in its infancy, barely a year old and only six months independent of the New York Review, Ronald Reagan didn’t simply take the US presidency from Jimmy Carter: he also, as Danny Goldberg argues in Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit (Miramax, $23.95), wrested political access to pop culture from the Democrats. Reagan ...

Diary

John Lanchester: A Month on the Sofa, 11 July 2002

... in a school and stabbed 23 children, of whom eight died. Ferdinand is from Peckham, where Damilola Taylor was murdered, and spoke prominently about that, so he and Alan Smith went to the school to express their condolences. This is exactly the kind of thing that English footballers tend not to do, so good for him. This was his first time back to Osaka since ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... liberal political philosophy in the United States in the 1960s, and his reviews of John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin remain some of the most acute there are. But these philosophers started from within. They may have been prompted to write by the establishment of civil rights in the 1960s and the domestic consequences of the Vietnam War, but these events don’t ...

Seeing Stars

Alan Bennett: Film actors, 3 January 2002

... so proud and which marked her out as a professional woman, ‘Have I the pleasure of serving Mr Ronald Colman?’ Whereupon Mr Ronald Colman (and God forgive him) looks most put out, says ‘No,’ and strides out into Commercial Street. Of course had Aunty had more sense she would have waited until she had his shoe ...

At least they paid their taxes

Linda Colley, 25 July 1991

Nancy Reagan: The Unauthorised Biography 
by Kitty Kelley.
Bantam, 532 pp., £16.99, April 1991, 0 593 02450 8
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... one-time Lilac Princess at school, millionaire biographer of Jacqueline Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor and Frank Sinatra, looks not all that different from her current subject. There is the same bright, taut face which a good surgical lift always ensures, the same immaculately-dyed and coiffeured hair, the same fixed smile exhibiting the kind of teeth that ...

Breast Cancer Screening

Paul Taylor, 5 June 2014

... healthy women since the 1960s, but its use was stepped up dramatically in the 1980s. In the US, Ronald Reagan’s announcement in 1987 that his wife, Nancy, had been diagnosed with cancer following a screening mammogram made a significant impact; by 1991, most states had passed legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of mammograms. In ...

On and off the page

Thomas Nagel, 25 July 1991

Isaiah Berlin: A Celebration 
by Edna Margalit and Avishai Margalit.
Hogarth, 224 pp., £25, June 1991, 0 7012 0925 9
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... in ‘Understanding Fascism’. On the subject of positive and negative liberty, the essays by Ronald Dworkin and Yael Tamir form a complementary pair. Dworkin shows how the conflation of positive with negative liberty, which Berlin exposed, has reappeared in current arguments by some American legal theorists to the effect that restrictions of sexually ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... observer derives from his vantage-point, rather than from his own innocence or disinterestedness. Ronald Blythe has paid tribute to ‘the powerful ordinariness of his daily records ... A more authentic and exciting admittance to his times does not exist.’ But a diarist isn’t ordinary: however well-placed an insider, he becomes an outsider once he begins ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... of this remains obscure, and in this volume robs us of Nigel Nicolson on Alexander, A.J.P. Taylor on Beaverbrook, Martin Gilbert on Churchill, Jonathan Dimbleby on his father, John Pearson on Ian Fleming, P.N. Furbank on E.M. Forster, Philip Williams on Gaitskell, Sybille Bedford on Aldous Huxley, Michael Holroyd on Augustus John, J.E. Morpurgo on ...

Leading the Labour Party

Arthur Marwick, 5 November 1981

Michael Foot: A Portrait 
by Simon Hoggart and David Leigh.
Hodder, 216 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 340 27600 2
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... occupies. Merely irritating is the authors’ repeated citation of the pronouncements of Mr A.J.P. Taylor – not so much, one fears, because they regard the historian as infallible (which he nearly is), but because they hope to keep on the sunniest side of the kindly critic. During the First World War there had been a divide between what were, as ...

Manchester’s Moment

Boyd Hilton, 20 August 1998

Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 
by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 336 pp., £45, December 1997, 9780198201465
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The Origins of War Prevention: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1730-1854 
by Martin Ceadel.
Oxford, 587 pp., £55, December 1996, 0 19 822674 8
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... free trade markets of the third quarter of the century, thereby leading to what Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson called informal empire or ‘the imperialism of Free Trade’. Thereafter, Britain’s determination not to copy the other European states and America, by retreating into protective tariffs, is often seen as an enlightened attachment to ...

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