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Wigan Peer

Stephen Koss, 15 November 1984

The Crawford Papers: The Journals of David Lindsay, 27th Earl of Crawford and 10th Earl of Balcarres, during the Years 1892 to 1940 
edited by John Vincent.
Manchester, 645 pp., £35, October 1984, 0 7190 0948 0
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... One evening in 1935, after a ‘copious’ dinner at Grillion’s, Austen Chamberlain retaliated against Winston Churchill. Course after course, Churchill had harangued his companions about British concessions in India ‘as though we were a public meeting... never letting anybody else get a word in’. Worthy of F.E. Smith’s gibe that he was the sort of gentleman who always played the game and always lost it, Austen waited for his adversary to depart before having ‘his revenge – pouring out an incessant flow of reminiscence which might be amusing were it crisp and to the point but every sentence is expanded and every trifling incident magnified, until dear good Austen begins to rank as a first-class bore – he is so insistent as to be a positive fatigue ...

No Man’s Mistress

Stephen Koss, 5 July 1984

Margot: A Life of the Countess of Oxford and Asquith 
by Daphne Bennett.
Gollancz, 442 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 575 03279 0
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... Christened Emma after her mother, whose later influence upon her was slight, the 11th of Sir Charles Tennant’s 15 children – three were born after he had remarried at the age of 75 – was to become famous and indeed notorious as Margot. W.E. Gladstone, allegedly more captivated by the challenge of the rhyme than by the personality of the 25-year-old woman who visited him at Hawarden in 1889, composed four stanzas of decidedly un-Homeric verse, each revolving around her name: ‘Though young and though fair, who can hold such a cargo/Of all the good qualities going as Margot?’ George Curzon, a Soulmate nearer her own age, was moved that same year to proclaim that, however ‘wide you may wander and far go ...


A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience, 6 December 1984

... The study of English political history has suffered a grievous loss with the death of Stephen Koss in New York on 25 October last. Though only 44, hardly more than half my age, Stephen had already established himself as an authority of the first rank on British political history in the 19th and 20th centuries ...

Newspapers of the Consensus

Neal Ascherson, 21 February 1985

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. II: The 20th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 718 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 241 11181 1
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Lies, Damned Lies and Some Exclusives 
by Henry Porter.
Chatto, 211 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2841 0
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Garvin of the ‘Observer’ 
by David Ayerst.
Croom Helm, 314 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 7099 0560 2
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The Beaverbrook I Knew 
edited by Logan Gourlay.
Quartet, 272 pp., £11.95, September 1984, 0 7043 2331 1
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... Readers who had encountered its first volume would have known that Stephen Koss’s work on the British political press was monumental. Now it has become his monument in another, brutally unexpected sense, for Stephen Koss died suddenly soon after the completion of the second volume ...

Turning Turk

Robert Blake, 20 August 1981

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. 1: The 19th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 455 pp., £20, May 1981, 0 241 10561 7
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... Aspinall’s notable work Politics and the Press (1949) does it for the period 1780 to 1850, and Stephen Koss pays full tribute to his predecessor. Professor Koss is one of the few American historians of the top rank writing about modern British political history (as opposed to pre-revolution English history). He is ...

Before Wapping

Asa Briggs, 22 May 1986

Victorian News and Newspapers 
by Lucy Brown.
Oxford, 305 pp., £32.50, November 1985, 0 19 822624 1
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... revealed many details of the fascinating relationship between Palmerston and the press, and that Stephen Koss in the first volume of The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (1981) dealt with it critically and at length. Yet a reader turning to Miss Brown’s book and expecting it to live up to its title might well be disappointed if he had ...

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard, 25 January 1996

Plant Here the ‘Standard’ 
by Dennis Griffiths.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 333 55565 1
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... been the beneficiary of largesse from the London treasure-chest of the Southern Confederacy. As Stephen Koss, however, made clear in the first volume of The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain (1981) – to which the earlier part of this book is heavily indebted – the Standard was by no means alone in allowing itself to be compromised in ...

Alternative Tories

José Harris, 23 April 1987

by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 204 pp., £12.95, March 1987, 9780002175869
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Rab: The Life of R.A. Butler 
by Anthony Howard.
Cape, 422 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 01862 0
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The Political Culture of Modern Britain: Studies in Memory of Stephen Koss 
edited by J.M.W. Bean.
Hamish Hamilton, 306 pp., £15, January 1987, 0 241 12026 8
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... different age. A historian whose work spanned political, religious and intellectual history was Stephen Koss, who died in 1984 in his mid-forties. Koss was the author of eight books on modern British history, several of them classics, yet gave the impression of being a man with several decades of scholarly vitality ...

The Only True Throne

John Pemble: ‘Muckraker’, 19 July 2012

Muckraker: The Scandalous Life and Times of W.T. Stead 
by W. Sydney Robinson.
Robson, 281 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 1 84954 294 4
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... a Fourth Estate. No one has demonstrated convincingly that such a thing ever really existed, and Stephen Koss, in his two-volume study of the political press in Britain, argued authoritatively that if it ever did, it didn’t last long. Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe), who by 1896 owned both the Evening News and the Daily Mail, said: ‘I see ...

Easy-Going Procrastinators

Ferdinand Mount: Margot Asquith’s War, 8 January 2015

Margot Asquith’s Great War Diary 1914-16: The View from Downing Street 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock, selected by Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 566 pp., £30, June 2014, 978 0 19 822977 3
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Margot at War: Love And Betrayal In Downing Street, 1912-16 
by Anne de Courcy.
Weidenfeld, 376 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 0 297 86983 2
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The Darkest Days: The Truth Behind Britain’s Rush To War, 1914 
by Douglas Newton.
Verso, 386 pp., £20, July 2014, 978 1 78168 350 7
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... tend to underplay have to be taken into account. Asquith’s biographers, Roy Jenkins and Stephen Koss, both casually assert that Asquith ‘won’ three general elections. In our modern sense, he never won one. Campbell-Bannerman was the party leader at the Liberal landslide of 1906, and Asquith’s two elections of 1910 both produced badly hung ...

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