Archive for the 'Historiography' Category

The Pelican History of England

July 22 2014

I mentioned this series in a recent post. It appeared between 1950 and 1965, not in this order:

Roman Britain, Ian Richmond

The Beginnings of English Society, Dorothy Whitelock

English Society in the Early Middle Ages, Doris Mary Stenton

England in the Late Middle Ages, AR Myers

Tudor England, ST Bindoff

England in the Seventeenth Century, Maurice Ashley (replaced in 1978 by Stuart England, JP Kenyon)

England in the Eighteenth Century, JH Plumb

England in the Nineteenth Century, David Thomson

England in the Twentieth Century, David Thomson

Since all history writing is about two things, the perspective of the historian and the purported subject, I pay no attention to denigrations of books on the ground that they are out of date. I suspect that these have, in any case, lasted rather well.

The successor-series, in print now, are the Penguin History of Britain and Penguin Social History of Britain.

Pelican, the non-fictional branch of Penguin, was a major force in UK publishing from 1937 to ’84. It was relaunched in May this year, but without the original energy and impetus.

Power tends to corrupt

July 21 2014

“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way, against holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.”

Lord Acton, letter to Mandell Creighton, April 5 1887, published in the Appendix to John Neville Figgis and Reginald Vere Laurence, editors, Historical Essays and Studies by John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, Macmillan, 1907.

The letter was about Acton’s review in his recently-established The English Historical Review of Vols III and IV of Creighton’s The History of the Papacy during the Period of the Reformation, Longman, Green and Co, 1882-94:

Vol I, The Great Schism – The Council of Constance, 1378-1418 

Vol II, The Council of Basel – The Papal Restoration, 1418-1464

Vol III, The Italian Princes, 1464-1518

Vol IV, The Italian Princes, 1464-1518

Vol V, The German Revolt, 1517-1527.

History Today

July 20 2014

I remember finding, in 1987, a pile of dusty and fragrantly-damp History Todays in the sunny attic of a country house. They looked welcome there, as Country Life and Horse and Hound would have done: article after article on Melbourne and the Years of Reform, The Great Siege of Malta and Portuguese Missionaries in Ceylon, 1515-1658. The copies were from the ancien régime of Peter Quennell and Alan Hodge, which began with the first issue in January 1951. Hodge died in May 1979. Quennell retired in October. Michael Crowder took over in November.

History Today was a cosy presence in English life. It was the magazine of the general reader who was interested in history and wouldn’t read academic journals. It also (no contradiction here) had an air of the educated middle and upper classes writing for each others’ bedside tables.

Early contributors: Max Beloff, Asa Briggs, DW Brogan, Alan Bullock, Kenneth Clark, GDH Cole, Keith Feiling, Jacquetta Hawkes, Michael Howard, Michael JafféEric Linklater, Philip Magnus, LB Namier, JH Plumb, GM Trevelyan, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arthur Waley, Veronica Wedgwood, Elizabeth WiskemannGM Young (Drogheda’s selection).

It sometimes did the work of the nine volumes of the old Pelican History of England (England, note), which appeared between 1950 and ’65 and were in part digests of academic research, not the mere narratives that would have been offered to earlier mass-readerships.

A comment from The Listener quoted in editions of those Pelicans well into the 1970s, and perhaps even later, is fascinatingly old-fashioned:

“As a portent in the broadening of popular culture the influence of this wonderful series has yet to receive full recognition and precise assessment. No venture could be more enterprising or show more confidence in the public’s willingness to purchase thoughtful books … ”

For the ethos of History Today, see the 11th Earl of Drogheda’s article about the founding (November 1979), AL Rowse’s tribute to the old editors (November 1979) and Michael Grant’s tribute to PQ after Quennell’s death (December 1993).

Quennell was a man of letters of the Brideshead generation. He wrote books about Byron, Baudelaire, many others, nearly all of them on literature, not history. Married five times. I have his A Superficial Journey through Tokyo and Peking. Before co-founding History Today, he had edited The Cornhill Magazine. (Who knew that that rival of Dickens’s All the Year Round survived until 1975? Who remembers that The Listener survived until 1991?) Here are Quennell’s Desert Island Discs.

Rowse – whose Teach Yourself History series, launched in 1946, had been another “portent” in the “broadening” – writes that Hodge had shown his talent “in co-operation with the poet Robert Graves in an original book as historical as it is literary, The Long Week-end, [...] a portrait of the period between wars; in his wartime experience of writing and writers at the Ministry of Information; [and] in a book of his own [actually, it was another collaboration with Graves] on readership and reading”. There was a later “collaboration with P.Q. in an historical book [on England and America], The Past We Share”.

Drogheda says that the idea for History Today came from Brendan Bracken, Churchill’s Minister of Information during the war and the refounder, in 1945, of the Financial Times. “He visualized as editor Alan Hodge, who had been his assistant private secretary when he was Minister of Information, and whom he had recruited to the staff of the Financial Times to help him particularly with the weekly ‘Men and Matters’ column [...]. I told Brendan that I thought it essential to have alongside Alan someone else who was a more publicly known figure, and I suggested the name of Peter Quennell, a personal friend, whose culture, wide-ranging knowledge and contacts would, I felt sure, be of immense value.”

It was conceived, perhaps, in the popularising spirit, missionary and patrician, of the BBC and of Pelican books. Had there been popular history magazines before it? There had been history “encyclopaedias” which came out in stages, and literary magazines, but general history?

According to Wikipedia, History Today “has been independently owned since 1981”. What does that mean and who owned it in the first thirty years? Was Drogheda an investor? Was Bracken?

Rowse and Grant make much of the use of pictures. They were in black and white in the body of the magazine until at least 1980, and on the cover (barring a Coronation Number) until August 1965. Grant’s praise reminds us that illustrations were felt to be precious even in 1993, the last pre-Internet year.

There were few design changes under Quennell-Hodge. In January 1980 came a new look. The page was enlarged and the cover redesigned. I can’t remember what has happened to the format since then (I think it has shrunk again), but there were further changes to the cover in October 1989, October 1998, October 2004, October 2009. There will doubtless be one this October.

US magazines and newspapers are more conscious than ours now are of design and typographic, never mind other editorial, traditions. Of institutional continuity and memory. The Economist is a UK exception.

In the UK, editors don’t know what happened before they arrived. Their assistants know even less. Magazines are run at a few desks in shared spaces. No more leisure areas, dining rooms, corridors with framed covers. No trappings of editorial power. I am sure none of this applies to the “independently owned” HT!

History Today’s editors since Quennell and Hodge have been Michael Crowder, the historian of Nigeria (1979-81), with whom I once spent an interesting evening, Michael Trend (1981-82), Juliet Gardiner (1982-85), Gordon Marsden (1985-97), Peter Furtado (1997-2008), Paul Lay (current). Lay’s interesting thoughts on history are here (for Kindle).

It hasn’t dumbed down. I was getting ready to write “it hasn’t even had Hitler on the cover”. That would indeed have been a distinction. But it did, twice, under Furtado’s editorship, in October 1998 and November 2001, and the same editor put a swastika there in January 2006. (I haven’t seen December 1957.) Admirable restraint nevertheless.

Of course, there are fewer articles about the siege of Malta and a disproportionate number on Africans in Victorian Britain. It is still very weak on East Asia: only five articles so far this year, and only one of them (on Louis XIV and Siam) taking us outside the twentieth century. Not a single one on the classical civilisations of China or Japan.

“P.Q. and A.H.,” says Rowse, perhaps not over-generously for the time, “were exemplarily aware of [China and Russia], and gave us of their largesse articles about India, the Middle East, Europe, South America, Africa – all with their informative illustrations.”

On the non-Roman ancient world, we have only a short piece on Howard Carter, who hardly counts, an even shorter review of a book on Delphi and a short piece on Dura Europos.

The previous cover strapline – “What happened then matters now” (2006-13, preceded by a few short-lived experiments) – has been scrapped. (Much better without one.)

The website is still announced as “History Today | The World’s Best History Magazine”. This is the kind of statement we make about our institutions. It must be, mustn’t it? Do none of the far more numerous French history magazines compete? Can they, without sometimes commissioning in English and translating?

I haven’t looked at HT’s digital edition. What about the online archive? Here they have gone for bronze. The gold standard is a fully searchable archive of crisp, high-resolution jpegs. Then you have everything. The Times has managed this with some difficult typography for every page of every issue since 1785 (you can select either pages or articles). It’s the only good thing that has happened to it under Murdoch. The project was carried out by Gale, which is now part of Cengage Learning. It can be done.

Jpegs protect intellectual property better, since you can’t cut and paste. The alternative, scanned and OCRd text, will be full of howlers. One can’t expect History Today to proofread 50,000 pages going back to 1951. (One can expect lazy publishers like Bloomsbury to proofread individual books for Kindle, but they don’t.) But the disadvantages of OCR go beyond this. You get no sense of the real magazine, of the hierarchy and relative importance of the articles, no images. None of the cultural meanings which come with all that and provide context. You don’t even know who the editor is: there are no mastheads.

You don’t know whether you are getting everything either. HT say they are “currently” digitising “the 1951-79 portion of the archive, and hope to complete it by the end of 2013”. 2013 ended seven months ago. Before taking a subscription last week, I asked what that meant. They replied “95%”.

Where are book reviews in the early issues? Did the May 1956 issue really contain only two articles? June 1956 one? January 1968 three? Why no Hodge death announcement?

With an OCR archive, the user also relies more on metadata – which is the unpoliceable frontier of data and always inaccurate. Tiny examples here: the archive shows the June 1952 contents under August 1952. And Drogheda was the 11th Earl, not Derry Moore. (Could that conceivably be a mistake in the original?)

See The Chronicle of Higher Education’s, Google’s Book Search: A Disaster for Scholars, Geoffrey Nunberg, August 31 2009.

Oh well. In storage, I have a bound set of the ancien régime, 29 volumes. If they ever come out, it will be worth having ’flu in the knowledge that I’ll at last have the time to reach for one of the red leather spines and read about Lord Melbourne and Portuguese missionaries in Ceylon and the Great Siege of Malta.

Random cover (there is no high-resolution cover archive):

History Today 1955 06


July 10 2014


Toynbee names a

Pleiad of historians – Thucydides and Xenophon and Polybius; Josephus and Ibn Khaldūn; Machiavelli and Clarendon and Ollivier – who [...] started life as soldiers or statesmen and [...] made the transit from one field of action to another in their own life-histories by returning as historians to a world from which they [had] previously been expelled as prisoners-of-war or deportees or exiles.

Émile Ollivier (1825-1913) is, he admits, its dimmest member – but why, even in a second edition, is he writing about a Pleiad? He even mentions “eight lives”. Somervell omits the section in his abridgement.

Ollivier started as a republican opposed to Napoléon III, but pushed the Emperor toward liberal reforms. He entered the cabinet and was prime minister when Napoléon fell.

His father had opposed the July Monarchy of Louis Philippe (1830-48) and was returned by Marseille to the Constituent Assembly which established the Second Republic (1848-51). He opposed the coup d’état of the head of state Louis-Napoléon, as he was then called, and was exiled for nearly a decade.

Émile Ollivier started to rise during the Republic. He re-entered politics, still a republican, but prepared to work with the Empire, in 1857 after a period in law.

He was one of the early Parisian champions of Wagner. His first wife, Blandine, was the daughter of Liszt and Marie d’Agoult (who wrote as Daniel Stern). She died in 1862. In 1869 he married Mlle Gravier.

Early in 1870 Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen revived his candidature for the Spanish throne. The French government instructed its ambassador to Prussia, Vincent, Count Benedetti, to demand from the king, Wilhelm I, that he withdraw it.

Ollivier was won over by the war party. On July 15 he declared in the Chamber that the Prussian government had issued a note, the Ems Telegram, announcing that his envoy had been rebuffed. He accepted the responsibility of the war, the Second War of the Spanish Succession, “with a light heart”, since it had been forced on France. But on August 9, with the news of its first disasters, his cabinet was driven from office. He sought refuge from the general rage in Italy.

He returned to France in 1873, but his political power was gone. During his retirement he employed himself in writing an apologia in the form of a history of L’Empire libéral in seventeen volumes (1895-1915). (Toynbee counts as far as the sixteenth, which appeared in 1912.)

Josephus, in his latter-day literary work, is in some sense pursuing his previous “practical” activities in a new medium. And this fault is still more conspicuously apparent in the literary work of the French member of our Pleiad: Émile Ollivier.

Ollivier is not without excuse for his frailty, for his personal identification with the disaster that overtook his country in his day was much more intimate, and much more serious, than Thucydides’ identification with the fall of Athens or Josephus’s with the fall of Jewry. Ollivier was a Frenchman who lived through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. For France, this war, which brought to an end a French political and military hegemony of two centuries’ standing on the European Continent, was not only a supreme national catastrophe; it was also a supreme national humiliation, since the war was lost by no honourable defeat but by a lamentable débâcle. And for Ollivier this tragic experience of France was a personal tragedy of equal magnitude; for, at the moment when the disaster occurred, Ollivier occupied in France the principal position of political responsibility next to the Emperor Napoleon III himself. While the Emperor was saved from the fury of the French people by falling into the enemy’s hands, his minister had to fly the country. Ollivier took refuge in Italy, and when he ventured to return to France in 1873 his life was in ruins. Born in 1825, engaged in politics from 1848 to 1870, and virtually Prime Minister in the Imperial Government during the fatal days between the end of 1869 and the 9th August, 1870, Ollivier now found himself, at the age of forty-eight, a scapegoat in the wilderness, with all the transgressions of the Second Empire heaped upon his devoted head. [Footnote: Ollivier applies the simile of the scapegoat to himself in L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, p. 30.]

Ollivier’s retort to the outrageous Fortune which had felled his country and himself by the same terrific blow was to write, on the grand scale, a history of the whole unhappy chapter in French history in which he had played his own unhappy part. The prologue to the drama, as he presents it in L’Empire Libéral, [footnote: L’Empire Libéral: Études, Récits, Souvenirs, par Émile Ollivier (Paris 1895-1912, Garnier Frères, 16 volumes] begins with the morrow of the peace-settlement of 1815; the curtain descends upon the débâcle of 1870 after Ollivier’s fall from office on the 9th August of that year and his subsequent abortive private mission to Italy. The first volume was published in 1895, a quarter of a century after the catastrophe, when the author himself was already seventy years old; [footnote] and thereafter volume followed volume year by year until the sixteenth and last volume was published in 1912, when the author was eighty-seven and when the greater war of 1914-18, which was to reverse the result of the war of 1870-1, was only two years ahead in the future. [Footnote: The writer of this Study, who was an undergraduate at Oxford at the time when the last volumes of L’Empire Libéral were appearing, can well remember the interest which their publication aroused.] In thus transferring to historiography the energies that had been expelled from the field of politics twenty-five years earlier, Ollivier was not achieving a spiritual catharsis and was not pursuing the path of “etherialization”. To parody a notorious maxim of his Prussian enemies, [footnote: “War is only a continuation of State policy by other means” (Clausewitz, General Karl von: On War. Translated by Colonel J. J. Graham from the third German edition (London 1893, Trübner), p. vii).] he was rather taking up the historian’s pen in order to pursue the politician’s aims by the best alternative means that still remained at his disposal. The driving force that impels him to write and write from his seventy-first to his eighty-eighth year is a burning desire to vindicate France and to vindicate Ollivier.

Second footnote in that paragraph:

The final and effective decision to write seems to have been taken by Ollivier as a consequence of Bismarck’s outright avowal that he [Bismarck] had deliberately precipitated the war by tampering with the text of the famous “Ems Telegram”. This outright avowal was not made until 1892, after Bismarck’s dismissal from the Chancellorship of the German Reich by the Emperor William II. Ollivier appears to have been stirred by this revelation in two ways. He was elated to see the responsibility for the outbreak of the war transferred from the shoulders of France to the shoulders of Germany by so conclusive an authority as Bismarck himself; and he was outraged to find that Bismarck’s confession was not being taken by public opinion as an exoneration of Ollivier for his own part in those transactions. L’Empire Libéral seems to have been committed to writing under this twofold stimulus. The context in which Ollivier gives his account of Bismarck’s avowal is illuminating. (See L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 24-31.)

The dispatch was an internal message from the Prussian King’s holiday site to Bismarck in Berlin, reporting demands made by Benedetti; it was Bismarck’s released statement to the press that became known as Ems Telegram.

Back to main text:

The first of these two motives is proclaimed at the beginning of the book:

“À la veille de disparaître de ce monde, je veux donner une dernière preuve de dévouement à la patrie bien aimée à laquelle j’ai consacré toutes mes pensées. Je veux la laver devant la posterité de la tache d’avoir déchaîné parmi les hommes la misère, la défiance, la haine, la barbaric Je veux démontrer qu’en 1870 elle n’a pas été plus agressive qu’elle ne l’avait été en 1792 et en 1806; qu’alors comme autrefois elle a défendu son indépendance, non attenté à celle d’autrui. Laissant aux contempteurs de son droit les gémissements dont depuis tant d’années ils affaiblissent son courage, je lui tends la coupe où l’on boit le cordial qui rend la foi, la force, l’espérance. Si elle l’accepte, tant mieux pour elle!” [Footnote: Ollivier, E. O.: L’Empire Libéral, vol. i, pp. 32-3.]

The patriotic motive, here confessed, is plain to read; but the personal motive, which Ollivier is at pains to deny, is equally unmistakable. It is revealed in the author’s chagrin that Bismarck’s avowal of his responsibility for precipitating the war has not served to vindicate his own – Ollivier’s – reputation. [Footnote: Ollivier, op. cit., vol. i, p. 30.] It is revealed in the ostentation with which he abstains from vindicating himself (for “on s’excuse même en renonçant aux excuses”). Above all, it is revealed in his grand finale, which is not the débâcle at Sedan and is not the fall of Metz and is not the fall of Paris and is not the signature of the Peace of Frankfurt, but is – at the end of sixteen volumes – the fall of the Ministère Ollivier!

Bad Ems

Benedetti and Wilhelm I at Ems; Ernst Engelberg, Bismarck, Akademie-Verlag Berlin, 1985 via Wikimedia Commons, no more information given

A second-rate practitioner of a dangerous trade (old post).

A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934

The metamorphosis of Boudica

April 9 2014

William Cowper wrote an ode on Boadicea in 1780. There is no doubt that he had the American war in mind and he manages to enlist Boadicea (Boudica, last post) as a heroic model on the side of the British!

In the first century, he is saying, the future belonged not with Rome, but with her subjects and enemies. In short, with the British Empire. (Belongs “with”?) It does not occur to him that if in 1780 Boadicea is the British, then the Romans are really the Americans and are likely to win.

British imperialists are good, but so is a British anti-imperial rebel. Roman imperialists are bad, but so are Roman (ie American) anti-imperial rebels.

“When the British warrior queen,
Bleeding from the Roman rods,
Sought, with an indignant mien,
Counsel of her country’s gods,

Sage beneath a spreading oak
Sat the Druid, hoary chief;
Ev’ry burning word he spoke
Full of rage, and full of grief.

Princess! if our aged eyes
Weep upon thy matchless wrongs,
’Tis because resentment ties
All the terrors of our tongues.

Rome shall perish – write that word
In the blood that she has spilt;
Perish, hopeless and abhorr’d,
Deep in ruin as in guilt.

Rome, for empire far renown’d,
Tramples on a thousand states;
Soon her pride shall kiss the ground –
Hark! the Gaul is at her gates!

Other Romans shall arise,
Heedless of a soldier’s name;
Sounds, not arms, shall win the prize –
Harmony the path to fame.

Then the progeny that springs
From the forests of our land,
Arm’d with thunder, clad with wings,
Shall a wider world command.

Regions Cæsar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway,
Where his eagles never flew,
None invincible as they.

Such the bard’s prophetic words,
Pregnant with celestial fire,
Bending, as he swept the chords
Of his sweet but awful lyre.

She, with all a monarch’s pride,
Felt them in her bosom glow;
Rush’d to battle, fought, and died;
Dying, hurl’d them at the foe.

Ruffians, pitiless as proud,
Heav’n awards the vengeance due;
Empire is on us bestow’d,
Shame and ruin wait for you!”

Text from HS Milford, editor, The Complete Poetical Works of William CowperHenry Frowde, 1905.

To give Cowper his transatlantic due, he also wrote poems against the slave trade.


Boudica’s husband, Prasutagus, had been an ally of Rome and a Roman citizen. Was she one too? He died and gave half his kingdom to Nero and half to his wife and two daughters. Rome refused to acknowledge her inheritance, Romans flogged her and raped the daughters.

Her subsequent rebellion caused Nero to consider withdrawing all Roman forces from Britain, but Gaius Suetonius Paulinus eventually defeated her. Boudica then either killed herself to avoid capture or fell ill and died: the sources, Tacitus (Latin) and Cassius Dio (Greek), differ. There are no archaeological sources that say anything about her directly and no native British written sources.

Dio says that she was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women”, was tall and had reddish hair hanging below her waist and a harsh voice and piercing glare, and habitually wore a large golden necklace (perhaps a torc), a many-coloured tunic and a thick cloak fastened by a brooch.

Tacitus gives her a speech in which she exhorts her troops from her chariot, her daughters beside her. She presents herself not as an aristocrat avenging lost wealth, but as an ordinary person avenging her lost freedom, her battered body, and the abused chastity of her daughters. Their cause is just, the gods are on their side, the legion that had dared to face them had been destroyed. “Though a woman, my resolution is fixed: the men, if they please, may survive with infamy, and live in bondage.”

Effeminate Nero versus masculine Boudica.

In Roman inscriptions, she is Boudica in Lusitania, Boudiga in Bordeaux, Bodicca in Algeria. By the Middle Ages she was forgotten. She makes no appearance in Bede, the Historia Brittonum, the Mabinogion or Geoffrey of Monmouth. (Geoffrey believes in the Trojan origins of the British.) But the rediscovery of Tacitus during the Renaissance allowed Polydore Vergil to reintroduce her into British history as Voadicea in 1534.

Holinshed calls her Voadicia in his Chronicles. James Aske’s poem Elizabetha Triumphans compares Elizabeth’s speech to the troops at Tilbury to Vodice’s speech from her chariot. Spenser calls her Bunduca in The Faerie QueeneJohn Speed gives a positive portrait of her as Boudicca in his Historie of Great Britaine (1611). John Fletcher has her as Bonduca. (Many writers use more than one variant of the name – there are about thirty – in a single work.) The later, more euphonious Boadicea may derive from a medieval mistranscription of Tacitus. The best manuscripts of Tacitus have Boudicca. We call her Boudica.

Bonduca is a Jacobean tragi-comedy in the Beaumont and Fletcher canon, but probably by Fletcher alone. The main hero is not the unattractive Bonduca, but “Caratach”, who is anachronistically depicted as her general. The resistance led by Caratacus or Caractacus of the Catuvellauni was earlier than that of Boudica of the Iceni. Nennius, the legendary British opponent of Julius Caesar, is included still more anachronistically.

Two Roman officers, Junius and Petillius, fall in love with Bonduca’s daughters. Petillius is a version of Quintus Petillius Cerialis. Fletcher’s Britons may in part stand, by allegory, for the savage native Americans of Virginia. Nevertheless, the play invites the audience to sympathise with their resistance to Rome.

In 1695, Purcell composed his last music for an adaptation of Fletcher, Bonduca, or the British Heroine. Suite from it – Overture, Hornpipe, Air, Trumpet tune; Quintette de cuivres Ars Nova, Marcel Lagorce and Bernard Jeannoutot, trumpets, Georges Barboteu, horn, Camille Verdier, trombone, Elie Raynaud, tuba:

Engraving of John Opie’s Boadicea Haranguing the Britons of 1793, the year Britain joined the First Coalition:

Boadicea, John Opie

The first of several HMS Boadiceas was launched in 1797.

Boadicea becomes another Britannia (the female personification of Britannia goes back to Roman times) and an earlier Victoria, since, it was discovered, her name derived from the Proto-Celtic word for victory, bouda.

Tennyson, in his Boädicéa, too long to quote in full, gets carried away and is rather shocking in his violence (lines broken into two to fit column width):

“Cut the Roman boy to pieces in his lust
and voluptuousness,
Lash the maiden into swooning,
me they lash’d and humiliated,
Chop the breasts from off the mother,
dash the brains of the little one out,
Up, my Britons! on, my chariot!
on, my chargers, trample them under us!”

Typically choppy Tennysonian rhythms.

Text from WJ Rolfe, editor, The Complete Poetical Works of Tennyson, Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Riverside Press, 1898.

Among novels, two for children, Beric the Briton, A Story of the Roman Invasion (1893) by GA Henty (that cheerful imperialist) and Song for a Dark Queen (1978) by Rosemary Sutcliffe.

The subject would have suited Donizetti or the young Verdi, but there is no opera.

In Our Time discussion with Melvyn Bragg, BBC Radio 4, March 11 2010. With Juliette Wood, Associate Lecturer in Folklore, Cardiff University; Richard Hingley, Professor of Roman Archaeology, Durham University; and Miranda Aldhouse-Green, Professor of Archaeology, School of History and Archaeology, Cardiff University.

On the Victoria Embankment opposite Parliament is Thomas Thornycroft’s bronze statue, commissioned by Prince Albert but not cast until 1902, of Boadicea, now the veritable goddess of empire, in a scythed chariot with her daughters, with Cowper’s lines on the plinth:

“Regions Caesar never knew
Thy posterity shall sway.”

Trevor-Roper’s letters

February 2 2014

Since Trevor-Roper’s death, we have had a life of the physician Théodore de Mayerne; a study of Scottish history; a new volume of masterly essaysletters to Berenson; and his wartime journals (many pages of which are about hunting). And the Sisman biography and a volume of letters from Richard Cobb to him and others.

Now we have a hundred of his letters to various people (not Berenson) edited by Richard Davenport-Hines and Adam Sisman and published by OUP. Like the Berenson volume, this one has a few more withering lines on Toynbee, but nothing new.

John Banville, Guardian.


Hardly fiction

January 29 2014

Certain works of literature [...] are concerned with public affairs in the histories of civilizations and for this reason can only be classified as historical, although the technique of “fiction” is employed throughout, so that [they] are indistinguishable in form from other dramas and novels. Such works are Aeschylus’s Persae, Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts, Feuchtwanger’s Jew Süss, and Benet’s John Brown’s Body.

Solzhenitsyn’s The Red Wheel would be another. Will the first part, August 1914, which is about the Battle of Tannenberg, be rediscovered this year? It made a big impression when it came out in England in 1972 and seems to have sunk without trace.

[Footnote: Tolstoy’s War and Peace does not, on the whole, come under this category. It does, of course, contain elements of historiography – for example the thesis, on which the author harps, that military commanders are passive instruments who register events without determining them, and again the rather wearisomely repeated comparison of the Grande Armée in retreat to a wounded beast. In essence, however, War and Peace is a true novel in the popular sense inasmuch as it is primarily concerned with the personal relations of human beings.]

Persae is about the defeat of Xerxes’ navy at Salamis. The Dynasts is a verse drama about the Napoleonic wars, allegedly the longest English drama in existence, and never staged. Jew Süss is a novel about the life of Joseph Süß Oppenheimer, a Court Jew or financial aide to Duke Karl Alexander of Württemberg in Stuttgart (reigned 1733-37). John Brown’s Body is an epic poem about the white American abolitionist John Brown (1800-59).

August 1914

Bodley Head, 1972

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934

Impression of a Balzac list

December 28 2013


Avant-propos, 1842 (Furne)

I  Études de mœurs au XIXe siècle

i  Scènes de la vie privée

La maison du chat-qui-pelote, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée as Gloire et malheur), 1839 (Charpentier as Gloire et malheur), 1842 (Furne with final title)

Le bal de Sceaux, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1842 (Furne)

Mémoires de deux jeunes mariées, 1842 (Furne)

La bourse, 1832 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1835 (Charles-Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Modeste Mignon, 1844 (Chlenowski), 1845 (Furne)

Un début dans la vie, 1844 (Dumont), 1845 (Furne)

Albert Savarus, 1842 (Furne)

La vendetta, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1835 (Charles-Bechet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Une double famille, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée as La femme vertueuse), 1842 (Furne with final title)

La paix du ménage, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1842 (Furne)

Madame Firmiani, 1832 (Gosselin), 1835 (Charles-Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Étude de femme, 1831 (Gosselin), 1842 (Furne)

La fausse maîtresse, 1842 (Furne)

Une fille d’Ève, 1839 (Souverain), 1842 (Furne)

Le message, 1833 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1842 (Furne)

La Grande Bretèche, 1831 (Gosselin), 1845 (Furne)

La grenadière, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1842 (Furne)

La femme abandonnée, 1833 (Charles Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Honorine, 1844 (Potter), 1845 (Furne)

Béatrix, 1839 (Souverain), 1842-45 (Furne)

Gobseck, 1830 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée as Les dangers de l’inconduite), 1835 (Charles-Béchet as Papa Gobseck), 1842 (Furne)

La femme de trente ans, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1837 (Werdet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Le père Goriot, 1835 (Werdet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1843 (Furne)

Le Colonel Chabert, 1835 (Charles-Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1844 (Furne)

La messe de l’athée, 1837 (Delloye et Lecou), 1844 (Furne)

L’interdiction, 1839 (Charpentier), 1844 (Furne)

Le contrat de mariage, 1835 (Charles-Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1842 (Furne)

Autre étude de femme, 1842 (Furne)

ii  Scènes de la vie de province

Ursule Mirouët, 1842 (Furne)

Eugénie Grandet, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1843 (Furne)

Les célibataires:

Pierrette, 1840 (Souverain), 1843 (Furne)

Le curé de Tours, 1832 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée as Les célibataires), 1834 (Charles-Béchet as Les célibataires), 1839 (Charpentier as Les célibataires), 1843 (Furne with final title)

La rabouilleuse, 1843 (Furne)

Les parisiens en province:

L’illustre Gaudissart, 1833 (Gosselin), 1842 (Furne)

La muse du département, 1837 (Werdet), 1842 (Furne)

Les rivalités:

La vieille fille, 1837 (Werdet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1844 (Furne)

Le cabinet des antiques, 1839 (Souverain), 1844 (Furne)

Illusions perdues:

Les deux poètes, 1837 (Werdet), 1843 (Furne)

Un grand homme de province à Paris, 1839 (Souverain), 1843 (Furne)

Ève et David1843 (Furne)

iii  Scènes de la vie parisienne

Histoire des Treize:

Ferragus, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1843 (Furne)

La duchesse de Langeais, 1839 (Charpentier), 1843 (Furne)

La fille aux yeux d’or, 1835 (Charles-Béchet), 1843 (Furne)

César Birotteau, 1837 (Charles-Béchet), 1844 (Furne)

La maison Nucingen, 1838 (Werdet), 1842 (Furne)

Splendeurs et misères des courtisanes, 1842-46 (Furne):

Comment aiment les filles ou Esther heureuse, 1838 (Werdet)

À combien l’amour revient aux vieillards, 1843 (Werdet)

Où mènent les mauvais chemins, 1846 (Werdet)

La dernière incarnation de Vautrin, 1847 (Werdet)

Les secrets de la princesse de Cadignan, 1842 (Furne)

Facino Cane, 1837 (Delloye et Lecou), 1844 (Furne)

Sarrasine, 1831 (Gosselin), 1844 (Furne)

Pierre Grassou, 1839 (Charles-Béchet), 1842 (Furne)

Les parents pauvres:

La cousine Bette, 1846 (Boniface)

Le cousin Pons, 1847 (Calmann-Lévy)

Un homme d’affaires, 1844 (Hetzel), 1846 (Furne)

Un prince de la bohème, 1844 (Potter), 1846 (Furne)

Gaudissart II, 1844 (Hetzel), 1846 (Furne)

Les employés, 1838 (Werdet as La femme supérieure), 1844 (Furne as Les employés ou La femme supérieure)

Les comédiens sans le savoir, 1846 (Furne)

Les petits bourgeois (completed by Charles Rabou), 1855 (Kiessling, Brussels), 1856 (Potter)

L’envers de l’histoire contemporaine:

Madame de la Chanterie, 1848 (Calmann-Lévy)

L’initié, 1848 (Calmann-Lévy)

iv  Scènes de la vie politique

Un épisode sous la Terreur, 1845 (Chlendowski), 1846 (Furne)

Une ténébreuse affaire, 1843 (Souverain et Lecou), 1846 (Furne)

Le député d’Arcis:

L’élection (completed by Charles Rabou), 1854 (Potter)

Le comte de Sallenauve (completed by Charles Rabou), 1856 (Potter)

La famille Beauvisage (completed by Charles Rabou), 1855 (Potter)

Z. Marcas, 1841 (Dessessart as La mort d’un ambitieux), 1846 (Furne)

v  Scènes de la vie militaire

Les Chouans, 1829 (Urbain Canal as Le dernier Chouan ou la Bretagne en 1800), 1834 (Vimont as Les Chouans ou la Bretagne en 1799), 1845 (Furne with final title)

Une passion dans le désert, 1837 (Delloye et Lecou), 1845 (Furne)

vi  Scènes de la vie de campagne

Les paysans (unfinished), 1854 (Houssiaux)

Le médecin de campagne, 1833 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1845 (Furne)

Le curé de village, 1841 (Souverain), 1845 (Furne)

Le lys dans la vallée, 1836 (Werdet), 1844 (Furne)


II  Études philosophiques

La peau de chagrin, 1831 (Gosselin with Canel), 1846 (Furne)

Jésus-Christ en Flandre, 1831 (Gosselin), 1846 (Furne)

Melmoth réconcilié (sequel to Charles Robert Maturin, Melmoth the Wanderer), 1835 (Lequien), 1846 (Furne)

Le chef-d’œuvre inconnu, 1831 (Charles-Béchet), 1837 (Delloye et Lecou), 1846 (Furne)

Gambara, 1837 (Souverain), 1846 (Furne)

Massimilla Doni, 1837 (Souverain), 1846 (Furne)

La recherche de l’absolu, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1839 (Charpentier), 1846 (Furne)

L’enfant maudit, 1831 (Gosselin), 1836 (Werdet), 1845 (Furne)

Adieu, 1832 (Mame et Delaunay-Vallée), 1836 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

Les Marana, 1834 (Charles-Béchet), 1846 (Furne)

Le réquisitionnaire, 1831 (Gosselin), 1835 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

El Verdugo, 1831 (Gosselin), 1846 (Furne)

Un drame au bord de la mer, 1835 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

Maître Cornélius, 1832 (Gosselin), 1836 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

L’auberge rouge, 1831 (Gosselin), 1846 (Furne)

Sur Catherine de Médicis:

Introduction, 1842 (Souverain), 1846 (Furne)

Le martyr calviniste, 1842 (Souverain), 1846 (Furne)

La confidence des Ruggieri, 1837 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

Les deux rêves, 1831 (Gosselin), 1837 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

L’élixir de longue vie, 1831 (Gosselin), 1834 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

Les proscrits, 1831 (Gosselin), 1846 (Furne)

Louis Lambert, 1832 (Gosselin), 1836 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)

Séraphîta, 1835 (Werdet), 1846 (Furne)


III  Études analytiques

Physiologie du mariage, 1829 (Levasseur with Canel), 1846 (Furne)

Petites misères de la vie conjugale, 1846 (Chlenowski)

Pathologie de la vie sociale, 1839 (Charpentier):

Traité de la vie élégante

Théorie de la démarche

Traité des excitants modernes


This is not even the beginning of a complete or accurate list of early Balzac editions, but it mentions some important ones and includes all the novels and stories in The Human Comedy.

I couldn’t find a simple summary, so I referred to the English and French Wikipedia articles on each and checked some things elsewhere. Wikipedia is internally consistent neither in what data it presents for each title nor in the data themselves.

My list doesn’t show how stories evolved between editions nor when they were placed into groups. It doesn’t give dates of writing or mention serialisations. The overarching title The Human Comedy came with the Furne edition, from 1842.

I believe that the order of stories is the one given in Balzac’s final plan. He had ideas for many more which were not written or exist only in sketches.

More on all titles here. I have used this occasionally. Go to Classement alphabétique and to the “Notice” under each.

The Human Comedy does not include eight or nine pseudonymous novels (written or published 1822-26); a collection of stories, Les cent contes drôlatiques (1832-37); plays (a very early verse drama, Cromwell, and five mature prose plays: Vautrin, Les ressources de Quinola, Pamela Giraud, La marâtreMercadet); or two imaginary journeys, Voyage de Paris à Java (serialised 1832) and La Chine et les chinois (serialised 1842).

Delphi Classics sells the entire œuvre in English, including the plays, for Kindle for £1.59. French costs £1.97. Delphi, though not perfect, is almost the only publisher of out of copyright (or any) electronic texts to give a damn and correct and update its content. Reading now: Le contrat de mariage.

Balzac was born Tours 1799. Family. Oratorian grammar school in Vendôme. 1814: family moved to Paris. 1816: entered Sorbonne. Law office. Early writings. Dabbled in business ventures. 1836: took helm of Chronique de Paris, weekly magazine of society and politics. It failed. Started another publication, Revue Parisienne, which lasted for three issues.

February 1832: received letter from Odessa which lacked return address and was signed L’Étrangère, expressing sadness at the cynicism and atheism in La peau de chagrin and its portrayal of women.

Traced sender via advertisement in Gazette de France, and a long correspondence with Ewelina Hańska began (which would remind one of Tchaikovsky and Meck if Balzac and Hańska had not met soon afterwards in Neuchâtel). She was married to a Polish landowner living near Kiev. 1841: he died. 1843: Balzac visited her in St Petersburg, competing with Liszt.

March 14 1850: they drove from her estate to a church in Berdyczów (Berdychiv) and were married. The long journey to and from the ceremony took its toll on both. Her feet were so swollen she could hardly walk. He endured heart trouble.

May 20, his fifty-first birthday: they arrived in Paris. August 18: Balzac died. He was buried at the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

Steichen, Balzac Monument

Rodin, Monument to Balzac, photographed by Edward Steichen, 1911

Kenneth Clark’s remarks on this statue, “the greatest piece of sculpture of the nineteenth century”, and from “the last great Romantic artist”, start at 44:20 here.

Gibbon’s solitude

September 21 2013

Edward Gibbon, during his voluntary spells of residence in his father’s country house at Buriton, [...] found himself goaded into making time for intellectual work by early rising, under pressure [...] of “social” demands on his time.

“At home I occupied a pleasant and spacious apartment; the library on the same floor was soon considered as my peculiar domain, and I might say with truth that I was never less alone than when I was by myself. My sole complaint, which I piously suppressed, arose from the kind restraint imposed on the freedom of my time. By the habit of early rising I always secured a sacred portion of the day, and many scattered moments were stolen and employed by my studious industry. But the family hours of breakfast, of dinner, of tea, and of supper were regular and long: after breakfast Mrs. Gibbon expected my company in her dressing-room; after tea my father claimed my conversation and the perusal of the newspapers; and in the midst of an interesting work I was often called down to receive the visit of some idle neighbours. Their dinners and visits required, in due season, a similar return; and I dreaded the period of the full moon, which was usually reserved for our more distant excursions.” – The Autobiographies of Edward Gibbon (London 1896, Murray), Memoir B, pp. 162-3. Cp. Memoir C, p. 286.

The version in Memoir C reads:

“My litterary leisure was much less compleat and independent than it might appear to the eye of a stranger: in the hurry of London I was destitute of books; in the solitude of Hampshire I was not master of my time. By the habit of early rising I always secured a sacred portion of the day; and many precious moments were stolen and saved by my rational avarice. But the family hours of breakfast and dinner, of tea and supper, were regular and tedious: after breakfast Mrs. Gibbon expected my company in her dressing-room; after tea my father claimed my conversation and the perusal of the Newspapers. In the heat of some interesting pursuit, I was called down to receive the visits of our idle neighbours; their civilities required a suitable return; and I dreaded the period of the full moon, which was usually reserved for our more distant excursions. My quiet was gradually disturbed by our domestic anxiety; and I should be ashamed of my unfeeling philosophy, had I found much time or taste for study in the last fatal summer (1770) of my father’s decay and dissolution.”

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

Reynold Alleyne Nicholson

August 23 2013

Reynold A. Nicholson, in his Translations of Eastern Poetry and Prose, [footnote: Cambridge 1922, University Press.] gave me a glimpse of a Classical Islamic literature that I was unable to read in the original.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

1898 exam questions

July 23 2013

Questions tackled by eleven-year-old boys applying for places at King Edward’s School in Birmingham in 1898. Reported in various places. I haven’t seen the original papers.


“English history

1. What kings of England began to reign in the years 871, 1135, 1216, 1377, 1422, 1509, 1625, 1685, 1727, 1830?

2. Give some account of Egbert, William II, Richard III, Robert Blake, Lord Nelson.

3. State what you know of – Henry II’s quarrel with Becket, the taking of Calais by Edward III, the attempt to make Lady Jane Grey queen, the trial of the Seven Bishops, the Gordon riots.

4. What important results followed – the raising of the siege of Orleans, the Gunpowder plot, the Scottish rebellion of 1639, the surrender at Yorktown, the battles of Bannockburn, Bosworth, Ethandune, La Hogue, Plassey, and Vittoria?

5. How are the following persons connected with English History – Harold Hardrada, Saladin, James IV of Scotland, Philip II of Spain, Frederick the Elector Palatine?



1. On the outline map provided, mark the position of Carlisle, Canterbury, Plymouth, Hull, Gloucester, Swansea, Southampton, Worcester, Leeds, Leicester and Norwich; Morecambe Bay, The Wash, Solent, Menai Straits and Lyme Bay; St Bees Head, The Naze, Lizard Point; the rivers Trent and Severn; Whernside, the North Downs, and Plinlimmon, and state on a separate paper what the towns named above are noted for.

2. Where are silver, platinum, tin, wool, wheat, palm oil, furs and cacao got from?

3. Name the conditions upon which the climate of a country depends, and explain the reason of any one of them.

4. Name the British possessions in America with the chief town in each. Which is the most important?

5. Where are Omdurman, Wai-Hei-Wai, Crete, Santiago, and West Key, and what are they noted for?



1. Write in columns the nominative singular, genitive plural, gender, and meaning of: operibus, principe, imperatori, genere, apro, nivem, vires, frondi, muri.

2. Give the comparative of noxius, acer, male, diu; the superlative of piger, humilis, fortiter, multum; the English and genitive sing. of solus, uter, quisque.

3. Write these phrases in a column and put opposite to each its Latin: he will go; he may wish; he had; he had been; he will be heard; and give in a column the English of fore, amatum, regendus, monetor.

4. Give in columns the perfect indic. and active supine of ago, pono, dono, cedo, jungo, claudo.

5. Mention one example each of verbs followed by the nominative, the accusative, the genitive, the dative, the ablative.

6. Translate into Latin:

The general’s little son was loved by the soldiers.
Let no bodies be buried within this city.
Ask Tullius who found the lions.
He said that the city had been taken, and, the war being finished, the forces would return.

7. Translate into English:

Exceptus est imperatoris adventus incredibili honore atque amore: tum primum enim veniebat ab illo Aegypti bello. Nihil relinquebatur quod ad ornatum locorum omnium qua iturus erat excogitari posset.


English grammar

1. Write out in your best handwriting:

‘O Mary, go and call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
Across the sands o’ Dee.’
The western wind was wild and dank with foam,
And all alone went she.

The western tide crept up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see.
The rolling mist came down and hid the land –
And never home came she.

[From The Sands of Dee by Charles Kingsley, though we are not told.]

2. Parse fully ‘And call the cattle home.’

3. Explain the meaning of o’ Dee, dank with foam, western tide, round and round the sand, the rolling mist.

4. Write out separately the simple sentences in the last two lines of the above passage and analyse them.

5. Write out what you consider to be the meaning of the above passage.



1. Multiply 642035 by 24506.

2. Add together £132 4s. 1d., £243 7s. 2d., £303 16s 2d., and £1,030 5s. 3d.; and divide the sum by 17. (Two answers to be given.)

3. Write out Length Measure, and reduce 217204 inches to miles, &c.

4. Find the G.C.M. of 13621 and 159848.

5. Find, by Practice, the cost of 537 things at £5 3s. 7 1/2d. each.

6. Subtract 37/16 from 51/4; multiply 63/4 by 5/36; divide 43/8 by 11/6; and find the value of 21/4 of 12/3 of 13/5.

7. Five horses and 28 sheep cost £126 14s., and 16 sheep cost £22 8s.; find the total cost of 2 horses and 10 sheep.

8. Subtract 3.25741 from 3.3; multiply 28.436 by 8.245; and divide .86655 by 26.5.

9. Simplify 183/4 minus 22/3 ÷ 11/5 minus 31/2 x 4/7.

10. Find the square root of 5.185,440,100.

11. Find the cost of papering the walls of a room 16ft long, 13ft 6in. wide, and 9ft high, with paper 11/2ft wide at 2s. 3d. a piece of 12yds in length.

12. A and B rent a number of fields between them for a year, the rent and other expenses amounting to £108 17s. 6d. A puts in 2 horses, 5 oxen and 10 sheep; and B puts in 4 horses, 1 ox, and 27 sheep. If a horse eats as much as 3 sheep and an ox as much as 2 sheep, how much should A and B each pay?”

Free Grammar School, New Street

The school in Charles Barry’s building, now demolished, New Street, 1894

Alfredo Stroessner’s Paraguay

July 19 2013

Alan Whicker on Stroessner’s Paraguay, Yorkshire Television, April 7 1970.

His programme, Whicker’s World, ran on BBC television from 1959 through the ’60s and on ITV (Yorkshire Television) from the late ’60s to 1988. Obituaries.

We meet the simpatico Manuel Segura Morales, Father Provincial of Paraguay’s seventy-seven Jesuits. A small number when you remember the force they had been under the Spanish.

Father Manuel was a university teacher and social worker as well as a priest. He survived, the web tells us, two assassination attempts, obviously for being a thorn in the side of Stroessner. He is still, or was recently, alive. His godfather at his baptism in Granada was Manuel de Falla.

The English and Amish/Mennonite farmers seem classic white settler types in their different ways. The right-wing New Zealand cattle man with the World Bank is a neo- or proto-colonialist doing good.

Above all, we get an impression of the bovine Stroessner.

Paraguay is a centre in 1970 for alcohol and tobacco smuggling. Hard drugs are not mentioned.

A rough guide to Paraguay

Welsh in Patagonia

History written by the losers

July 17 2013

The Athenians [...] didn’t win in the military sense, but they did win in the intellectual sense. They ran away with the monopoly of writing the story, so, although they were defeated in the Peloponnesian War, it is all told from their point of view.

Other examples of loser-monopolies, not counting outsider or subaltern studies and tribal-grudge historiography?

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

Occidental and Oriental

July 7 2013

When once we have parted company with sanity by reading emotional connotations of comparative moral and cultural values into the points of the compass, “Occidental” will serve just as well as “Oriental” for a term of abuse.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

The great hollow

July 5 2013

“The Graeco-Roman world had descended into the great hollow which is roughly called the Middle Ages, extending from the fifth to the fifteenth century, a hollow in which many great, beautiful, and heroic things were done and created, but in which knowledge, as we understand it, and as Aristotle understood it, had no place. The revival of learning and the Renaissance are memorable as the first sturdy breasting by Humanity of the hither slope of the great hollow which lies between us and the Ancient World. The modern man, reformed and regenerated by knowledge, looks across it and recognises on the opposite ridge, in the far-shining cities and stately porticoes, in the art, politics and science of Antiquity, many more ties of kinship and sympathy than in the mighty concave between, wherein dwell his Christian ancestry, in the dim light of scholasticism and theology.” – J. C. Morison: The Service of Man: an Essay towards the Religion of the Future (London 1887, Kegan Paul, Trench), pp. 177-8.

Morison, as one might guess from the title of his book, was an English positivist.

Quoted in

W. P. Ker in his The Dark Ages (Edinburgh 1904, Blackwood) [...].

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)

The noisome cavern

July 3 2013

[...] Dr. Arnold, when discussing his plans for a course of lectures after having been appointed to the Chair of History at Oxford:

“I had thought of trying to do for England what Guizot began so well for France: to start with the year 1400, and make the first year’s course comprise the 15th century. My most detailed historical researches happen to have related to that very century, and it gives you the Middle Ages still undecayed, yet with the prospect of daybreak near. I could not bear to plunge myself into the very depths of that noisome cavern, and to have to toil through centuries of dirt and darkness.” – Letter to Stanley, 29th September, 1841, in A. P. Stanley: Life & Correspondence of Thomas Arnold, 11th edition (London 1880, Murray), vol. ii, p. 239.

Guizot’s Histoire de la civilisation en France, four volumes, 1830, was based on lectures he had given at the Sorbonne – but they do not begin with the year 1400. Nor do the Essais sur l’histoire de France, 1836. Nor Arnold’s own Introductory Lectures on Modern History, Longmans, Green & Co, 1842. Nor is any of these works merely chronological. Arnold had been appointed to the Regius Professorship in 1841, but died in the following year. So a telling remark, but it’s unclear to me what the opening sentence means.

A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)


June 23 2013 is the place for historical Baedekers. They are a serious, if not primary, source for nineteenth-century Europe and as much part of the belle époque as Tauchnitz editions.

Baedeker, Britannica and others

June 23 2013

Toynbee acknowledged a debt to German atlases in writing his survey of Europe in the early months of the First World War. In addition to maps,

I am also indebted to books. Among works of reference I would single out two of Baedeker’s handbooks, the eleventh edition of Austria-Hungary (1911) and Konstantinopel und Kleinasien (1905), but in this case [both cases?] the German source yields precedence to the Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition, published in 1911), which has proved the most indispensable of all my guides. My extracts from the official census returns of various states are nearly all derived through this channel, [footnote: The 1911 edition of the Encyclopædia takes its Austro-Hungarian statistics from the census of 1900: I might have rectified them by the more recent returns of 1910, but I have deliberately refrained from doing so. The figures of 1910 of course represent the present absolute totals of the various populations more accurately than those of 1900, but relative rather than absolute quantities are valuable for my purpose, and in this respect the figures of 1900 are undoubtedly more accurate than those of 1910. In 1900 the “official” proportions were doubtless already distorted by the Hungarian census-officials, and doubtless the real proportions have slightly shifted in the meanwhile, but both these margins of error are insignificant compared with the gross perversions of truth perpetrated by Hungarian officialdom in 1910. So rapidly is a nation demoralised when once it succumbs to chauvinism.] and I have made especially diligent use of the excellently arranged articles on “Austria-Hungary” and “Hungary.”

For what I have written on Hungary I am likewise in debt to the illuminating study on Hungary in the Eighteenth Century, [footnote: Published by the Cambridge University Press.] by Professor Marczali, the Magyar historian, but above all to the work of Dr. Seton-Watson. So far as I deal with his subjects, my information is taken at second hand: I have learnt all I know about “Magyarisation” from his Racial Problems in Hungary, and all I know about modern Croatia from his Southern Slavs. I can do no better than refer the reader to these two books for the substantiation of my indictment against the Magyar nation. The War and Democracy, written in collaboration by Messrs. Seton-Watson, Dover Wilson, Zimmern and Greenwood, was only published after the relevant part of my own book was already in proof, and I have not yet had leisure to read it. Yet though I have been unable to borrow from the book itself, I owe an incalculable debt to another of its authors besides Dr. Seton-Watson. I have had the good fortune to be Mr. Zimmern’s pupil.

So much for maps and books: they cannot compare with friends. Without the help of my mother and my wife, this book would never have grown ripe for publication, and I have to thank my wife’s father, Professor Gilbert Murray, Mr. A. D. Lindsay and Mr. H. W. C. Davis of Balliol College, and Mr. R. W. Chapman of the Clarendon Press, all of whom have read the book in whole or part either in manuscript or in proof. Their advice has enabled me to raise the standard of my work in every respect. When the critics tear my final draft in pieces, I shall realise how my first draft would have fared, had it been exposed naked to their claws. Last but not least, I must express my gratitude to my publishers, Messrs. J. M. Dent and Sons, Ltd., for their unfailing kindness, especially for bearing with my delays and reproducing my maps.

ARNOLD TOYNBEE. February 1915.

No authorship is stated for the maps.

He cites the 1914 edition of Konstantinopel und Kleinasien in The Western Question in Greece and Turkey, A Study in the Contact of Civilizations, Constable, 1922.

Marczali’s book contains an introductory essay on earlier Hungarian history by Harold Temperley, to whose The Non-Arab Territories of the Ottoman Empire since the Armistice of the 30th October, 1918, OUP, 1924 Toynbee would later contribute.

Toynbee wasn’t the only historian to have acknowledged a debt to the eleventh edition of the Britannica. HG Wells admitted that swathes of his Outline of History relied on it. Many of the original articles in Wikipedia were imported from it.

Paget Toynbee rebuked his nephew in writing for not differentiating his name from that of the other Arnold Toynbee, Paget’s late brother, on the title page of his first book. Given the fame of the earlier Arnold Toynbee and Arnold J Toynbee’s obscurity in 1915, the rebuke seems justified. His subsequent books – except for his other Dent production of 1915, The New Europe, and a few at the end of his life  were signed Arnold J Toynbee.

Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915

The Boyhood of Raleigh

June 17 2013

The Boyhood of Raleigh 1870 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896

John Everett Millais, The Boyhood of Raleigh, Royal Academy, 1871, Tate Britain; click for better resolution

The young Walter Raleigh and his brother. I presume his full, older brother Carew. Influenced by an essay by James Anthony FroudeEngland’s Forgotten Worthies, in Short Studies on Great Subjects, First Series, 1867, and perhaps by a contemporaneous biography which imagined Raleigh’s boyhood.

Background painted at Budleigh Salterton, near Exeter, close to where Raleigh grew up. According to Millais’ biographer, Marion Spielmann, the sailor, a professional model, was intended to be Genoese. He perhaps points to the Spanish Main. Millais’ sons modelled for the boys. There is a model ship in the foreground.

If Millais had been a more imaginative painter, he would surely have included a still-life element to hint at or predict his subject’s execution. Is there something?

The phrase “Go west, young man” is about crossing land – the American continent – not the Atlantic and is attributed, with some uncertainty, to the founder and editor (1841-72) of the New-York Tribune, Horace Greeley.

Charles Kingsley’s novel Westward Ho!, 1855, was about Francis Drake. The title was derived from the call of boat taxis on the Thames (eastward ho!, westward ho!) and is also a nod towards the play Westward Hoe by John Webster and Thomas Dekker, written circa 1604, on the perils of the westward expansion of London.

The tobacco and cloak anecdotes are Raleigh, the game of bowls anecdote is Drake. Drake was another Devonian, born at Tavistock.

Death and the Internet

May 19 2013

Wikipedia article (still short) about survivorship and transferability.

Recent BBC Radio 4 programme on the right to be forgotten online. Or remembered. Producer: Clare Walker.

All of this has implications for historians, among others.

Namier’s eyes

May 6 2013

One of Namier’s eyes was a rabbinical scholar’s. He was proudly conscious of his descent from the Gaon of Vilna. The other eye was a Polish landowner’s. His family were Roman Catholic (Latin rite) landowners of Jewish origin in the eastern part of Galicia [post here]. Galicia was at that time one of the crown lands of the Empire of Austria. It is divided to-day between two Communist republics: Poland and the Ukrainian constituent republic of the Soviet Union.

Namier’s hereditary rabbinical eye for minutiæ is surely part of the secret of his success in applying the prosopographical method to the study of 18th-century British politics. After he and I had each struck out our different lines of inquiry, Namier once said to me that at least we resembled each other in dealing with history differently from the way followed by most contemporary historians.

“You,” he said, “try to look at the whole tree. I try to dissect the tree’s texture, leaf by leaf. Most of the others break off a branch and try to cope with that. You and I agree,” Namier added, “in not favouring that method.”

Namier’s vein of Jewishness was, of course, not exclusively intellectual. He had also inherited a Jewish emotional intensity and even fanaticism. [Toynbee has a habit of equating Jewish with fanatical. Namier’s Zionism led to a temporary rift with Toynbee.] So, when he discovered the 17th-century English Puritan writers, their spirit struck an answering chord in him. They, and not their Laodicean 18th-century successors, were Namier’s first love in his wooing of England past and present.

Meanwhile, Namier’s other eye – his Polish Roman Catholic one – was also making penetrating observations of English life; and here, too, Namier saw things to which our native English eyes had been blind, because we had taken these things for granted. I remember his excitement over his discovery of the emotional timbre that is given to the English language by the use of Biblical quotations and allusions. This was a stop which the organ of the Polish language did not possess, and which therefore caught Namier’s ear when he listened to the music of English speech. The Biblical note was lacking in the Polish language, for Roman Catholics of the Latin rite the Bible was imprisoned in the Latin of the Vulgate. There was no consecrated and familiar translation in the vernacular which could influence the living language, as King James I’s authorised version of the Bible has influenced the English language ever since it was published.

Lewis Namier, Historian, Encounter, Vol 16, No 1, January 1961 (more from this in yesterday’s post)

The Eagle of Meaux

May 2 2013

The Augustinian version of a Judaic view of history was taken for granted by Western Christian thinkers throughout the first millennium (circa A.D. 675-1675) of the Western Civilization’s life and was reformulated – to incorporate the additions made to Western knowledge since the fifteenth century of the Christian Era by an Italian renaissance of Hellenism and an Iberian conquest of the Ocean – in a Discours sur l’Histoire Universelle published in A.D. 1681 by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet (vivebat A.D. 1627-1704). The Eagle of Meaux’s majestic variation on a traditional Judaic theme was, however, the last serious Western performance of this spiritual masterpiece; for, while Bossuet was in the act of writing his classic discourse, a spiritual revolution was taking place around him in his world. Within the brief span of the last few decades of the seventeenth century of the Christian Era, a Western World that was exorcizing a stalking ghost of Hellenism was at the same time liquidating its own ancestral Judaic Weltanschauung.

Apropos the stalking ghost, we have earlier (referring to literary culture perhaps too much in isolation):

The Humanists’ revival of the art of writing quantitative Latin and Greek verse in a correct Hellenic style was followed, not by an eclipse of a native Western literature that was flying its own proper colours unabashed, but by a fresh outburst of it in a blaze which effectively took the shine out of the Humanists’ frigid academic exercises.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Two Maghrebis

May 1 2013

A belief that the whole life of the Universe was governed by “the Law of God” was the qiblah of a Judaic Weltanschauung that was the common heritage of the Orthodox Christian, the Western Christian, the Arabic Muslim, and the Iranic Muslim societies; and a theocentric philosophy of history derived from the intuitions or inspirations of the Prophets of Israel and Judah and the Iranian Prophet Zarathustra was bequeathed to Western Christendom in Saint Augustine’s De Civitate Dei and to the Arab Muslim World in Ibn Khaldūn’s Prolegomena to his History of the Berbers – two works of spiritual genius which unmistakably reflect one single common outlook and whose mutual affinity can only be accounted for by their indebtedness to a common source, since Ibn Khaldūn was as ignorant of his Christian predecessor and fellow Maghribī’s theodicy as Augustine was of Muqaddamāt that did not see the light till more than nine hundred years after the Christian North African Father’s death.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Lilies of a day

April 6 2013

“A lily of a day” [footnote: Ben Jonson] may be perfect without being permanent, but “Civilization” was credited by its Western exponents [Gibbon is given as an example] with both these attributes of divinity: it was deemed to have come to stay for ever and to be immune against the destruction that had overtaken so many primitive and semi-civilized cultures in the past.

We have had the Jonson phrase already here.

An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956

Toynbee and Voegelin

February 24 2013

Below, part of a discussion between Toynbee and Eric Voegelin, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa, April 15 1963. The moderator may be Howard Bowen. On the previous day Voegelin had lectured on The Configuration of History in a series known as The Grinnell Seminar on Order.

70,000 marchers arrived in London on April 15 on one of the Aldermaston Marches.

Much familiar ground is covered. Toynbee is not a particularly good speaker, but his meanings are clear (he has an irritating habit of grunting while others are speaking).

Voegelin refers to Toynbee in his magnum opus, the five-volume Order and History, Louisiana State University Press, 1956-87.

He had reviewed A Study of History in International Affairs (the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs published by OUP), Vol 31, 1955. He contributed a piece, Toynbee’s History as a Search for Truth, in Edward T Gargan, editor, The Intent of Toynbee’s History, A Cooperative Appraisal, with a Preface by Arnold J Toynbee, Chicago, Loyola University Press, 1961.

In the last volume of the Study, Toynbee refers several times to the essay in the Gargan collection.

Voegelin observes that, in the present book, from volume vii onwards, the history of religion becomes, for me, history proper, and that I now no longer take civilizations as being the intelligible fields of study. He correctly remarks that “the plan, as it was conceived on the first existential level, was retained to cover the studies on the last existential level”, and he makes the justified criticism that “neither has the plan of the first level been completed, nor has the last level found an organisational level of its own”.

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961

Gavrilo Princip’s Sandwich

November 29 2012

Possible name for book. A bit obvious? It has been used, I see, for a couple of blog posts: Smithsonian, Axis History Forum. It’s impossible to be first with anything nowadays.

An immersion in clear, cool and still waters

October 30 2012

“The reading of it has been like an immersion in clear, cool and still waters.” – Church of England Newspaper on GM TrevelyanAn Autobiography and Other Essays (1949). On dust jacket.

He died fifty years ago. The Telegraph had a piece on the day by David Cannadine, who wrote his biography. There is a book about the family by Laura Trevelyan. GM’s father was George Otto Trevelyan.

P.T.: What about Trevelyan?

A.T.: I admire him very much, for one thing because he writes in a wonderful way and is such a pleasure to read. Secondly, he has a very comprehensive all-round view: he will really give you a picture of all sides of life and activity. He has got right away from that purely political, military, old-fashioned kind of narrative history. When I was at school, the first of his series of Garibaldi books came out, and that was absolutely fascinating to me. I admire him very much.

He had a highly-developed sense of English landscapes. (So did AL Rowse at his early best.) Beginning of Grey of Fallodon, the biography of the British Foreign Secretary from 1905 to 1916:

“Fallodon has no rare and peculiar beauty. It is merely a piece of unspoilt English countryside – wood, field and running stream. But there is a tang of the North about it; the west wind blows through it straight off the neighbouring moors, and the sea is visible from the garden through a much-loved gap in the trees. The whole region gains dignity from the great presences of the Cheviot and the Ocean. Eastward, beyond two miles of level fields across which he so often strode, lie the tufted dunes, the reefs of tide-washed rock and the bays of hard sand; on that lonely shore he would lie, by the hour, watching the oyster-catchers, turnstones, and dunlin, or the woodcock immigrants landing tired from their voyage.

“Close at hand to the south, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle surround the top of a sea-girt promontory, save where the high basalt cliffs are washed by the tide. Into that ample enclosure the cattle of Fallodon used in old days to be driven for safety in time of Scottish invasion. [Footnote: Grey told me that when, in 1882, he succeeded to the Fallodon estate, he found it still burdened with a payment of half-a-crown a year to the owners of Dunstanburgh in return for this old-world privilege. Dunstanburgh was a favourite place with him, from boyhood to the end.] Eight miles to the north, the keep of Bamburgh rises against the sky, and on the ocean’s bosom lie the Farne Islands – still the greatest of British bird sanctuaries, as when Saint Cuthbert lived there alone among the eider duck and tern.

“And on the other side of Fallodon, to the west, rise the heather-moors, crowned by Ros Castle Camp, Grey’s favourite point of view, closely overlooking Chillingham Park with its white cattle and the castle where his family had borne rule in the old border times. Beyond Chillingham, the green, rounded, Cheviot range hides Scotland and shelters this outpost strip of England between hills and sea. All North Northumberland is visible from Ros Camp, now dedicated as a memorial to Edward Grey.

“In no part of the island are the distant views more spacious, nowhere else are the glories of cIoudland more constantly unveiled. The sense of freedom and vastness, thus purveyed to the eye, is enhanced to the spirit by the tonic air, to a greater degree than in flatter lands or mountain-girdled dales. Stone farms and cottages, solidly and seemlily built, are scattered over the open country, which is protected from the Northumbrian wind by many plantations and strips of beech, ash, and other trees. The denes, hollows and streambeds hold wild vegetation that luxuriates wherever there is shelter. Outcrops of rock form lines of tall, fantastic cliffs, facing inland, and clad in bracken and wild growth. Such is the land that moulded the character of Grey, consciously ere long; unconsciously during his boyhood of rod and gun.”



England in the Age of Wycliffe 1899
England under the Stuarts 1904
The Life of John Bright 1913
Lord Grey of the Reform Bill 1920
British History in the Nineteenth Century 1922
History of England 1926

England under Queen Anne:

Blenheim 1930
Ramillies and the Union with Scotland 1932
The Peace and the Protestant Succession 1934

Sir George Otto Trevelyan: A Memoir 1932
Grey of Fallodon 1937
The English Revolution, 1688-1698 1938
Trinity College: An Historical Sketch 1943
A Shortened History of England 1942
English Social History: A Survey of Six Centuries, Chaucer to Queen Victoria US 1942, UK 1944; illustrated edition in four volumes 1949-52


Garibaldi’s Defence of the Roman Republic 1907
Garibaldi and the Thousand 1909
Garibaldi and the Making of Italy 1911
Scenes from Italy’s War 1919
Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848 1923


The Poetry and Philosophy of George Meredith 1906
Clio: A Muse and Other Essays 1913
The Recreations of an Historian 1919
An Autobiography and Other Essays 1949
A Layman’s Love of Letters (Clark Lectures delivered at Cambridge October-November 1953) 1954


With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

Wie es eigentlich gewesen

October 24 2012

P.T.: [...] Ranke, or not particularly?

A.T.: I am not enthusiastic about him [...]; and when he says that all he is trying to do is to state exactly what happened, I get rather impatient. He is absolutely innocent of the theory of knowledge, and I think he ought to have been more sophisticated philosophically. Such philosophical naïveté is really inexcusable in a historian, particularly in a German one.

But Ranke goes further than that. He wants to describe things “as they actually were”.

He was also a Welthistoriker. In 1880, he began a six-volume work on world history, which began with ancient Egypt and the Israelites. By the time of his death in Berlin in 1886 at the age of ninety, he had reached the twelfth century. His assistants later used his notes to take it up to 1453. Other works.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

The winter of Heraclius

October 23 2012

P.T.: When you think of English historians of the past, do you have any special affections?

A.T.: I do, I have a great affection for Gibbon, though I think that, in a way, he is naïve and limited. Christianity set his teeth on edge, and he thought that religious people were all either simpletons or cheats. I also have an affection for Gibbon’s successor Bury. I knew him personally. He was kind to me when I was young and when he was famous. Like Gibbon, he was a rationalist who spent his life studying an age of faith, and his rationalism, too, was a hindrance to his understanding of the people he was concerned with. In a supreme military crisis, the Emperor Heraclius is said to have spent a winter in prayer before starting on a daring campaign that was going to be decisive one way or the other. Bury the rationalist said: “Of course, that is humbug. It is obvious that Heraclius spent that winter, not in prayer, but in working out strategic plans.” Yet, if one is in the least sensitive to the atmosphere of the Christian World in the seventh century, it is obvious that the contemporary chronicler is telling the truth. Prayer, not Kriegspiel, was Heraclius’s winter occupation.

With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963

Eric Hobsbawm

October 3 2012


Guardian sketch.




Tetralogy, or trilogy with sequel:

The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789-1848 1962

The Age of Capital: 1848-1875 1975

The Age of Empire: 1875-1914 1987

The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914–1991 (UK title) 1994

Some others:

Bandits 1969

Revolutionaries, 1973

Editor, with Terence Ranger, and contributor, The Invention of Tradition 1983

Uncommon People: Resistance, Rebellion and Jazz 1998

A final book, Fractured Spring, sent to the publisher a few months ago, will appear in 2013.

Schama meets Hobsbawm (conversation last year, post here).

Interview with Silvia Lemus, wife of Carlos Fuentes, perhaps for Mexican television and presumably from circa 1994:

Pax Technologica

September 17 2012

Evgeny Morozov’s enjoyable demolition of Parag Khanna reminds us how good the Russian education system (and here) is or was. Morozov was born in Soligorsk in Belarus and, judging by his accent, spent much of his life there. He’s in his late twenties.

“The new pamphlet [Hybrid Reality] – it would be too strong, and not only quantitatively, to call it a book – by Parag and Ayesha Khanna, the techno-babbling power couple, gallops through so many esoteric themes and irrelevant factoids (did you know that ‘fifty-eight percent of millennials would rather give up their sense of smell than their mobile phone’?) that one might forgive the authors for never properly attending to their grandest, most persuasive, and almost certainly inadvertent argument. Only the rare reader would finish this piece of digito-futuristic nonsense unconvinced that technology is – to borrow a term of art from the philosopher Harry Frankfurt – bullshit. No, not technology itself; just much of today’s discourse about technology, of which this little e-book is a succinct and mind-numbing example. At least TED Books – the publishing outlet of the hot and overheated TED Conference, which brought this hidden gem to the wider public – did not kill any trees in the publishing process.”

I don’t know how much of his life Khanna has spent in India. He’s 35. He was born in Kanpur in UP. His career has been built in the US and Europe. He has just moved to Singapore.

There is probably something wrong with a person who mentions Arnold Toynbee twenty-eight times in a not very long book on modern geopolitics. That is what Khanna did in The Second World (2008). I put it down, patronisingly, to youth (though he was 31) and reviewed the book kindly even though everything he said about Toynbee was wrong. But it was not as if The Second World did not have a powerful underlying idea. It was fast, furious and extremely superficial, but in time, I thought, Khanna would discipline himself.

I’d said that Toynbee had “an unusual appeal to the partly-educated outside the West”. I could have phrased that as “the, in western terms, partly-educated”.

There are two things here: the appeal to the non-westerner and the appeal to the half-educated autodidact who is impressed by the scale of Toynbee’s writing.

It would be patronising to put Khanna into the first category, but he may belong in the second despite his academic qualifications. I am not saying either that Toynbee was of the stature of a Paulo Coelho, but that “half-educated” people are, for the most part, the ones still praising him, because his reputation among so-called “educated” ones was destroyed by Trevor-Roper and others.

Khanna’s second book was How to Run the World. I mentioned it here.

There’s no point summarising Morozov. He reviews three TED publications, but mainly the first:

Hybrid Reality: Thriving in the Emerging Human-Technology Civilization
By Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna
(TED Books, $2.99)

The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It
By Philip Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan
(TED Books, $2.99)

Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act
By Ron Gutman
(TED Books, $2.99)”

Hybrid Reality is by Parag and his wife Ayesha. The couple are modelling themselves on Heidi and Alvin Toffler. Toffler-worship has replaced Toynbee-worship and is more bankable.

What Morozov does not find ludicrous in Khanna’s opus 3 he finds sinister, viz (in short) worship of authoritarian Singapore-style technocracy. There is a connection between Khanna politics and what a Pole of the same age (apparently as well-educated as Morozov), Piotr Czerski, writes in his manifesto We the Web Kids, to which I have referred.

The idea of citizenship, and the messy, inefficient, imprecise politics that goes with it, is breaking down. Instead, membership in society is regarded as something like an account. The account-holders play by the rules, click, expect results. Czerski does not identify himself with oppressive regimes, but there is a traceable line between the e-government Khanna would like to see and the citizen as atomised account-holder. Czerski:

“We do not feel a religious respect for ‘institutions of democracy’ in their current form, we do not believe in their axiomatic role, as do those who see ‘institutions of democracy’ as a monument for and by themselves. We do not need monuments. We need a system that will live up to our expectations, a system that is transparent and proficient. And we have learned that change is possible: that every uncomfortable system can be replaced and is replaced by a new one, one that is more efficient, better suited to our needs, giving more opportunities.

“What we value the most is freedom: freedom of speech, freedom of access to information and to culture. We feel that it is thanks to freedom that the Web is what it is, and that it is our duty to protect that freedom. We owe that to next generations, just as much as we owe to protect the environment.

“Perhaps we have not yet given it a name, perhaps we are not yet fully aware of it, but I guess what we want is real, genuine democracy. Democracy that, perhaps, is more than is dreamt of in your journalism.”

So Morozov says that the Khannas have contempt for democracy, because they “profess their deep and inherently anti-democratic admiration for technocracy”. Czerski is asking for true democracy, as if this might for the first time, in a Pax Technologica (Khanna’s Toynbeeish phrase), be possible.

Peter Brown bibliography

June 26 2012

Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, Faber and Faber, 1967

The Rise and Function of the Holy Man in Late Antiquity, The Journal of Roman Studies 61, 1971

The World of Late Antiquity: AD 150-750, Thames and Hudson, 1971

The Making of Late Antiquity, Carl Newell Jackson lectures, Harvard University, April 1976, Harvard University Press, 1978

The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity, Haskell Lectures, University of Chicago, April 1978, University of Chicago Press, 1981

Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity, essays, Faber and Faber, 1982

Late Antiquity in Paul Veyne, editor, A History of Private Life: 1. From Pagan Rome to Byzantium, Harvard University Press, 1987

The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity, Columbia University Press, 1988

Power and Persuasion: Towards a Christian Empire, Curti Lectures for 1988, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1992

Authority and the Sacred: Aspects of the Christianisation of the Roman World, Tanner Lectures on Human Values, Cambridge University, November 1993, Cambridge University Press, 1995

The Rise of Western Christendom, AD 200-1000, Blackwell, 1996

Chapters 21 and 22 in The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume XIII, The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425, Cambridge University Press, 1998

Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire, Menahem Stern Jerusalem lectures, Jerusalem, May 2000, Brandeis University Press, 2001

A Life of Learning, Charles Homer Haskins Lecture delivered at ACLS Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, 2003, American Council of Learned Societies Occasional Paper no 55, 2003

First editions. Some have been revised. Why nothing recent? Wikipedia: “His current research focuses on wealth and poverty in late antiquity, especially in Christian writers.”


If I had to name the greatest living historian, I’d name Brown. Possibly I am missing a better candidate. He writes about the religious transformation of Greco-Roman society. The fourth, fifth and sixth centuries are the heart of his interests, but his work isn’t just patristics. It leads us into not the beleaguered afterlife or dusty aftermath of classical civilisation, but a luminous, spacious world explored for its own sake, and full of sensual realities. His books can appeal to anyone, learned or not, but they won’t appeal to the masses. He won’t write a bestseller. Wikipedia, edited:

“Brown, who reads at least fifteen languages, established himself at the age of 32 with his biography of Augustine of Hippo. Currently, Brown is arguably [why arguably?] the most prominent historian of late antiquity. Brown has been instrumental in popularizing late antiquity, the figure of the ‘holy man’ and the study of the cult of the saints.

“In his book The World of Late Antiquity (1971), he put forward a new interpretation of the period between the third and eighth centuries CE. The traditional interpretation of this period was centered around the idea of decadence from a ‘golden age’, classical civilization, after the famous work of Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1779). On the contrary, Brown proposed to look at this period in positive terms, arguing that Late Antiquity was a period of immense cultural innovation.

“Brown was influenced in his early works by the French Annales School, and specifically the figure of Fernand Braudel. Following this school, Brown analyzed culture and religion as social phenomena and as part of a wider context of historical change and transformation. The Annales influence in Brown’s work can also be seen in his reliance on anthropology and sociology as interpretative tools for historical analysis. Specifically, Brown received the influence of contemporary Anglo-American anthropology.

“His research has been devoted chiefly to religious transformation in the late Roman world. His most celebrated early contribution on this subject concerned the figure of the ‘holy man’. According to Brown, the charismatic, Christian ascetics (holy men) were particularly prominent in the late Roman empire and the early Byzantine world as mediators between local communities and the divine. This relationship expressed the importance of patronage in the Roman social system, which was taken over by the Christian ascetics. But more importantly, Brown argues, the rise of the holy man was the result of a deeper religious change that affected not only Christianity but also other religions of the late antique period – namely the needs for a more personal access to the divine. [The word access begs some questions.]

“His views slightly shifted in the eighties. In articles and new editions Brown said that his earlier work, which had deconstructed many of the religious aspects of his field of study, needed to be reassessed. His later work shows a deeper appreciation for the specifically Christian layers of his subjects of study. His book The Body and Society (1988) offered an innovative approach to the study of early Christian practices, showing the influence of Pierre Hadot and Michel Foucault’s work on the history of sexuality.”

Brown was born into a Scots-Irish Protestant family in Dublin.

1953-56: Modern History at New College

Then Merton and All Souls

1975-78: Professor of Modern History, Royal Holloway College, University of London

1978-86: Professor of Classics and History, University of California, Berkeley

From 1986: Philip and Beulah Rollins Professor of History, Princeton University (now Rollins Professor Emeritus)


There was a historian called Sir Samuel Dill (1844-1924) who took the fifth century seriously, but he dealt mainly with the western empire, ie Gaul and the world of Sidonius. His book was Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, Macmillan, 1898. I enjoyed it and have it. (He went backwards in another book in 1904, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, and forwards again in a posthumous book published in 1924, Roman Society in Gaul in the Merovingian Age.) Is he viewed as a groundbreaker now? He doesn’t have a Wikipedia article. Gooch writes in History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, Longmans, 1913 (1920 edition): “Professor Dill’s volumes on Roman Society have enriched the conception of history.” I think they did. Dill dealt with “society” in the way later historians would. Dictionary of Ulster Biography: “These books are less histories of a period than studies of the life of societies in dissolution or in spiritual crisis or decay, and reveal his moral and religious sympathies.” What does Peter Brown think about Samuel Dill? Dill was also an Irish Protestant and sometime Oxford man.

The historian who began to take Byzantium seriously in England was JB Bury (1861-1927) – whose only real pupil, Steven Runciman, died in 2000. Toynbee owed a debt to Bury. He would have had no excuse not to read Brown’s first two books, and he had rejected Gibbon’s shallow view of Christianity. But when you turn to him from Brown, you are reminded what a generalist he was much of the time, and needed to be. He was a specialist on aspects of the Greco-Roman world, but his most specialised writing is technical, its style lugubrious and pedantic. He would not have been capable, at this close range, of the supple and subtle narrations of Brown.

1897 and the end of history 2

June 19 2012

Sir Herbert Maxwell, in his Sixty Years a Queen, “The Story of Her Majesty’s Reign, Illustrated Chiefly from the Royal Collections”, [footnote: London 1897, arranged and printed by Eyre & Spottiswoode, published by Harmsworth Bros.] revealed to me, in his panorama, the achievements of Victorian England.

One of the Acknowledgments in the tenth volume of the Study which were so comprehensively ridiculed by Trevor-Roper.

Toynbee had referred to the same book in the preceding volume.

“History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London [1897] [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century.


“To me it is a matter of indifference whether he read some unimportant book in the library of the Athenæum Club or in No. 45 Pembroke Square, in the summer of 1907 or in September 1952.” Arnold Toynbee’s Millennium, Encounter, June 1957.

But he misses the point of those Acknowledgments. There is a larger humility and delight behind the apparent self-centredness. And Toynbee is a romantic. Moreover, if you have a critical mind, it doesn’t matter what you read, since all history is two histories anyway: the subject purportedly being handled and the viewpoint of the historian. The meaning is in the synthesis, as you, a further element, perceive it.

A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

Hastings vs Ferguson

June 12 2012

On the Second World War and other matters. Antony Beevor and Juliet Gardiner too, with Andrew Marr. BBC, Radio 4, Start the Week, June 11. Ferguson is, as always, entertaining.

Not just Ray Bradbury 4

June 11 2012

At what temperature do Kindles catch fire? Ray Bradbury will have hoped a low one.

Obits: New York Times; Telegraph; BBC. More via Arts & Letters.

Wikipedia article on The Toynbee Convector.

Last year, Robert Greaves noticed references to Toynbee in two stories by Arthur C Clarke. I then discovered that Toynbee had probably or certainly, depending on the case, influenced Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Charles Harness and Toynbee’s near-contemporary at Balliol, Olaf Stapledon.

Any influence on Heinlein must be in his Future History series.

Article on the idea of future history. It lists some writers. They have to be writing actual future history, ie fiction or virtual fiction: so no Alvin Toffler. At least two more names in this list should be mentioned. H Beam Piper was directly influenced by Toynbee. See John F Carr, H. Beam Piper, A Biography, Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, 2008. And W Warren Wagar wrote an article on Toynbee as a Prophet of World Civilization in CT McIntire and Marvin Perry, editors, Toynbee: Reappraisals, University of Toronto Press, 1989.

Not just Ray Bradbury

Not just Ray Bradbury 2

Not just Ray Bradbury 3

1897 and the end of history

June 4 2012

The outlook prevalent among people of the middle class in Great Britain at the earliest date in the last decade of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era at which the writer had begun to be aware of the psychological atmosphere of his social milieu was something that was best conveyed in caricature. In this milieu in the eighteen-nineties the feeling was:

“History is now at an end; this history is therefore final”;

[footnote: Sellar, W.C., and Yeatman, R. J.: 1066 and All That (London 1930, Methuen), p. viii.] and at this date this Weltanschauung was shared with an English middle class by the children of the German and the Northern American victors in the latest bout of Modern Western wars (gerebantur circa A.D. 1848-71). The beneficiaries from this aftermath of the General War of A.D. 1792-1815 had not, by then, begun to suspect, any more than their English “opposite numbers” had, that the Modern Age of Western history had been wound up only to inaugurate a post-Modern Age pregnant with imminent experiences that were to be at least as tragic as any tragedies yet on record. At the close of the nineteenth century even a German middle class, that was then still permitting itself to indulge in criminally irresponsible day-dreams of more frisch fröhlich six-weeks’ wars, was of the same mind as its North American and English “opposite numbers” in its workaday sober senses. In these three provinces of a post-Modern Western World an unprecedentedly prosperous and comfortable Western middle class was taking it as a matter of course that the end of one age of one civilization’s history was the end of History itself at least so far as they and their kind were concerned. They were imagining that, for their benefit, a sane, safe, satisfactory Modern Life had miraculously come to stay as a timeless present. “History is now at an end” was the inaudible slogan of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in A.D. 1897, which made a vivid and lasting impression upon the present writer’s childish imagination; and “this history is therefore final” was the invisible motto on the title-page of a topical publication – Sixty Years a Queen [footnote: Maxwell, Bart., Sir H.: Sixty Years a Queen (London [1897] [bracket in original], Harmsworth).] – which was the same child’s earliest source book of Western history in the nineteenth century. The assumption that the final product of those sixty years A.D. 1837-97 had come to stay was patently contrary to reason, considering that the pictures with which the text of Sixty Years a Queen was copiously illustrated presented a fascinatingly fast-moving pageant of change in every department of life, from Technology to Dress, in which change could clothe itself in visual form. In A.D. 1952 it was manifest in retrospect, even to the dullest eye, that this visual evidence had portended, not a perpetuation of the fleeting circumstances of late-nineteenth-century English middle-class life, but a revolutionary transformation of the ephemeral Victorian scene along the grim lines actually followed by the course of History within the next half-century. An oracular foreboding of the future was, indeed, uttered at the time by the Subconscious Psyche through an incongruous poetic medium. Yet Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional made little impression on the contemporaries of a Late Victorian poet who had found himself writing these ominous lines at an imperious Muse’s dictation. In the United Kingdom, as in Germany and in the Northern United States, the complacency of a post-Modern Western bourgeoisie remained unshaken till the outbreak of the first post-Modern general war in A.D. 1914.

English middle-class Conservatives for whom the Millennium had already arrived, and English middle-class Liberals for whom it lay only just round the corner, were, of course, aware that the English working class’s share in the middle class’s economic prosperity was shockingly small, and that British subjects in most of the colonies and dependencies of the United Kingdom were not enjoying a self-government that was the privilege of their fellow subjects in the United Kingdom itself and in a few other dominions of the British Crown; but these political and economic inequalities were discounted by Liberals as being something remediable and by Conservatives as being something inevitable. Citizens of the United States at the North were similarly aware, for their part, that their own economic prosperity was not shared by their fellow-citizens at the South, and that the fathers of these Southern contemporaries of theirs had seceded from the Union and had been brought back into it only by the force majeure of the North’s crushing victory over the South in a terrible civil war. Citizens of the German Reich were aware that the inhabitants of a “Reichsland” annexed from France after her crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of A.D. 1870-1 were still French at heart and that the rest of a French nation which had not yet ceased to be a Great Power was still unreconciled to the amputation of the ceded departments. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries France was still entertaining thoughts of a revanche, and the subject population in Alsace-Lorraine was still dreaming the same dream of an eventual liberation as other subject populations in Slesvik, Poland, Macedonia, and Ireland. These dissatisfied contemporaries of a sated German, British, and North American bourgeoisie were nursing national grievances and national aspirations which did not permit them to acquiesce in a comfortable belief that “History” was “at an end”; indeed they could not have continued, as they did continue, to keep alight the flickering flame of a forlorn hope if they had succumbed to a Weltanschauung which, for them, would have spelled, not security, but despair. Yet their unwavering confidence that a, to them, intolerable established régime must be borne away, sooner or later, by Time’s “ever rolling stream” made little impression on the torpid imagination of “the Ascendancy”. “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth”; [footnote: Isa. liii. 7.] and, though “the Ascendancy” was under a delusion in mistaking for an intimation of consent a silence that was inspired by the watchword “N’en parlons jamais, y pensons toujours”, [footnote: The watchword suggested for the guidance of members of the rising generation in France, on the morrow of her loss of Alsace-Lorraine in A.D. 1871, by a French statesman of an older generation (? Paul Déroulède).] [unusual question mark ... it seems to have been Gambetta who said this] there was in A.D. 1897 no living man or woman, even among the most sanguine-minded prophets of a nationalist or a socialist revolution, who dreamed that a demand for national self-determination was going to break up the Hapsburg, Hohenzollern, and Romanov empires and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland within the next twenty-five years, and going to spread, within another twenty-five years, from a few sore spots in Western Europe and in Orthodox Christendom to the uttermost parts of the Old World, or that a demand for social democracy was going to spread from the urban working class in a few precociously industrialized provinces of the Western World to the peasantry of Mexico and China. Gandhi (natus A.D. 1869) and Lenin (natus A.D. 1870) were then still unknown names; and the word “Communism” then commemorated a lurid event in the past that had been the last eruption of History’s now extinct volcano. This ominous outbreak of savagery in a Parisian underworld in A.D. 1871 was written off by optimistic post-Modern Western minds as an abnormal atavistic reaction to the shock of a startling military disaster, and there was no discernible fear of the recrudescence of a conflagration that had been smothered now for longer than a quarter of a century under a bourgeois Third Republic’s wet blanket. In 1897 a Western bourgeois gentilhomme’s sleep was not being seriously disturbed by prophetic nightmares.

The revelation of Thucydides

The view from 1897

Colonialism: The view from 1969

Victorian pennies were current until 1971, the year Britain completed its withdrawal from most of its bases east of Suez

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

The Chinese beat

May 17 2012

H. A. L. Fisher has made fun of me for taking the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang seriously. “In the great operatic performance of humanity he detects,” Fisher says of me, “the occurrence of this Leitmotiv of Yin and Yang. Other ears will be less sensitive to the regularity of the Chinese beat” (The Nineteenth Century and After, December, 1934, p. 672). On this I can only comment: “They have ears, but they hear not” (Psalm cxxxv.17).

Fisher made an oblique reference to Toynbee in the Preface to his History of Europe (1935).

“One intellectual excitement has [...] been denied to me. Men wiser and more learned than I have discerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another as wave follows upon wave, only one great fact with respect to which, since it is unique, there can be no generalizations, only one safe rule for this historian: that he should recognize in the development of human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen.”

(The Nineteenth Century was a monthly literary magazine founded in 1877 by James Knowles, architect of Albert Mansions in Victoria Street. Many early contributors were members of the Metaphysical Society (1869-80). In 1901, the title was changed to The Nineteenth Century and After. It was published with that name until 1951 (or 1972?). The Nineteenth Century and After was also the title of a poem by Yeats in The Winding Stair (1933).)

Colour printing on title pages is rare, and always pleasant to find. It was commoner in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when red was often used. The Taoist Yin-Yang symbol appears in blue and red, without dots, on the title page of A Journey to China, or Things Which Are Seen, Constable, 1931. On the South Korean flag, the red is on top of the blue, with no dots. Toynbee’s book has the red on the left and the blue on the right.

The Taegeuk symbol, without dots, appears in Korean carvings of the seventh century (or even earlier). As far as I know, it has never been used in Japan.

In China, the Taijitu symbol appears (according to Wikipedia) later: a version of it in the eleventh century (Northern Song) and something closer to the modern symbol in the sixteenth (Ming). When were the dots introduced in China?

The design has Celtic, Etruscan and Roman precedents which precede the earliest Korean examples, though no eastern origin for them has been shown. The classical pattern, with dots, appears for the first time anywhere in the Notitia Dignitatum, among shield patterns of the Western Roman army c AD 430. The document has survived in manuscript copies. There is a certain oriental appeal in these patterns at a distance.

The Yin and Yang duality is introduced in the first volume of A Study of History (pp 196-204).

They are always mentioned in this order – Yin, the static condition, and Yang, the dynamic activity – and never the other way round (Forke, A.: Die Gedankenwelt des chinesischen Kulturkreises (Munich and Berlin 1927, Oldenbourg), p. 110).

A Study of History, Vol XII: Reconsiderations, OUP, 1961 (footnote)

A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (footnote)

Ten historical novels

May 16 2012

William Skidelsky, The Observer, May 13.

Holland and Davies

April 25 2012

Not a Jermyn Street shirt shop, but authors of two books I would like to read.

Tom Holland’s In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World, Little Brown, 2012 will get the same mass readership as his others: Rubicon, Persian Fire, Millennium. The Romano-Persian Endgame and the Birth of Islam could be an alternative subtitle.

Michael Scott, Telegraph: “‘Is it possible,’ [Holland] asks, ‘that Islam, far from originating outside the mainstream of ancient civilisation, was in truth a religion in the grand tradition of Judaism and Christianity – one bred of the very marrow of late antiquity?’” Well, yes. Is that controversial?

Contents of Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe, Allen Lane, 2011:

Tolosa: Sojourn of the Visigoths (AD 418-507)

Alt Clud: Kingdom of the Rock (Fifth to Twelfth Centuries)

Burgundia: Five, Six or Seven Kingdoms (c. 411-1795)

Aragon: A Mediterranean Empire (1137-1714)

Litva: A Grand Duchy with Kings (1253-1795)

Byzantion: The Star-lit Golden Bough (330-1453)

Borussia: Watery Land of the Prusai (1230-1945)

Sabaudia: The House that Humbert Built (1033-1946)

Galicia: Kingdom of the Naked and Starving (1773-1918)

Etruria: French Snake in the Tuscan Grass (1801-1814)

Rosenau: The Loved and Unwanted Legacy (1826-1918)

Tsernagora: Kingdom of the Black Mountain (1910-1918)

Rusyn: The Republic of One Day (15 March 1939)

Éire: The Unconscionable Tempo of the Crown’s Retreat since 1916

CCCP: The Ultimate Vanishing Act (1924-1991)

Ben Wilson, Telegraph.

Dr Karl Lueger and Christian Socialism

April 24 2012

Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Ring in Vienna is renamed Universitätsring. BBC. In any German city, this would have happened decades ago.

Lueger was Mayor of Vienna from 1897 to 1910. Hitler paid tribute to him in Mein Kampf.

Lueger is pronounced Lu-eger, not Lüger.

Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Platz remains. So does the Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church) in the Zentralfriedhof (central cemetery). There is sycophancy in these chains of hyphens.

AJP Taylor in The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, Hamish Hamilton, 1948 edition:

“The ‘Austrian idea’ in its last version – an idea which in shaky form survived dynasty and Empire – was of Roman Catholic manufacture. The Christian Socialist party organised by Lueger was the first real attempt of the Church to go with the masses, more democratic – and more demagogic – than the Centre, its German counterpart. Christian Socialism appealed to the traditional clericalism of the peasant and yet freed the peasant from dependence on the landowner; more, despite the peasant’s hostility to the town, it brought the peasants into alliance with the shopkeepers and artisans who were threatened by the advance of great industry. In fact, the Christian Socialist party was the Austrian version of the Radical party in France (or even of Lloyd George radicalism in England), except that it worked with the Church instead of against it. It aimed to protect the ‘little man’ from limited companies and trade unions, from banks and multiple stores, and also from great estates and mechanised farming. It sought to divert the rising political passions into channels not dangerous to the Church: it was anti-liberal, anti-Jewish, anti-Marxist, anti-capitalist. The leaders of the movement knew exactly what they were about: though they appealed to base passions, especially anti-Semitism, they supposed that they could always control the passions which they evoked. Lueger declared, ‘I decide who is a Jew,’ and firmly protected any Jew who kept clear of liberalism and Marxism. Seipel, a later leader, said of his party’s anti-Semitism: ‘That is for the gutter.’ He had no inkling that the gutter would one day murder his successor [Dollfuss]. Christian Socialism was an attempt to touch pitch and not be defiled. As the party of the ‘little man,’ it was Imperial ‘by appointment’; its supporters knew the value of the Archdukes’ custom. Traditional Austrians were at first shocked by the Christian Socialist demagogy; and, in the ’nineties Francis Joseph four times refused to confirm Lueger as Mayor of Vienna. In 1897 he was accepted; and the dynasty acknowledged that it had found a new ally.”


Mahler’s reign at the Hofoper was nearly coterminous with Lueger’s at the Rathaus: 1897-1907.

I learned at the tram stop shown in the BBC story, as it happens, of the death of Arnold Toynbee, through a copy of The Times that I bought at its kiosk on October 24 or 27 1975. “A great historian” was the obituary’s headline.

Dr.-Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche; architect: Max Hegele; Flickr credit: elrina753

Schama meets Hobsbawm

April 15 2012

Simon Schama talks to the 94-year old Eric Hobsbawm at Hobsbawm’s house in Hampstead. At BBC iPlayer until April 21.

When I was growing up, there was much more of this kind of thing on BBC radio, because more of these educated central Europeans, exiles and children of exiles, were still living. They lent a certain flavour to postwar English life, and to the BBC itself, as staff and as subjects. Many lived in Hampstead. Hobsbawm and Alfred Brendel must be the last two still there. I lived for a time in my twenties in part of the Hampstead house of one of them, Fred Uhlman.

Selling Hitler

March 31 2012

Since Hugh Trevor-Roper is a recurring character in this blog, I have to link to the last two, very entertaining, episodes of a reading of Robert Harris’s Selling Hitler on BBC Radio 4 Extra: episodes 7 (available till April 4) and 8 (till April 5).

The story so far:

1981. Gerd Heidemann, a reporter with the German magazine Stern, makes what he believes is the literary and historical discovery of the century.

Over the next two years, Stern secretly pays a mysterious “Dr Fischer” nearly 9 million marks for sixty volumes of “diaries” written in Hitler’s hand for the years 1932-45 and for a supplementary volume about Rudolf Hess. They had been discovered, allegedly, in the wreck of a plane which had crashed in a forest in 1945 while carrying Hitler’s personal archive.


We are in 1983. Rupert Murdoch has acquired the English-language publishing rights from Stern for $1.2 million. In November 1945 British intelligence had commissioned Trevor-Roper to investigate the circumstances of Hitler’s death. He had subsequently written The Last Days of Hitler. Now, on Saturday April 23, having barely glanced at the notebooks in the vault of a bank in Zurich, he pronounces them authentic in Murdoch’s The Times, basing his judgment on circumstantial evidence.

Before his article is published, forensic evidence is released which is at best problematic. The holocaust-denying historian David Irving states in print that the diaries are forgeries. Trevor-Roper starts to have doubts.

On the Saturday, his article open in front of him, he calls The Times to express them, hoping that the editor will prevent Murdoch’s The Sunday Times from publishing the first extracts on the following day. He does not. Publication goes ahead, and very unconvincing the diaries are.

A press conference is called for Monday April 25 in Hamburg to launch Stern’s publication of further extracts. Heidemann and Trevor-Roper sit alongside its bullish editors. Trevor-Roper, for whom this has turned into a nightmare, voices his doubts. Irving speaks from the audience. The event is a catastrophe for all on the panel.

The diaries are revealed as the work of a Stuttgart criminal, Konrad Kujau. Heidemann and Kujau go to jail. Most of the money has gone into Heidemann’s pocket, though not all is accounted for. The forger is full of moral indignation at Heidemann’s dishonesty, having received only a couple of million marks.

This “disagreeable episode” (as he called it on Desert Island Discs; listen here) did not affect the quality of Trevor-Roper’s subsequent work. Its greatest irony was that the reputation of a great historian was undermined in part by a man as disreputable as David Irving. With help, from the other side, from a man as disreputable as Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch, according to Harris, said only three things about the whole affair:

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

“After all, we are in the entertainment business.”

“The circulation went up and it stayed up. We didn’t lose money or anything like that.”

Murdoch, Heidemann and Irving are still alive.

A clip from Phoenix about the affair in German, including shots of the press conference: