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Dictionaries

Randolph Quirk, 25 October 1979

Collins Dictionary of the English Language 
by P. Hanks, T.H. Long and L. Urdang.
Collins, 1690 pp., £7.95
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... For all their bright newness, dictionaries of the 1970s (such as the Webster 8th Collegiate, the Longman Modern English Dictionary, the revised Chambers, the 6th Concise Oxford, the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, the Oxford Paperback) are still basically concerned with translating a relatively foreign language ...

Oxford University’s Long Haul

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1988

The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. I: The Early Oxford Schools 
edited by J.I. Catto.
Oxford, 684 pp., £55, June 1984, 0 19 951011 3
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. III: The Collegiate University 
edited by James McConia.
Oxford, 775 pp., £60, July 1986, 9780199510139
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The History of the University of Oxford. Vol. V: The 18th Century 
edited by L.S. Sutherland and L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 949 pp., £75, July 1986, 0 19 951011 3
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Learning and a Liberal Education: The Study of History in the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester, 1880-1914 
by Peter Slee.
Manchester, 181 pp., £25, November 1986, 9780719018961
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... the making, is a prodigious achievement and a posthumous tribute to its general editor, the late T.H. Aston. To date, some 2500 pages of text, footnotes, tables, plates and indices have appeared, and there are four centuries and five volumes to come. As the centuries advance and the evidence mounts, the volumes become fatter. Those who have laboured in the ...

Defence of the Housefly

Dinah Birch, 14 November 1996

Letters of Emma and Florence Hardy 
edited by Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 364 pp., £45, April 1996, 0 19 818609 6
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... one particularly edgy bout of discontent: ‘I hope you burn my letters. Some are, I fear, most horribly indiscreet.’ But her husband was by then the most famous literary man of his age, and Florence’s letters were not for burning. They might, after all, be worth something. Neither Emma nor Florence could come to ...

Desmondism

John Sutherland, 23 March 1995

Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 474 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7181 3641 1
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... The problem T.H. Huxley presents for the would-be popular biographer is evident in his entry in the Concise DNB: Huxley, Thomas Henry (1825-1895), man of science; studied at Charing Cross Hospital; announced, 1845, discovery of the layer of cells in root sheath of hair which now bears his name; MB London, 1845; made assistant surgeon on HMS Rattlesnake 1846-50, investigations relating to hydrozoa; established morphological plan dividing hydrozoa into ‘Radiata’ and ‘Nematophora’; sent, 1848, memoir ‘On the Affinities of the Family of the Medusa’; FRS 1850; published two memoirs on the Ascidians; lecturer on natural history at Royal School of Mines, 1854; naturalist to geological survey, 1855; published writings dealing with subject of fossil forms including memoirs on cephalaspis and pteraspis (1858), the eurypterina, 1856-9, and the dicynodon, rhamphorhynchus and other reptiles ...

Little People

Claude Rawson, 15 September 1983

The Borrowers Avenged 
by Mary Norton.
Kestrel, 285 pp., £5.50, October 1982, 0 7226 5804 4
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... intriguing relation to children’s books. It is not ‘for nothing that, suitably abbreviated, it has become a classic for children’: Leavis’s oracular utterance, like Johnson’s, was intended as a put-down. And ‘suitable abbreviation’ has tended to mean the removal of Books Three and Four, which leaves ‘big men and little men’, usually ...

From the Urals to the Himalayas

T.H. Barrett, 12 July 1990

The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia 
edited by Denis Sinor.
Cambridge, 518 pp., £60, March 1990, 0 521 24304 1
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... of this slim, undersized volume claiming the name of Cambridge History. A part of the world that has given us Tamerlane, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun can hardly be dismissed as unimportant, but it must be said that little of world-shaking significance has happened there lately, although there are signs that this may now be changing. The most famous ...

Wall? I saw no Wall

T.H. Barrett, 30 November 1995

Did Marco Polo Go to China? 
by Frances Wood.
Secker, 182 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 0 436 20166 6
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... so easily done. The last British researcher into Marco Polo’s travels died in 1957, and the last historian of China who knew any Mongol left for America in the Eighties, at about the same time that the last British scholar who had learned Mongol as well as Chinese – the originally intended co-author of this book – decided that there were no career ...

More famous than Madonna

T.H. Barrett, 23 April 1992

Genghis Khan: His Life and Legacy 
by Paul Ratchnevsky, translated by Thomas Haining.
Blackwell, 313 pp., £25, November 1991, 0 631 16785 4
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... could bring us close to the mystery of Genghis Khan’s achievements, it was the late Paul Ratchnevsky. Not only had he been instructed in all the relevant languages by Paul Pelliot, the outstanding figure in the heroic age of French scholarship on Asia, but he had specialised in the laws and customs of the Mongols ...

Closed Windows

T.H. Barrett, 11 January 1990

The Question of Hu 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 187 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 0 571 14118 8
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... in 1723 he was committed to an asylum. In 1726 he was shipped back home alone; meanwhile Foucquet had distanced himself both from his Chinese assistant and from his own missionary colleagues, and had become a bishop in Rome. This is a sad story, simply told by Jonathan Spence – perhaps too simply for some historians. It depends largely on a single ...

Everything bar the Chopsticks

T.H. Barrett, 30 October 1997

The City of Light 
by Jacob d’Ancona, translated and edited by David Selbourne.
Little, Brown, 392 pp., £22.50, October 1997, 0 316 63968 0
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... David Selbourne was probably unaware of these fakes when he embarked on his translation of the text he now entitles The City of Light, but it is worth pointing them out, just to make clear that the notion that Italian manuscripts concerning medieval Asian travel might be forged is not unthinkable. And there is no question that we shall have to class The City ...

Close Relations

T.H. Barrett: Tibet and the Dalai Lama, 2 April 1998

The Buddha of Brewer Street 
by Michael Dobbs.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £16.99, January 1998, 0 00 225412 3
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The Book of Tibetan Elders: Life Stories and Wisdom from the Great Spiritual Masters of Tibet 
by Sandy Johnson.
Constable, 282 pp., £17.95, February 1997, 0 09 476950 8
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The Art of Tibet 
by Robert Fisher.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £7.95, November 1997, 0 500 20308 3
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Tibetan Nation: A History of Tibetan Nationalism and Sino-Tibetan Relations 
by Warren Smith Jr..
Westview, 732 pp., £59.50, December 1996, 0 8133 3155 2
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The Way to Freedom 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 181 pp., £7.99, February 1997, 0 00 220043 0
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Awakening the Mind, Lightening the Heart 
by His Holiness The Dalai Lama.
Thorsons, 238 pp., £8.99, February 1997, 0 00 220045 7
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Kundun: A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama 
by Mary Craig.
HarperCollins, 392 pp., £17.99, May 1997, 0 00 627838 8
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... where will our real-life hero, the Dalai Lama, be? Thomas Carlyle was wrong, on the whole, about heroes as the makers of history, but perhaps he had more of a point than we have been prepared to give him credit for. Our own century has seen its fair share of monsters but it has still managed to produce leaders ...

The First Emperor

T.H. Barrett, 10 November 1988

Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times 
by Morris Rossabi.
California, 322 pp., £12.50, May 1988, 0 520 05913 1
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Searches for an Imaginary Kingdom: The Legend of the Kingdom of Prester John 
by L.N. Gumilev, translated by R.E.F. Smith.
Cambridge, 403 pp., £37.50, February 1988, 0 521 32214 6
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... be found in Afghanistan, while other descendants of their armies look on the Crimea as their lost home. In the backwash from this tide some Europeans, too, were carried a long way from home, a motley selection of voluntary and involuntary flotsam and jetsam – Papal envoys, captured artisans, traders and professional ...

Leadership

T.H. Breen, 10 May 1990

The First Salute 
by Barbara Tuchman.
Joseph, 347 pp., £15.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3142 8
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Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism 
by Patrice Higonnet.
Harvard, 317 pp., £19.95, December 1988, 0 674 80982 3
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Inventing the People: The Rise of Popular Sovereignty in England and America 
by Edmund Morgan.
Norton, 318 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 393 02505 5
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... rules not of their own making, received sympathetic treatment from this woman, who insisted that history was about persons capable of affecting ‘destiny’. Academic historians sometimes grumbled about her research or her interpretative framework. She countered that she was just as ‘professional’ as anyone who ...

What the Japanese are saying

T.H. Barrett, 10 March 1994

Central Asia in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 291 pp., £42.50, February 1993, 0 333 57827 9
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Japan’s Orient: Rendering Pasts into History 
by Stefan Tanaka.
California, 331 pp., £30, July 1993, 0 520 07731 8
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... Christchurch, New Zealand looks rather a long way away on most maps – somewhere in the bottom right-hand corner, usually – but one can tell, even from London, that the intellectual atmosphere at the University of Canterbury must be something very special, at least in historical studies ...

Examples

Denis Donoghue, 2 February 1984

Towards 2000 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 273 pp., £9.95, October 1983, 9780701126858
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Writing in Society 
by Raymond Williams.
Verso, 268 pp., £18.50, December 1983, 0 86091 072 5
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Radical Earnestness: English Social Theory 1880-1980 
by Fred Inglis.
Martin Robertson, 253 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 85520 328 5
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... theories of political life’. The writers Inglis presents under this rubric are William Morris, T.H. Green, John Maynard Keynes, R.G. Collingwood, F.R. Leavis, George Orwell, Adrian Stokes, Tony Crosland – as he calls him – Richard Titmuss, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, John Berger, E.P. Thompson and Isaiah Berlin. If you need a stereotype of the ...

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