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V.G. Kiernan writes about the Marx sisters

V.G. Kiernan, 16 September 1982

The Daughters of Karl Marx: Family Correspondence 1866-98 
edited by Olga Meier, translated by Faith Evans.
Deutsch, 342 pp., £14.95, June 1982, 0 233 97337 0
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... affairs are the staple. Of the two parents, one figures, as Sheila Rowbotham says, ‘only as a vaguely anxious mother’; though Engels’s tribute to her at her death, printed in an appendix, credited her with a ‘clear and critical intellect’, ‘bold and prudent counsels’ not on domestic matters alone. It was their father – variously called ...
The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery 1776-1848 
by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 560 pp., £27.95, April 1988, 0 86091 188 8
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Pro-Slavery: A History of the Defence of Slavery in America, 1701-1840 
by Larry Tise.
Georgia, 501 pp., $40, March 1988, 0 8203 0927 3
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Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean 
by Alfred Hunt.
Louisiana State, 196 pp., £23.75, March 1988, 9780807113288
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Thomas Paine 
by A.J. Ayer.
Secker, 195 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 436 02820 4
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Paine and Cobbett: The Transatlantic Connection 
by David Wilson.
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 218 pp., $27.95, April 1988, 0 7735 1013 3
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... security’. Paine emigrated to America in 1774, with radical views ready-made, in time to give a vigorous push to public opinion in favour of revolution and independence with his pamphlet ‘Common Sense’, which had a huge success. Ayer might have noticed as a curious illustration of how notions of state and citizen in those days differed from ours, that ...

V.G. Kiernan on treason

V.G. Kiernan, 25 June 1987

... books about secret-stealers is an easier way than most of earning a living; it benefits from the vogue of spy films and novelettes, symptom of an uneasy society in need of the reassurance of happy endings. ‘Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction,’ as Mrs Thatcher said when telling the House one of her whoppers. It can certainly be made to look stranger ...

Scenes from Common Life

V.G. Kiernan, 1 November 1984

A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England 1381-1914 
edited by Christopher Hampton.
Penguin, 624 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 14 022444 0
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Riots and Community Politics in England and Wales 1790-1810 
by John Bohstedt.
Harvard, 310 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 674 77120 6
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The World We have Lost – Further Explored 
by Peter Laslett.
Methuen, 353 pp., £12.95, December 1983, 0 416 35340 1
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... J.F.C. Harrison has recently told us ‘about the people who are usually left out of history’ – such people as the maid-of-all-work in 1909 whose duties kept her busy from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.* Christopher Hampton gives us, in an anonymous 15th-century poem, a lament over women’s perpetual drudgery. His extract from the early feminist Mary Astell, writing in 1721, acknowledges that by comparison with Eastern women, who ‘are born Slaves, and live Prisoners all their Lives’, Englishwomen have an easy servitude, but ‘Fetters of Gold are still Fetters ...


Peter Burke, 5 March 1981

State and Society in Europe 1550-1650 
by Victor Kiernan.
Blackwell, 309 pp., £12, December 1980, 0 226 47080 6
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... one such article was ‘Foreign Mercenaries and Absolute Monarchy’, published in 1957 by Victor Kiernan. Professor Kiernan has many historical interests, and he moved on to The Revolution of 1854 in Spanish History (1966), and The Lords of Human Kind (1969), a discussion of 19th-century European attitudes to the rest of ...


V.G. Kiernan: Leningrad Renamed, 24 October 1991

... at hand, and to reorganise itself drastically for the task of mobilising national energy. Gorbachev gave the right call, but was unable to crank up the rusty engine. Deafening applause for the superior virtues of ‘Democracy’, as a method now fully vindicated, resounds through the West. A truly democratic society is indeed highly desirable. It has never ...

Magic Circles

V.G. Kiernan, 4 May 1989

Jewish History: Essays in Honour of Chimen Abramsky 
edited by Ada Rapoport-Albert and Steven Zipperstein.
Peter Halban, 700 pp., £30, January 1989, 1 870015 19 3
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A History of Islamic Societies 
by Ira Lapidus.
Cambridge, 1002 pp., £35, July 1988, 0 521 22552 3
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... The fountainhead of the world’s two main families of religions was a small Near Eastern people, the Jewish. In the modern world Jews have been prominent among the creators of its arts and sciences and its politics. To define or delimit the history of this unique people is difficult, since for two millennia it has been scattered over the continents, always externally involved with alien, usually hostile neighbours, but in its inner life turned in on itself ...

Highland Hearts

V.G. Kiernan, 20 December 1990

On the Crofters’ Trail: In Search of the Clearance Highlanders 
by David Craig.
Cape, 358 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 224 02750 6
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... in March 1854 the women of Strath Carron, trying to bar the way to a drunken police posse, were savagely beaten, a score of them seriously injured. One woman was critical of the men for giving way so easily, and blamed the decay of their native language for depriving them of spirit. A Skye woman of our day feels that as the Clearances went on the men became ...

Knowing more

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 September 1989

Poets, Polities and the People 
by V.G. Kiernan, edited by Harvey Kaye.
Verso, 239 pp., £29.95, June 1989, 0 86091 245 0
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For King and Conscience: John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee 
by Magnus Linklater and Christian Hesketh.
Weidenfeld, 244 pp., £16.95, June 1989, 0 297 79540 6
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... Victor Kiernan is here presenting essays produced over the last 45 years: the texts are only occasionally given recent additions. The topics include three essays on literature but are otherwise historical: on English patterns of protest, the expansion of literacy among working men, political aspects of religion, and Communist activity in the Thirties and after ...

The point of it all

Linda Colley, 1 September 1988

The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Oxford, 360 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 822566 0
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History, Classes and Nation-States: Selected Writings of Victor Kiernan 
edited by Harvey Kaye.
Blackwell, 284 pp., £27.50, June 1988, 0 7456 0424 2
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... short, really see duelling as a by-product of aristocratic dominance, as a mark of caste? Victor Kiernan’s answer in this intriguing and invariably well-written book is an emphatic and unsurprising yes. Kiernan is both a Marxist and a student of Antonio Gramsci. Like the majority of British historians who take even a ...

Freaks of Empire

V.G. Kiernan, 16 July 1981

Revolutionary Empire: The Rise of the English-Speaking Empires from the 15th Century to the 1780s 
by Angus Calder.
Cape, 916 pp., £16.50, April 1981, 0 224 01452 8
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... or altered it for the better, is disputable. If it destroyed many old, worm-eaten things, it reinvigorated others, partly by rousing so much resentment against Europe and all its ways, and later on by patronising conservatism in its colonies as a safeguard against revolt. Today the Third World is asking whether imperialism, British in particular, did more to ...

Joan and Jill

V.G. Kiernan, 15 October 1981

Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism 
by Marina Warner.
Weidenfeld, 349 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 9780297776383
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... made by this book is the extraordinary entanglement of delusion and mystification that man’s vagrant mind has conjured up round woman. He has hidden her real self in a labyrinth, and forgotten the way back. It is very much like the white man’s fumblings and self-deceptions about the inscrutable oriental. Mystified by women, men have reassured ...

Lifting the Shadow

V.G. Kiernan, 15 April 1982

Death and the Enlightenment: Changing Attitudes to Death among Christians and Unbelievers in l8th-Century France 
by John McManners.
Oxford, 619 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 19 826440 2
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Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death 
edited by Joachim Waley.
Europa, 252 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 905118 67 7
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... pain with opium. Some were sympathetic to the new creed of Nature, one of whose symptoms was the vogue of watering-places. Inscribed in the miniature pump-room of Edinburgh’s Temple of Hygeia is the reassuring motto Bibendo valebis: trust in Nature’s gifts, and in the body’s ability to respond to them, harmonised with the Enlightenment’s optimistic ...


V.G. Kiernan, 4 August 1983

The Working Class in Modern British History: Essays in Honour of Henry Pelling 
edited by Jay Winter.
Cambridge, 315 pp., £25, February 1983, 0 521 23444 1
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The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture, 1830-60 
edited by James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson.
Macmillan, 392 pp., £16, November 1982, 0 333 32971 6
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Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of 19th-Century Working Class Autobiography 
by David Vincent.
Methuen, 221 pp., £4.95, December 1982, 0 416 34670 7
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... with death hints at a more sombre acquaintance with life, but a decent coffin, like an extravagant Indian wedding, was a claim to respectable standing. As Johnson says, along with some community of class feeling there was a keen desire for ‘as high a position as possible within the working-class hierarchy of status’. Despite all the poverty, a ...

Royal Mysteries

V.G. Kiernan, 10 January 1983

From Agadir to Armageddon: Anatomy of a Crisis 
by Geoffrey Barraclough.
Weidenfeld, 196 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 9780297781745
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... against social revolt, but being out of the limelight, they were not obliged to posture as extravagantly as the statesmen, and with them at times greed for profit might diverge from political calculation. They could find useful assistants in the demi-monde flourishing, as Barraclough writes (and still nourishing today, we might add), on the fringes of the ...

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