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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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... complete the Collins when he had finished a somewhat similar job for Hamlyn. Both Urdang and T.H. Long were earlier on the Random House Dictionary. All very cosy. But while it desirably makes for shared knowledge and a solid tradition (a euphemism, some would say, for massive reciprocal plagiarism), it is not exactly a prescription for exciting new ...

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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... of the University in the 16th century that is uncommon in productions by diverse hands. His long-standing interest in the social composition of Oxford, and his familiarity with some of the contributions of the social sciences to the history of education, have enabled him to pull many of the chapters together, and he has produced three good ones of his ...

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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... woman unhappily installed amid the gloomy respectabilities of Max Gate. Disillusionment had long since clogged the marital atmosphere. In 1897, she explained with her usual directness why she had come to dislike authors: ‘I get irritated at their pride of intellect.’ She had plenty of that herself, but her disjointed and unformed letters are a ...

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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... early age. Where the Golden Horde has yielded to Alexander’s Ragtime Band why bother about so long ago, so very far away? Of course, such complacency may be premature. The late 20th century turns out to be full of the most unlikely surprises: in his introductory discussion of the concept of Inner Asia Denis Sinor laments the total disappearance of the ...

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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... imported from the south, we find solemn assertions that tea yields a short-term high in return for long-term damage, while one 17th-century European convert to tea drinking, the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, who was on good terms with many China missionaries, says that his friends had to overcome his utmost suspicion before he consented to try it. Doubtless his ...

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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... more squeamish, but the warriors of that time would probably have accepted that the convoluted and long-drawn-out relationship between Genghis and his friend Jamuqa was a buddy-buddy story bound to end in tragedy. As for the death of his eldest son, Genghis, ‘a father concerned for the well-being of his family’ (Ratchnevsky) was surely as little above ...

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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... original manuscripts to create a three-dimensional world: the storms of the sea voyage give way to long shots of the open French countryside; lively Parisian street scenes are interspersed with increasingly fruitless altercations between Hu and Foucquet; finally, there is a minute examination of the nine-by-12-foot space in which Hu was to pass most of his ...

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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... know more about this local potentate, Pu Shougeng, one of the most remarkable figures of his age. Long ago the Japanese scholar J. Kuwabara established that Pu Shougeng’s family was not even Chinese, but of Arabic descent, and yet, after recovering from a series of commercial setbacks, this Muslim trader turned admiral turned administrator came to dominate ...

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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... age. Anachronism is one of the main means by which Huxley is to be snatched from his age. He has long been known as Darwin’s bulldog – a venerable English kind of hound, known to Shakespeare. Calling him Darwin’s Rottweiler (a breed which did not exist in the 19th century and which in England did not become notorious for its savagery until the ...

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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... They depend on an odd fictional contract which ensures that we ‘believe’ in them only as long as we are allowed to doubt them. If there were no rules preventing our world from seeing theirs, their existence would be either disproved or demystified: the tale would then have no truth, or else no strangeness worth the telling. After his return from ...

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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... but it has still managed to produce leaders whom, whatever their flaws, we can only respect. Not a long list, but one to which it would be fair to add the Dalai Lama, although unfortunately he disqualifies himself by revealing that he is not a bona fide 20th-century figure, but the 14th reincarnation of a personage who has been playing his part in history ...

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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... 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 soldiers – who traversed an empire of staggering size by Medieval standards, based on Central Asia but also ...

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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... defend national honour. Such military weakness, especially in a country whose economy depended on long distance trade, strikes Tuchman as odd, even contemptible. In a long, leisurely review of two centuries of Dutch political history, she attempts to explain why Britain’s great commerical rival of the 17th century had ...

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. Somehow, whether because it perceives itself to be perched on the far edge of European expansion, or perhaps thanks to the comparative lack of distraction from archives in the immediate vicinity, its history department seems always to have encouraged a certain breadth of vision rare in other centres: one thinks, for example, of J ...

The Strangeness of Socrates

T.H. Irwin, 21 November 1991

Socrates, Ironist and Moral Philosopher 
by Gregory Vlastos.
Cambridge, 334 pp., £35, April 1991, 0 521 30733 3
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... on the close connection between Socratic argument and Socratic moral theory is the product of a long development in Vlastos’s own views. He mentions that his earlier work did not recognise the constructive role of Socratic cross-examination. The conception of moral argument which he now attributes to Socrates is close to the conception that now (after a ...

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