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Flights of the Enchanter

Noël Annan, 4 April 1991

A Traveller’s Alphabet: Partial Memoirs 
by Steven Runciman.
Thames and Hudson, 214 pp., £16.95, February 1991, 9780500015049
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... and one wrote wistfully in his end-of-term report: ‘I wish this boy were kinder to me.’ Steven Runciman was already beginning to see history in a different perspective from his mentors. In those days one was taught that during the Dark Ages the Catholic Church civilised each wave of barbarians and preserved the link with the ancient world ...

Norman Bread

Christopher Holdsworth, 16 October 1980

The Norman Conquest of the North 
by William Kapelle.
Croom Helm, 329 pp., £14.95, March 1980, 0 7099 0040 6
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Consul of God 
by Jeffrey Richards.
Routledge, 309 pp., £9.75, March 1980, 0 7100 0346 3
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Martin of Tours 
by Christopher Donaldson.
Routledge, 171 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 0 7100 0422 2
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Mistra 
by Steven Runciman.
Thames and Hudson, 160 pp., £9.50, March 1980, 0 500 25071 5
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... in the period between 1000 and 1135. Last in time, and also the shortest, is Mistra by Sir Steven Runciman: this treats the troubled history of the most important Byzantine city in the Peloponnese, and concentrates on the period from the 13th to the 15th centuries. One difference between the four is obvious: it is clear that Mistra is directed ...

Herberts & Herbertinas

Rosemary Hill: Steven Runciman, 19 October 2016

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman 
by Minoo Dinshaw.
Penguin, 767 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 241 00493 7
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... I met​ Steven Runciman several times towards the end of his long life. On one occasion he told me, as he told many people, that as a young man he had danced with a friend of his mother who, in her own youth, had danced with Prince Albert. He seemed slightly disconcerted when I insisted that he dance a few steps with me so that I could say I had danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince Consort, but he did it and our little turn round the room made me feel in some psychic way closer to the court of Queen Victoria ...

Prodigious Powers

Hugh Lloyd-Jones, 21 January 1982

The Greeks and their Heritages 
by Arnold Toynbee.
Oxford, 334 pp., £12.50, October 1981, 0 19 215256 4
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... no awareness of the immense cultural superiority of the Byzantines to the Crusaders which Sir Steven Runciman has so clearly described, nor does he seem conscious that the last age of Byzantium, between the reconquest of Constantinople from the Franks in 1261 and its capture by the Turks in 1453, was in many respects an age of great cultural ...

Church of Garbage

Robert Irwin, 3 February 2000

The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives 
by Carole Hillenbrand.
Edinburgh, 648 pp., £80, July 1999, 0 7486 0905 9
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... its birth, or in the agencies by which it sought to establish it there. Much more recently, Sir Steven Runciman, the 96-year-old doyen of Crusading studies, has written that ‘the Holy War itself was nothing more than a long act of intolerance in the name of God.’ The wickedness of Crusading and Crusaders had established itself as one of the pieties ...

Joseph Jobson

Patrick Wormald, 18 April 1985

Saladin in his Time 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 210 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13044 5
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Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War 
by Ronald Finucane.
Dent, 247 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 460 12040 9
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... at Acre which probably inspired his famous constitutional experiments under Henry III. Sir Steven Runciman began his three-volume History of the Crusades, one of the truly great examples of English narrative historiography, with the implied question: do we regard the Crusades ‘as the most tremendous and romantic of Christian adventures or as the ...

Dukology

Lawrence Stone, 22 November 1990

The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy 
by David Cannadine.
Yale, 813 pp., £19.95, October 1990, 0 300 04761 4
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... of Lords. Some of these landed aristocrats, led by life peers, are coming in useful after all. Steven Runciman once said that ‘the supreme duty of the historian is to ... record in one sweeping sequence the greater events and movements that have swayed the destinies of man.’ David Cannadine has done just that for the decline of the British landed ...

Eastern Promises

J.L. Nelson: The Christian Holy War, 29 November 2007

God’s War: A New History of the Crusades 
by Christopher Tyerman.
Penguin, 1024 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 026980 2
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... new academic centres where the crusades could be rethought ‘on site’, as they began to be by Steven Runciman at the University of Istanbul in 1942-45, and, post-1948, by a growing cohort of Israeli scholars in circumstances that gave new and contested meanings to the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Now Christopher Tyerman offers ‘a new history’. He has ...

Kitty still pines for his dearest Dub

Andrew O’Hagan: Gossip, 6 February 2014

Becoming a Londoner: A Diary 
by David Plante.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £20, September 2013, 978 1 4088 3975 1
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The Animals: Love Letters between Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy 
edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Chatto, 481 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 0 7011 8678 4
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... all the characters of recorded history to one another, but the accounts had to be first-person. Steven Runciman has sent me this limerick: The stories I tell David Plante/Soon acquire a curious slant./His fertile invention/Twists all that I mention./I could tell him more,/But I shan’t. One afternoon, Henrietta Garnett came to visit me. She was ...

In a Frozen Crouch

Colin Kidd: Democracy’s Ends, 13 September 2018

How Democracy Ends 
by David Runciman.
Profile, 249 pp., £14.99, May 2018, 978 1 78125 974 0
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Edge of Chaos: Why Democracy Is Failing to Deliver Economic Growth – And How to Fix It 
by Dambisa Moyo.
Little, Brown, 296 pp., £20, April 2018, 978 1 4087 1089 0
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How Democracies Die 
by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt.
Viking, 311 pp., £16.99, January 2018, 978 0 241 31798 3
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Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy 
by William Galston.
Yale, 158 pp., £25, June 2018, 978 0 300 22892 2
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... Revel’s prediction of Kremlin-inspired interference in the open societies of the West. David Runciman argues that we are wrong to think that the 1930s or the 1970s provide any sure precedent for the current travails of democracy. It might be better, Runciman suggests, to look instead at the populist turmoil of the ...

Many Causes, Many Cases

Peter Hall, 28 June 1990

Confessions of a Reluctant Theorist 
by W.G. Runciman.
Harvester, 253 pp., £30, April 1990, 0 7450 0484 9
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... advances that would influence the course of social science around the world. In this milieu, W. G. Runciman was a seminal figure, who appeared as puzzling to the uninitiated as the discipline he studied. He was an internationally-known sociologist at a university that apparently had no department of sociology. It was rumoured that ...

Too early or too late?

David Runciman, 2 April 2020

... the coronavirus outbreak quite a few commentators compared Trump to the fictional mayor in Jaws. Steven Spielberg’s mayor refuses at first to accept that a shark is responsible for the fatal attacks – he claims the first was a boating accident. When the evidence becomes hard to refute he still declines to shut the resort. Only when another swimmer gets ...

Tax Breaks for Rich Murderers

David Runciman: Bush and the ‘Death Tax’, 2 June 2005

Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth 
by Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro.
Princeton, 392 pp., $29.95, March 2005, 0 691 12293 8
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... supported repeal. There were some who hated the idea, including William Gates Sr (father of Bill), Steven Rockefeller, George Soros and Warren Buffet. What is more, the Democratic Party was squarely against the proposal, and wanted to prevent it. Given that the alliance that had been formed to push repeal through was so obviously flaky, and vulnerable to the ...

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