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... voluntarily or not. Similarly, the diffusion of capitalism – by which I mean the employment of wage-labourers by private owners of the means of production in order to market the goods thereby produced for profit – has followed no uniform sequence and come about, where it has, in very different ways. This is not simply because, as emphasised by Braudel ...

What next?

W.G. Runciman, 27 October 1988

Plough, Sword and Book: The Structure of Human History 
by Ernest Gellner.
Collins, 288 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 00 217178 3
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... If human history does, indeed, have a structure, it is, as Professor Gellner emphasises, discernible only with hindsight. The path which has led, in his words, ‘from the cosy social cocoon of early man to the expanding, cognitively powerful, and socially disconnected world of modern man’ was not merely invisible to those who were treading it: it was inconceivable ...

Ross McKibbin and the Rise of Labour

W.G. Runciman, 24 May 1990

The Ideologies of Class: Social Relations in Britain 1880-1950 
by Ross McKibbin.
Oxford, 308 pp., £35, April 1990, 0 19 822160 6
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... In 1984, Ross McKibbin published an article in the English Historical Review called ‘Why was there no Marxism in Great Britain?’ His choice of title was a deliberate invocation of the celebrated essay which Werner Sombart published in 1906 under the title Why is there no socialism in the United States? It does not, of course, mean literally what it says ...


W.G. Runciman: 1920s v. 1980s, 17 March 1988

... the military preparedness necessary to preserve world peace by demonstrating the willingness to wage a European war? But again, I wonder. The Trident missiles are our Dreadnoughts, and, as Peter Jenkins well describes, Mrs Thatcher has managed to get herself treated by the super-powers as a serious, as well as an eager participant in the nuclear diplomacy ...


W.G. Runciman: Serious Money, 3 September 1987

... The play Serious Money, now transferred from the Royal Court to the West End, is a disappointment. It is neither farce nor satire, only caricature. The City is a splendid target for mockery, but loud doggerel and insistent overacting are no substitute for wit. The play may well enjoy a steady run simply because its subject is topical and its script full of four-letter words ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... The publisher’s launching party for David Cannadine’s Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy in the Moses Room of the House of Lords on 22 October was the third occasion on which I had been inside that curious place since taking my seat as a hereditary member of it. The Moses Room is evidently so called because its walls depict, in tableaux more impressive for their size than their quality, the appropriate Old Testament scenes ...

The Old Question

W.G. Runciman, 19 February 1987

The Sources of Social Power. Vol I: A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 
by Michael Mann.
Cambridge, 549 pp., £37.50, July 1986, 0 521 30851 8
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... Books on the theme of society-down-the-ages generally fall into one of two kinds. Either they are a narrative synthesis organised according to some preconceived criterion of historical significance, or they are an attempt to test against the historical evidence some would-be general theory to the effect that demography, class struggle, national psychology or whatever it may be is the master key to the explanation of the whole long story ...

Latent Discontent

W.G. Runciman, 11 June 1992

Solidarity and Schism: ‘The Problem of Disorder’ in Durkheimian and Marxist Sociology 
by David Lockwood.
Oxford, 433 pp., £48, March 1992, 0 19 827717 2
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... David Lockwood is the sociologist’s sociologist in the same way that Ken Rosewall used to be the tennis player’s tennis player: he’s the one the other pros turn out to watch. But you need to know the fixture list. To switch to an older metaphor, he is apt not only to hide his light under a bushel but to hide the bushel as well. He never writes book reviews or goes on television or airs his views about the state of the nation on Radio Three ...


W.G. Runciman: City Regulation, 21 January 2016

... In​ 2008, Donald MacKenzie expounded to LRB readers with admirable clarity the workings of Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate), which establishes the benchmark terms on which hundreds of trillions of dollars are lent and borrowed across the world every day.* It sometimes comes as a surprise to the uninitiated to learn that Libor has never been based on transactions which have actually taken place but on the interest rates at which the participating banks say they could borrow money if they chose ...


W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism, 5 May 1988

... Mirage of British Socialism) to see force used in 1948 against dockers seeking to defy Cripps’s wage freeze? Even the most right-wing employer cannot risk industrial relations being made unworkable. Even the most left-wing cabinet minister cannot risk the Government’s authority being made unsustainable. Lloyd George was perhaps the consummate practitioner ...

The Charity Mess

W.G. Runciman, 19 July 2012

... It may be too soon to be passing judgment on the Cameron government. But it does sometimes look as if we are back with the impatient legislation of the Blair era, along with the facile soundbites, the eye-catching initiatives, the whitewashed sleaze, the fawning towards the tabloids (in Blairspeak, ‘managing the relationship’), and the unwillingness or inability to think through the implications of under-researched policy decisions – tendencies which in the end came to be deplored by many of Blair’s one-time supporters as well as his opponents ...

Viva Alan Knight

W.G. Runciman, 15 October 1987

The Mexican Revolution. Vol. I: Porfirians, Liberals and Revolutionaries 
by Alan Knight.
Cambridge, 620 pp., £37.50, April 1986, 0 521 24475 7
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The Mexican Revolution. Vol. II: Counter-Revolution and Reconstruction 
by Alan Knight.
Cambridge, 679 pp., £37.50, April 1986, 0 521 26651 3
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Mexico: Inside the Volcano 
by Alan Riding.
Tauris, 401 pp., £19.50, July 1987, 9781850430421
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... The Mexican Revolution of 1910 to 1920 defies all stereotypes. It had no vanguard party and no coherent ideology. It owed almost nothing to external influences. It only started because of the gratuitous folly of Porfirio Diaz, whose dictatorial rule had lasted unchallenged since 1876, in failing to make effective arrangements for the succession to himself ...


W.G. Runciman: Reflections on Tawney, 4 August 1988

... I began this series of daries with some reflections prompted by a re-reading of Halévy’s volumes on England from 1895 to 1914, and I propose now to end it with some reflections prompted by a re-reading of Tawney’s Equality. If the conclusion which again suggests itself is plus ça change, that is not because there have not been changes in our society which neither Halévy, Tawney nor anybody else can be claimed to have foreseen ...


W.G. Runciman: UK plc v. the Swedes, 22 November 1990

... Back in the summer of 1988, I wrote a Diary describing what it had been like as the chairman of a public limited company to fight off an unwanted takeover bid. I ended the piece by saying that although in the opinion of some stockmarket buffs the company’s shares might in due course be valued at double the price of the unsuccessful offer, I did not think that my readers would necessarily be wise to reach for their stockbrokers at once ...


W.G. Runciman: Slums, Unemployment, Strikes and Party Politics, 23 June 1988

... intended unemployment to stay at three million. Nor is it as if Baldwin didn’t also believe that wage rises at the expense of productivity make unemployment that much harder to bring down, whatever the trade cycle is doing. For all the difference in style between conciliatory, paternalistic, undoctrinaire Baldwin and confrontational, populist, strident ...

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