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I Could Fix That

David Runciman: Clinton, 17 December 2009

The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History in the White House 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 707 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 1 84737 140 9
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... hardly features at all in these write-ups of a series of nearly 80 taped conversations Taylor Branch had with Clinton over the course of his presidency. On the few occasions he does get noticed it is as a minor irritant and something of a buffoon. He gets only one sustained mention, in early 1996, when Bill and Hillary are griping about the ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... electrified the black community – ‘his oratory had just made him for ever a public person,’ Taylor Branch has written in his monumental study, America in the King Years – and his official position soon made him Montgomery’s spokesman to the nation. Martin Luther King had found his voice. Yet the movement of which King had become the symbol was ...


Inigo Thomas: Michael Wolff’s Book Party, 8 February 2018

... what more could you wish for? ‘It was gold,’ as Joan Didion would say. The historian Taylor Branch visited Bill Clinton secretly at the White House once a month in the 1990s. On his first visit, in the spring of 1993, maxims and epigrams were flying about the place. Bill was quoting Suetonius, Hillary quoted Oscar Wilde, or so she ...

A Hard Dog to Keep on the Porch

Christopher Hitchens, 6 June 1996

... campaign, in Texas, in 1972. Clinton was sent down to the Lone Star state, along with his friend Taylor Branch, at a moment when the Nixon forces seemed almost unstoppable. (A subsequent post-Watergate myth has depicted the press as anti-Nixon during this period. In point of fact, the general refusal of the media to discuss Nixon’s illegal use of ...


Elizabeth Spelman: Mary Wollstonecraft, 19 February 2004

Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination 
by Barbara Taylor.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £45, March 2003, 0 521 66144 7
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... can to the people who look after their children and clean their houses. One of the reasons Barbara Taylor thinks Mary Wollstonecraft rewards our attention two hundred years after her death is that Wollstonecraft’s fervid opposition to sexism was based on a ‘root and branch’ egalitarianism not easily compromised by ...


Paul Foot: Two Views of John Stalker, 3 March 1988

... shed as a possible arms store by planting in it two old rifles, without ammunition. The Special Branch of the RUC organised the assassinations of the five men – three of them were gunned down in one car, the other two in another. Two young men, one of whom had no connection whatever with the IRA or the Republican movement, were then shot in the shed. One ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House, 19 February 1998

Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... extremity. At least now our guess can be an educated one.In Pillar of Fire, the second volume of Taylor Branch’s biography of Martin Luther King, we learn more about the extreme domestic cowardice that was the domestic counterpart to the Kennedys’ overseas imperial bluster. After the bombing of a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, and the death of ...

Nobody wants it

José Harris, 5 December 1991

Letters to Eva, 1969-1983 
by A.J.P. Taylor, edited by Eva Haraszti Taylor.
Century, 486 pp., £20, June 1991, 0 7126 4634 5
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... A cynic? How can I not be when I have spent my life writing history?’ Alan Taylor’s love letters to his Hungarian third wife created a predictably prurient, though transient, stir when they were published earlier this year. Their more lasting interest may lie in the light that they throw upon Taylor the practising historian, musing to a fellow historian about the mysteries of his craft ...

Particularly Anodyne

Richard Norton-Taylor: One bomb in London, 15 July 2021

The Intelligence War against the IRA 
by Thomas Leahy.
Cambridge, 356 pp., £18.99, March 2020, 978 1 108 72040 3
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... it was, as Leahy puts it, ‘blind in intelligence terms’, having to rely on the RUC Special Branch. And the RUC, not welcome in working-class nationalist areas of Belfast and Derry, was starved of intelligence-gathering opportunities. MI5 – preoccupied with ‘subversion’ from ‘domestic enemies’, and targeting such groups as the National Council ...

Wizard of Ox

Paul Addison, 8 November 1990

... Many tributes have been paid to Alan Taylor, including some by old and close friends who knew him very much better than I did. My excuse for adding one more piece is that I would like to explain something of what he meant to younger historians who came within his orbit. Perhaps I shall end up speaking only for myself, but at any rate I can speak from experience as one of his pupils ...


Susan Pedersen: A.J.P. Taylor, 10 May 2007

A.J.P. TaylorRadical Historian of Europe 
by Chris Wrigley.
Tauris, 439 pp., £25, August 2006, 1 86064 286 1
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... This is the third full biography of A.J.P. Taylor to appear since his death in 1990. I find this fact almost more interesting than anything in the biographies themselves. For more than two decades after the war Taylor was, very nearly, the public face of the historical profession in Britain, delivering his pugnacious, often revisionist, views on television and radio, in more than two dozen books and hundreds of newspaper columns, and in countless lectures to Oxford undergraduates and the history-minded public ...

The Irresistible Rise of a Folk Hero

Gabrielle Cox, 3 March 1988

by John Stalker.
Harrap, 288 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 245 54616 2
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Stalker: The Search for the Truth 
by Peter Taylor.
Faber, 231 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14836 0
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... only cursorily, and had in fact had much of the ground cut away from under them by the Special Branch’s removal of officers and evidence from the scene. The Special Branch clearly ruled the roost, and was persistently obstructive of the enquiry. Finally, when it was established that a tape had been made of one of the ...

Bring back the 19th century

Miles Taylor, 22 June 2000

British Society 1680-1880: Dynamism, Containment and Change 
by Richard Price.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £40, October 1999, 0 521 65172 7
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... and the worst not cautious enough. ‘Victorian studies’ has been colonised by an over-populated branch of English literature in which the same canonical texts are read and reread in order to decode Victorian values. Intellectual historians continue for the most part to give the era a wide berth. Social historians reared on class have switched to gender and ...

Short Cuts

David Bromwich: Alexander Hamilton’s Worst Idea, 24 October 2019

... his post on 27 September. ‘Counting on you to be right about this interview, Gordon,’ William Taylor, the chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Kiev, texted Sondland on 9 September at 12.34 a.m. Three minutes later Sondland replied: ‘Bill, I never said I was “right”. I said we are where we are and believe we have identified the best pathway ...

The Flight of a Clergyman’s Wife

Gareth Stedman Jones, 27 May 1993

Annie Besant: A Biography 
by Anne Taylor.
Oxford, 383 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 19 211796 3
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... published in the early Sixties, another full-length study might need some justification. But Anne Taylor has compressed Besant’s inordinately eventful ‘lives’ into a managable book half the size of Nethercot and pulled the threads together into a single life. Both contemporaries and earlier biographers tended to divide Besant’s career into two ...

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