FW Maitland makes a counterintuitive point: reading history backwards helps us to discard modern baggage. He is writing about English legal history, but I suppose this can apply elsewhere.
“The task of reconstructing ancient ideas is hazardous, and can only be accomplished little by little. If we are in a hurry to get to the beginning we shall miss the path. Against many kinds of anachronism we now guard ourselves. We are careful of costume, of armour and architecture, of words and forms of speech. But it is far easier to be careful of these things than to prevent the intrusion of untimely ideas. In particular there lies a besetting danger for us in the barbarian’s use of a language which is too good for his thought. Mistakes then are easy, and when committed they will be fatal and fundamental mistakes. If, for example, we introduce the persona ficta too soon, we shall be doing worse than if we armed Hengest and Horsa with machine guns or pictured the Venerable Bede correcting proofs for the press; we shall have built upon a crumbling foundation. The most efficient method of protecting ourselves against such errors is that of reading our history backwards as well as forwards, of making sure of our middle ages before we talk about the ‘archaic’, of accustoming our eyes to the twilight before we go out into the night.”
“The law implied in Domesday Book ought to be for us very difficult law, far more than the law of the thirteenth century, for the thirteenth century is nearer to us than is the eleventh. The grown man will find it easier to think the thoughts of the school-boy than to think the thoughts of the baby. And yet the doctrine that our remote forefathers being simple folk had simple law dies hard. Too often we allow ourselves to suppose that, could we but get back to the beginning, we should find that all was intelligible and should then be able to watch the process whereby simple ideas were smothered under subtleties and technicalities. But it is not so. Simplicity is the outcome of technical subtlety; it is the goal not the starting point. As we go backwards the familiar outlines become blurred; the ideas become fluid, and instead of the simple we find the indefinite. But difficult though our task may be, we must turn to it.”
Reading backwards is implied in the title of the book from which this is taken: Domesday Book and Beyond, Cambridge University Press, 1897.
Archive for the 'Historiography' Category
Anthropologist and historian who writes about England, Nepal, China, Japan.
Interviewing a Cambridge street sweeper and authority on the town, Allan Brigham, in 2013.
Reading a May 2000 lecture given at Downing College, Cambridge on FW Maitland, the great legal and constitutional historian and thinker, author of Domesday Book and Beyond and The Constitutional History of England, in 2013.
Another Maitland lecture, Department of Social Anthropology, Cambridge, November 2001.
(Trivia: it was the Maitlands with whom Tchaikovsky, between whose Julian and Gregorian 175th birthdays we now are, stayed at Downing in the early summer of 1893, a few months before his death, to receive an honorary doctorate from Cambridge. He found them “the most charmingly sympathetic of people – and moreover, Russophiles, which is a great rarity in England”.)
Highly original – so he appears: I have only read part of Forgotten Wars – historian of India, and then of the world, from about 1770 into the twentieth century. He seems to have been as revered in India as Raymond Carr was in Spain.
An Indian trilogy:
Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (2007), the last two with Timothy Harper
Note the suggestion of the tapering penis favoured by many classical and classically-influenced artists, which is at the same time, here, I suppose, a piece of racial stereotyping. Girodet was a pupil of David.
Interview by Alan Macfarlane, July 24 2014:
Raymond Carr obituaries:
“Just as ‘le Cobb’ (Professor Richard) and ‘il Mack Smith’ (Mr Denis) enjoyed an extraordinary fame in the countries (France and Italy respectively) which they made their subjects, so ‘el Carr’ became little short of a national hero in Spain.” (Telegraph, my links)
… or, How we spoke then
This is October 28 1954.
Moderator: Glyn Daniel again.
Challenger: Manchester Museum.
The series looks thoroughly English, but it was, in fact, a copy of a CBS programme called What in the World?, which ran in the US from 1951 to ’65.
The BBC programme began with “good” music (familiar, but I can’t identify it); the CBS does a spoof of science fiction soundtracks of the time, though I think even here the music may actually be “good” (we get Peter Grimes at one point as well).
In one episode, at some point in 1955, CBS asked a panel to examine some of the objects that had been presented on the October 28 1954 BBC show.
Moderator: Froelich Rainey, who had appeared in the BBC episode.
Challenger: Manchester Museum.
Rainey, the moderator of much or all of the series, was director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. (You may need to route through the UK here, too, if you are elsewhere in Europe.)
A commenter says:
“Funny how the American accent hasn’t changed at all in nearly 60 years, while the English accent has changed utterly.”
I would say the American way of speaking has changed somewhat. For one thing, there are fewer old-style European accents such as those of Lipchitz (who reminds me of Fritz Reiner) and Ettinghausen.
But the ’60s noticeably changed the way “educated” British spoke. I called Glyn Daniel’s accent “fake” in the last post.
Until the ’60s and later, if you rose in society, and especially if you spoke on the BBC, you were expected to drop your regional and/or class accent in favour of received pronunciation. Toynbee would have called this an “ordeal”. A few professional Yorkshiremen, Irishmen and trade unionists were licensed provincials and could keep theirs.
But if you were covering up a very strong accent, the strain would sometimes show. I am sure it does with Daniel, who was the son of a village schoolmaster in Wales. He sounds as if he has taken elocution lessons. The disguise is too perfect. Others simply talk as they talk. Educated English could sound natural.
BBC English was a formal version of mid-twentieth century received pronunciation. We often hear it, since it has been much recorded. It is better described as a version of educated English than as upper-class English.
The Oxford English which Toynbee spoke was a variant of educated English, but came from a way of talking at the university, not in the rest of the town (let alone in the county).
Other terms used are Standard English and the Queen’s English, but even the Queen has changed her pronunciation over the past half-century.
The masses were going to be able to listen to broadcasts, so deciding what they should hear, and in what tones, was a heavy responsibility. Long before television had got underway, the BBC’s Director-General (1927-38) Lord Reith declared that the BBC’s purpose was to “inform, educate and entertain”, but the emphasis under Reith and afterwards was on informing and educating.
After Reith, the BBC’s prestige was increased during, and by, the war.
A similar patrician spirit is seen in a reviewer’s statement in the 1950s about The Pelican History of England, which I have quoted.
Experts spoke down to the public. They were experts. Hence a radio programme called The Brains Trust. I can just about remember another called The Critics. It was the age of “the critic”, whose literary high priest was FR Leavis.
Related post on the high priests of Darmstadt in the 40’s and ’50s.
The excellent BBC Third Programme (radio) was dedicated to introducing the public to “good music”.
This, I suppose, is some of the cultural context of Animal, Vegetable, Mineral?
A quadrumvirate (old post).
BBC, October 1 1958:
I mentioned this series in the last post but one.
Challenger: Victoria and Albert Museum.
There is a further clip from the programme in 1953 here (unused Pathé footage of a visit by the Queen to the BBC’s Lime Grove Studios, probably on November 4; Glyn Daniel and Mortimer Wheeler, two other unidentified panelists).
The popularity of this series then may be hard to understand now. Daniel is not that relaxed or urbane, Wheeler is subtly obnoxious. I offer it as social history.
BBC television, May 3 1956.
The programme ran from 1952 to ’59. The “chairman” (of many or most episodes) was Glyn Daniel. The producer (of much or all of the series) was David Attenborough. In each episode a different museum would challenge the studio panel with its objects.
Challenger: National Museum of Prague, in the silent person of Dr Jiří Neústupný. Mary Adams of the BBC went to Prague to meet him and bring him to London. For many episodes, it was Attenborough who made the visits. This, incidentally, was broadcast before the Hungarian Revolution.
Attenborough is already arranging ambitious travel for the sake of a television arts programme. He would bring this to a new level when he commissioned Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation a little over a decade later.
This was the year in which, as a result of appearances on this programme, Mortimer Wheeler, who was not a pop singer, became Television Personality of the Year.
Childe was the author of a Pelican that was in the bedrooms or beside the fireplace of every educated household in England in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s: What Happened in History. Less than eighteen months after this, he jumped to his death off Govett’s Leap in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales.
I have made some corrections to the last post.
For all Toynbee’s importance as a historian, one expects a society inspired by him to be run by sociologists rather than by those of his own profession. Like Othmar Anderle’s International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilisations, founded in Salzburg in 1961 and extant in the US. Toynbee distanced himself from it (McNeill, page 251); its website and newsletters are not those of a front-ranking academic entity. Or by enthusiasts, like the Toynbee Society founded in Japan in 1968 (McNeill, page 269).
He gave his blessing to Japan, but in the previous year had vetoed a proposal for a Toynbee Society in England (McNeill, page 333).
“The use of my name would be bound to revive controversies about my work. I dislike controversy; and I do not want to be diverted by it again from more constructive uses of my time and energy.”
I referred in an old post to Toynbee’s “unusual appeal to the partly-educated outside the West”. Serious scholars, wherever they were, tended to ignore Toynbee because the theoretical basis of his work was judged to be weak. The valuable elements in it were then overlooked.
But the Toynbee Prize Foundation seems respectable and it is heartening to find it. I should have flagged it before. Nor does it appear to be one of those US foundations which hijack old-world ideas to make them serve narrow new-world agendas. Like (to refer to another historian) the Acton Institute in Grand Rapids.
“Named after Arnold J. Toynbee, the Toynbee Prize Foundation was chartered in 1987 ‘to contribute to the development of the social sciences, as defined from a broad historical view of human society and of human and social problems.’ The Foundation seeks to promote scholarly engagement with global history through several activities.
“Foremost among these is the Toynbee Prize, an award granted every other year to recognize outstanding work in global history. As an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, the Foundation sponsors one session at the Association’s annual meeting. In the years in which the Prize is awarded, the recipient presents a lecture. In alternate years, the Foundation sponsors a session on global history.
“More than this, however, the Foundation sponsors engagement with global history through several online activities. It publishes the leading online journal of global history, New Global Studies. It organizes the Global History Forum, an online space that promotes new outstanding work in global history through interviews, conference reports, and thought pieces by both Foundation editors and solicited authors. It supports the publication of content related to diplomatic history on the Network for New Diplomatic History. Finally, it curates content from around the Web for publication on the Global History Blog. These activities reflect the diverse range of ways in which the Foundation contributes to the field of global history – indeed the development of the social sciences writ large.
“The Foundation, based in Massachusetts, is tax exempt under Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.”
Address: 255 State St, Boston, MA 02109-2167. My question about how it was funded got this answer from Raymond Grew:
“The Toynbee Prize Foundation is funded by a small endowment to which individuals contribute and by grants from other foundations for specific projects.” We are not told where the money first came from in 1987.
Map of global history institutions (which does not include the ISCSC).
William McNeill, op cit, was the winner in 2008.
Dipesh Chakrabarty, the newest recipient
The best version of Walton’s Richard III prelude on YouTube – part of his music for Laurence Olivier’s film – is Brazilian.
Richard’s remains are being moved from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral today via local villages, taking in the site of the Battle of Bosworth. The cortège was on its way at the time of posting. He will be buried in the cathedral on Thursday.
The Orquestra Filarmonia of the Theatro São Pedro in São Paulo under Paulo Maron, April 2002, isn’t the best orchestra (like Schoenberg’s music, it is perhaps better than it sounds), but it doesn’t matter, because it does the piece with such verve. The collapse into the big tune at 1:12 is just right. The way to keep Waltonian bombast at bay is to keep the music moving.
The prelude was arranged from the film score by the conductor of the soundtrack Muir Mathieson.
Mathieson also arranged a Richard III suite, but the prelude is not part of it. On YouTube with Walton conducting the Philharmonia. There is no funeral music here. There is in Walton’s Hamlet.
Christopher Palmer’s arrangement, Richard III, A Shakespeare Scenario, has music with words and lasts 45 minutes. On YouTube with Neville Marriner, Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and John Gielgud.
Renato Rocha on why Richard III speaks to Brazilians, Guardian, April 23 2012.
Walton’s Shakespeare films:
As You Like It (1936)
Henry V (1944)
Richard III (1955)
Paul Czinner directed and Laurence Olivier starred in As You Like It. Olivier directed and starred in the other three.
Tony Palmer’s film about Walton At the Haunted End of the Day used the fanfare which opens the Richard prelude to accompany shots of the Ischia-dwelling Walton arriving at Heathrow for his eightieth birthday celebrations in 1982 and being driven into town in a Rolls Royce. That’s how a grand old composer should arrive.
There are two nineteenth-century orchestral pieces about Richard III, a symphonic poem (1857-58) by Smetana and an overture (1870s?) by Robert Volkmann. Both solid pieces of orchestral furniture. Smetana also wrote some fanfares for Richard (1867) for brass and timpani, presumably for a production of the play. Volkmann quotes, half way through, The Campbells are Coming, in allusion to Richard’s war with Scotland.
Smetana, Czech Philharmonic, Rafael Kubelik:
And the Smetana fanfares, Fanfary k Richardovi III, BBC Philharmonic, Gianandrea Noseda:
Volkmann, Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, Carl Schuricht, Stuttgart, September 12 1952:
Until recently there was no opera. But now we have one, by Giorgio Battistelli.
Here is the whole 1955 film:
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Grim-visaged war hath smooth’d his wrinkled front;
And now, instead of mounting barded steeds
To fright the souls of fearful adversaries,
He capers nimbly in a lady’s chamber
To the lascivious pleasing of a lute.
But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks,
Nor made to court an amorous looking-glass;
I, that am rudely stamp’d, and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them;
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.
Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other:
And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous,
This day should Clarence closely be mew’d up,
About a prophecy, which says that ‘G’
Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be.
Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here
Nought shall make us rue (recent post).
When […] you are travelling by air from Salt Lake City [Utah, west of the Rockies] to Denver [Colorado, east of the range], the nearest view of the Rockies is not the best one. While you are actually over the mountains, you see nothing but a maze of peaks, ridges, gullies, and crags. It is not until you have left the mountains behind you and are looking back at them as you fly over the plains that they rise up before you in their magnificent order, range behind range. It is only then that you have a vision of the Rockies themselves.
Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948
Wells’s A Short History of the World (1922) is not an abridgement of his much longer The Outline of History (1919-20), but (he claimed) a new work. They are no more than period pieces now, but enjoyable in small doses because Wells. This is from the shorter work.
The omissions are of words and phrases that make no sense, but I have left the rest as it is.
“The earliest boats […] must have come into use some twenty-five or thirty thousand years ago. Man was probably paddling about on the water with a log of wood or an inflated skin to assist him, at latest in the beginnings of the Neolithic period. A basketwork boat covered with skin and caulked was used in Egypt and Sumeria from the beginnings of our knowledge. Such boats are still used there. They are used to this day in Ireland and Wales and in Alaska; sealskin boats still make the crossing of Behring Straits. The hollow log followed as tools improved [might it not have preceded?]. The building of boats and then ships came in a natural succession.
“Perhaps the legend of Noah’s Ark preserves the memory of some early exploit in shipbuilding, just as the story of the Flood, so widely distributed […], may be the tradition of the flooding of the Mediterranean basin.
“There were ships upon the Red Sea long before the pyramids were built, and there were ships on the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf by 7000 B.C. Mostly these were the ships of fishermen, but some were already trading and pirate ships – for knowing what we do of mankind we may guess pretty safely that the first sailors plundered where they could and traded where they had to do so.
“The seas on which these first ships adventured were inland seas on which the wind blew fitfully and which were often at a dead calm for days together, so that sailing did not develop beyond an accessory use. It is only in the last four hundred years that the well-rigged, ocean-going, sailing ship has developed. The ships of the ancient world were essentially rowing ships which hugged the shore and went into harbour at the first sign of rough weather. As ships grew into big galleys they caused a demand for war captives as galley slaves.
“We have already noted the appearance of the Semitic people as wanderers and nomads in the region of Syria and Arabia, and how they conquered Sumeria and set up first the Akkadian and then the first Babylonian Empire. In the west these same Semitic peoples were taking to the sea. They set up a string of harbour towns along the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean, of which Tyre and Sidon were the chief; and by the time of Hammurabi in Babylon, they had spread as traders, wanderers and colonizers over the whole Mediterranean basin. These sea Semites were called the Phœnicians, They settled largely in Spain, pushing back the old Iberian Basque population and sending coasting expeditions through the straits of Gibraltar; and they set up colonies upon the north coast of Africa. Of Carthage, one of these Phœnician cities, we shall have much more to tell later.
“But the Phœnicians were not the first people to have galleys in the Mediterranean waters. There was already a series of towns and cities among the islands and coasts of that sea belonging to a race or races apparently connected by blood and language with the Basques to the west and the Berbers and Egyptians to the south, the Ægean peoples. These peoples must not be confused with the Greeks, who come much later into our story; they were pre-Greek, but they had cities in Greece and Asia Minor; Mycenæ and Troy for example [which would become Greek], and they had a great and prosperous establishment at Cnossos in Crete.
“It is only in the last half century that the industry of excavating archæologists has brought the extent and civilization of the Ægean peoples to our knowledge. Cnossos has been most thoroughly explored; it was happily not succeeded by any city big enough to destroy its ruins, and so it is our chief source of information about this once almost forgotten civilization.
“The history of Cnossos goes back as far as the history of Egypt; the two countries were trading actively across the sea by 4000 B.C. By 2500 B.C., that is between the time of Sargon I and Hammurabi [modern dating places Sargon of Akkad around 2300 BC, Hammurabi of Babylon around 1800 BC], Cretan civilization was at its zenith.
“Cnossos was not so much a town as a great palace for the Cretan monarch and his people. It was not even fortified. It was only fortified later as the Phœnicians grew strong, and as a new and more terrible breed of pirates, the Greeks, came upon the sea from the north.
“The monarch was called Minos, as the Egyptian monarch was called Pharaoh; and he kept his state in a palace fitted with running water, with bathrooms and the like conveniences such as we know of in no other ancient remains. There he held great festivals and shows. There was bull-fighting, singularly like the bull-fighting that still survives in Spain; there was resemblance even in the costumes of the bull-fighters; and there were gymnastic displays. The women’s clothes were remarkably modern in spirit; they wore corsets and flounced dresses. The pottery, the textile manufactures, the sculpture, painting, jewellery, ivory, metal and inlay work of these Cretans was often astonishingly beautiful. And they had a system of writing [Linear A], but that still remains to be deciphered.
“This happy and sunny and civilized life lasted for some score of centuries. About 2000 B.C. Cnossos and Babylon abounded in comfortable and cultivated people who probably led very pleasant lives. They had shows and they had religious festivals, they had domestic slaves to look after them and industrial slaves to make a profit for them. Life must have seemed very secure in Cnossos for such people, sunlit and girdled by the blue sea. Egypt of course must have appeared rather a declining country in those days under the rule of her half-barbaric shepherd kings, and if one took an interest in politics one must have noticed how the Semitic people seemed to be getting everywhere, ruling Egypt, ruling distant Babylon, building Nineveh on the upper Tigris, sailing west to the Pillars of Hercules (the straits of Gibraltar) and setting up their colonies on those distant coasts.
“There were some active and curious minds in Cnossos, because later on the Greeks told legends of a certain skilful Cretan artificer, Dædalus, who attempted to make some sort of flying machine, perhaps a glider, which collapsed and fell into the sea.
“It is interesting to note some of the differences as well as the resemblances between the life of Cnossos and our own. To a Cretan gentleman of 2500 B.C. iron was a rare metal which fell out of the sky and was curious rather than useful – for as yet only meteoric iron was known, iron had not been obtained from its ores. Compare that with our modern state of affairs pervaded by iron everywhere. The horse again would be a quite legendary creature to our Cretan, a sort of super-ass which lived in the bleak northern lands far away beyond the Black Sea. Civilization for him dwelt chiefly in Ægean Greece and Asia Minor, where Lydians and Carians and Trojans lived a life and probably spoke languages like his own. There were Phœnicians and Ægeans settled in Spain and North Africa, but those were very remote regions to his imagination. Italy was still a desolate land covered with dense forests; the brown-skinned Etruscans had not yet gone there from Asia Minor. And one day perhaps this Cretan gentleman went down to the harbour and saw a captive who attracted his attention because he was very fair-complexioned and had blue eyes. Perhaps our Cretan tried to talk to him and was answered in an unintelligible gibberish. This creature came from somewhere beyond the Black Sea and seemed to be an altogether benighted savage. But indeed he was an Aryan tribesman, of a race and culture of which we shall soon have much to tell, and the strange gibberish he spoke was to differentiate some day into Sanskrit, Persian, Greek, Latin, German, English and most of the chief languages of the world.
“Such was Cnossos at its zenith, intelligent, enterprising, bright and happy. But about 1400 B.C. disaster came perhaps very suddenly upon its prosperity. The palace of Minos was destroyed, and its ruins have never been rebuilt or inhabited from that day to this. We do not know how this disaster occurred. The excavators note what appears to be scattered plunder and the marks of the fire. But the traces of a very destructive earthquake have also been found. Nature alone may have destroyed Cnossos, or the Greeks may have finished what the earthquake began.”
Was the scene at the waterfront ever played out? Perhaps it was. An “Aegean” gentleman (whether or not of the blood and race of “Basques”, “Berbers” and “Egyptians”), presumably dark, from Cnossos meeting an “Aryan” slave-captive from the steppe?
Guardian obituary. “Historian of medieval Rome and the Middle East who attacked the simplistic contrasts drawn between the west and Islam.”
I haven’t read him, but enjoyed his opponent Walter Ullmann’s drily formidable The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages, A Study in the Ideological Relation of Clerical to Lay Power in my sixth form.
In the village of Ankershagen, between Waren and Penzlin in the Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, of which Heinrich’s father, Ernst Schliemann, was the Protestant pastor, and where Heinrich lived from his second to his fifteenth year (A.D. 1823-36), there were two elements in the social milieu – the local folk-lore and the pastor’s personal interest in Hellenic history – that made their impress on Heinrich’s receptive mind; and “the persistence with which, throughout his life, he recalled the scenes of his youth and wrote to the people there – a family-feeling which no love of country had helped to nourish in this cosmopolitan – indicates the depth of those first experiences and discoveries”. [Footnote: Ludwig, E.: Schliemann of Troy (London 1931, Putnam), p. 135.]
“Just behind our garden was a pond called ‘das Silberschälchen’, out of which a maiden was believed to rise each midnight, holding a silver bowl. There was also in the village a small hill surrounded by a ditch, probably a prehistoric burial-place (or so-called Hünengrab), in which, as the legend ran, a robber knight in times of old had buried his beloved child in a golden cradle. Vast treasures were also said to be buried close to the ruins of a round tower in the garden of the proprietor of the village. My faith in the existence of these treasures was so great that, whenever I heard my father complain of his poverty, I always expressed my astonishment that he did not dig up the silver bowl or the golden cradle, and so become rich.” [Footnote: Schliemann, ibid., pp. 1-2. [Refers to Schliemann, H.: Ilios (London 1880, John Murray).]]
The curiosity of the future excavator of the treasures buried in the Second City at Troy and in the royal tombs at Mycenae was diverted from Mecklenburg to the Mediterranean by his father’s talk of the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum and his recital of the tale of the Trojan War; and here, twelve days before Heinrich’s eighth birthday, the decisive impact was made by an engraving, [footnote: reproduced by Emil Ludwig in his Schliemann of Troy (London 1931, Putnam), facing p. 106.] representing the flight of Aeneas from the burning city of Ilium, in a Universal History [footnote: written by Dr. Georg Ludwig Jerrer, and published at Nuremberg in 1828. Some forty years after Schliemann’s death, this volume was found among his books and papers in his house at Athens by his biographer (see Ludwig, Emil: Schliemann of Troy (London 1931, Putnam, p. 24).] which was the father’s present to his son on Christmas Day 1829. [Here is a link to an 1833 edition of the second volume.] The boy had long been grieved to hear from his father that Troy had vanished without leaving a trace, and this picture – depicting massive city-walls – was naïvely taken by little Heinrich as evidence that his father had after all, happily been mistaken, since the author of the book must have seen Troy as it was here represented. When his father replied that the picture was merely a fanciful one, Heinrich drew from him the admission of his belief that Troy must, in fact, have had walls as massive as those which the imaginary picture displayed.
“‘Father’, retorted I, ‘If such walls once existed, they cannot possibly have been completely destroyed: vast ruins of them must still remain, but they are hidden away beneath the dust of ages.’ He maintained the contrary, whilst I remained firm in my opinion, and at last we both agreed that I should one day excavate Troy. … Thanks to God my firm belief in the existence of that Troy has never forsaken me amid all the vicissitudes of my eventful career; but it was not destined for me to realise, till in the autumn of my life …, our sweet dreams of fifty years ago”. [Footnote: Schliemann, ibid., pp. 3 and 5.]
The “our” at the end, a long footnote tells us, refers not to Schliemann’s father but to a never-forgotten childhood friend with whom he had hoped to spend his life, Minna Meineke, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer.
Another footnote confusingly connects an observation that Waren was probably inhabited by descendants of Warni or Varini with one that the Teutonic-speaking barbarians who descended on the Aegean after AD 375 anticipated Schliemann’s descent.
The flight of Aeneas, in Jerrer’s Weltgeschichte für Kinder
Walls of Troy VII, the level likely to be the Troy of the Iliad; Schliemann, at least initially, placed Homer’s Troy lower, at the level of Troy II; Wikimedia Commons
Nine Troys, via ancient-wisdom.co.uk; opens in a new window; map by Lloyd K Townsend; image truncated: Troy I (2900-2500 BC) is at the bottom
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
In the tenth volume of A Study of History (though there were two more to come, almost as afterthoughts), Toynbee is demob-happy. He throws off the scientific scholar’s mask and comes out as an unadulterated romantic. We read about his emotional responses to passages by great and not so great historians and at the sites of historical events. We learn about his heroes. All this is mocked by Trevor-Roper. A long passage about Schliemann, from which I took a fragment in the last post, who overcame all personal difficulties and disadvantages and transformed the study of ancient Greece, is therefore uncritical. I will quote more of it in a future post.
In the present writer’s mind, the heroic exemplar of an invincible curiosity’s response to the challenge of heart-breaking circumstances had always been Heinrich Schliemann (vivebat A.D. 1822-90), ever since a memorable day at Winchester when the writer as a boy had listened spell-bound to his master M. J. Rendall retailing, with zest, the salient episodes of this romantic life in a parenthesis during a session officially allocated to the construing of the Iliad.
[Schliemann], who had spent his fifteenth to his forty-second year (A.D. 1836-63) in accumulating the means, spent his forty-seventh to his sixty-ninth year (A.D. 1868-90) in disinterring from the ground, and retrieving from oblivion, not only Troy, but Ithaca, Mycenae, Orchomenos, and Tiryns as well.
In an Annex, Toynbee, after further examining Schliemann’s international business career, celebrates other businessmen who were also serious scholars: George Grote, James Ford Rhodes, Walter Leaf. Grote was a banker in Threadneedle Street and wrote a history of Greece which became famous. Rhodes was an American industrialist and historian of the US. Leaf was the chairman of Westminster Bank and the leading Homer exegete of his day. Leaf did much of his work before retiring.
Goethe is Toynbee’s main German hero. But Goethe never visited Greece: he discovered Greek architecture in Sicily and was startled by its simplicity. Toynbee hardly ever mentions Goethe’s
revered plebeian forerunner Johann Joachim Winckelmann, the shoemaker’s son
who first articulated the difference between Greek, Greco-Roman and Roman art, also never visited Greece, and has a claim to have been the founder of modern archaeology. The fashion of going to Greece started with Byron, when Goethe was old.
Toynbee, like less romantic people of his generation, hero-worshipped Schliemann, but Schliemann’s shortcomings were well known when he was writing. Schliemann timeline:
1868. Having made his money, visited Homeric sites in Greece and Asia Minor.
1869. Published first book, Ithaka, der Peloponnes und Troja, in which he argued that Hisarlık, a large man-made mound in Asia Minor, not Pınarbaşı, a short distance south of it, was the site of Troy (as it is still thought to be) and that the graves of the Greek commander Agamemnon and his wife Clytemnestra were not outside the citadel walls at Mycenae but inside them. He wanted to prove that the Iliad and Aeneid reflected historical events.
Married a Greek schoolgirl named Sophia Engastromenos, having divorced his Russian wife, Ekaterina.
1871. Joined the English archaeologist Frank Calvert (whom Britannica confuses with his brother Frederick) at Hisarlık. Schliemann took sole credit for identifying the site even though Charles Maclaren had suggested it as the location of Homeric Troy as early as 1822 and Calvert was the first to dig there.
He and Calvert worked on the eastern half of the site. The Turkish government owned the western half. Schliemann believed that the Homeric Troy must be at the lowest level.
1873. Uncovered fortifications and the remains of a city (“Troy”) and a treasure of gold jewellery (“Priam’s treasure”). We now know that the level he named the Troy of the Iliad was a thousand years older than Troy.
The treasure even looks anachronistic at this level. Did Schliemann plant it there? His excavations were condemned by later archaeologists as having destroyed the main layers of the real Troy. Even Calvert seems to have had doubts.
“Schliemann may not have discovered the truth, but the publicity stunt worked, making Schliemann and the site famous and igniting the field of Homeric studies in the late 19th century.” (Lauren Stokes, Trojan wars and tourism: a lecture by C. Brian Rose, The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore College, November 23 2005.)
1874. Published Trojanische Alterthümer. His discoveries were received sceptically by many scholars. Others, including Gladstone, and a wide public, accepted his identification.
When he proposed to resume work in February, the Turkish government revoked his permission to dig and sued him for a share of the treasure. Collaborating with Calvert, Schliemann smuggled it out of Turkey. He defended this as an attempt to protect the items from corrupt officials.
After much haggling the Turkish authorities agreed to drop their claim in return for a large cash sum. It was eventually presented to the German nation and housed in a museum in Berlin. It disappeared in 1945 and reappeared in 1993 in Moscow.
1874-76. Dug first at the site of the Treasury of Minyas at Orchomenus in Boeotia, and found little. Published Troja und seine Ruinen (1875) and began excavation at Mycenae in the Peloponnese. Here, in 1876, he discovered gold, silver, bronze and ivory objects. He believed he had found the tombs of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. His greatest trophy, the Mask of Agamemnon, is now known, once again, to be several centuries older.
Some have said that Schliemann salted his digs with artefacts from elsewhere. He could even have had the mask manufactured on the general model of the other Mycenaean masks and found an opportunity to place it in the excavation.
“The Greek authorities have wisely refused to allow [the objects] to be tested; who would want to risk killing a golden goose that attracts the tourists in their thousands? [Has anyone “tested” the treasure in Moscow?] […] [His diaries] frequently disagree with the details given in his books, and show signs of having been tampered with at crucial points. There are too many instances of his improving stories in the telling, or even appropriating to himself events that happened to someone else, for us to be able to accept his word, at least where he could obtain an advantage by the deception. The morals of the market place were imported into the world of scientific scholarship.”
In 1876 he received permission to resume excavations at Hisarlık, but he did not reopen the site until 1878.
1878-79. Published Mykenae. After an unsuccessful excavation on the Ionian island of Ithaca (mentioned in the Odyssey) in 1878, resumed work at Hisarlık. In the following year was joined there by Emile Burnouf and Rudolf Virchow.
1882-83. Third excavation at Troy.
1884. Excavated fortified site of Tiryns, near Mycenae, with Wilhelm Dörpfeld.
1888-90 (his death). Fourth excavation at Troy, with Dörpfeld.
Schliemann thought that there must have existed a civilisation earlier than Mycenaean Hisarlık, and he guessed that it might be in Crete. He had hoped to work there. In the event, the discovery of Minoan Crete was left to Sir Arthur Evans ten years after Schliemann’s death.
(The Mycenaean Greeks controlled the Aegean after the fall, c 1400 BC, of the pre-Greek Minoan civilization – script: Linear A, undeciphered – and built fortified citadels and large palaces. They spoke a form of Greek; script: Linear B, deciphered. Their culture in its last phase is portrayed in the Homeric poems. Their power declined during widespread upheavals at the end of the Mediterranean Bronze Age, around 1100 BC.
When I first learned about Troy, I was bothered by the fact that the Trojans seemed as Greek as the Greeks. In fact, they probably spoke another Indo-European language, widely used in Anatolia, called Luwian, though there are no Trojan inscriptions. It is clear from the Iliad that they had a close relationship with the Greeks on their west. They had a similar relationship with the Hittites on the east.)
Schliemann died in Naples. His corpse was transported to the First Cemetery of Athens and interred in an elaborate mausoleum designed by Ernst Ziller. His palace in Athens, the Iliou Melathron (Ιλίου Μέλαθρον, Palace of Ilium), is now the Numismatic Museum.
Through his books and dispatches to The Times, the Daily Telegraph and other papers, he became the first populariser of archaeology (an equivalent, perhaps, of William Howard Russell as the first war correspondent). He inspired scholars as well as the public. When he died, John Myres said that it seemed that “the spring had gone out of the year”.
When he began excavating, no corpus of accepted practice existed for archaeological fieldwork. He was a pioneer, like Flinders Petrie and Augustus Pitt-Rivers. Stratigraphy had been observed and understood in Danish peat bogs, the Jutland barrows, and prehistoric Swiss lake dwellings, but Hisarlık was the first large dry-land man-made mound ever dug. It is not surprising that Schliemann was puzzled by what he found, but, eventually, with the help of Dörpfeld, he was able to untangle the stratigraphy and admitted his initial mistakes. He did well for someone starting to dig in the 1870s, yet is criticised by those who are excavating similar mounds more than a century later.
Did he, a victim of what Eliza Marian Butler called “the tyranny of Greece over Germany”, get carried away? Was he a con-man? He was certainly learned and spoke and read many languages. His record-keeping was suspect. He seems to have twisted a few things. For Toynbee, his net contributions to knowledge, the fields which he opened up, were so large, and his career was so romantic, that his defects could be overlooked. But GP Gooch had been able to give this account of him in History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century, Longmans, Green and Co, 1913:
“After Thirlwall and Grote [above], Duncker and Curtius, it might seem as if there was only room for monographs; but during the last quarter of the century the discoveries of Schliemann [footnote: See Schuchhardt, Schliemann’s Excavations, 1891.] revolutionised the treatment of early Greek history. At seven he read of the burning of Troy and longed to visit the site, declaring that the fortifications could not have wholly vanished. At ten he wrote a Latin essay on the Trojan war. His father’s poverty compelled him to begin earning his living at fourteen, and it was not till the age of thirty-four that he began to learn Greek. At forty-one he had become a rich man and retired from business. In 1870 he began the excavation of Hissarlik, and in 1874 published his ‘Trojan Antiquities.’ The learned world laughed at his naïve identifications of the objects and buildings described in the Iliad, and he confused the different strata superimposed upon one another. None the less his discoveries aroused world-wide interest, while his shortcomings were only known to scholars. Hindered in his work at Troy by the Turkish Government he transferred his attention to Mycenae, where he discovered the graves of the kings filled with gold and other ornaments. In a telegram to the King of the Hellenes he announced that he had found Agamemnon and his household; but more careful study revealed the fact that the treasure did not belong to a single period and that the number and sex of the persons did not agree with the legend. It was, however, of minor importance whether the body of Agamemnon or of other kings had been found; for he had revealed a vanished civilisation. He next discovered at Orchomenos the so-called Treasury of Minyas, and, after a further visit to Troy in company with Dörpfeld, laid bare the fortress-city of Tiryns, the neighbour of Mycenae.
“When Schliemann died in 1890 he had filled the world with his fame. In twenty years he had unearthed three cities, had revealed Mycenaean civilisation, and had given an incalculable impetus to archaeological research. Yet he was almost pathetically incompetent to interpret the marvellous treasures he had brought to light. He was filled with a romantic attachment to Greece. He married a Greek lady, and called his son Agamemnon and his daughter Andromache. But he possessed neither the training nor the qualities required for the task of scientific excavation. He treated Homer as the historian no less than the poet of the Trojan wars. He held the Mycenaeans to be Homer’s Achaeans, and it was left to others to point out that the civilisation of Mycenae was pre-Homeric, and to Dörpfeld to prove that the city of Hector and Achilles was the sixth, not the second. Schliemann was a pioneer, a conquistador, [footnote: Salomon Reichnach.] and much of his work has had to be done again by Dörpfeld. Like Cesnola, who spent years burrowing in the sites of Cyprus, his sumptuous volumes are of little value for the purposes of exact scholarship. If he revealed the romantic possibilities of excavation, his errors emphasised the need of professional training.”
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954
Heinrich Schliemann, the excavator of Troy, was the son of a Protestant clergyman in the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He learned Latin as a boy, but not Greek, and could not afford to go to university. Greece had obsessed him since early childhood, but he gave himself to archaeology only after a highly successful business career.
In 1837, at the age of fifteen, he was working in Theodore Hückstädt’s grocer’s shop at Fürstenberg.
“As long as I live, I shall never forget the evening when a drunken miller came into the shop. … He was the son of a Protestant clergyman in Roebel, Mecklenburg, and had almost completed his studies at the gymnasium of Neu Ruppin when he was expelled on account of his bad conduct. … Dissatisfied with his lot, the young man gave himself up to drink, which, however, had not made him forget his Homer; for, on the evening that he entered the shop, he recited to us about a hundred lines of the poet, observing the rhythmic cadence of the verses. Although I did not understand a syllable, the melodious sound of the words made a deep impression upon me, and I wept bitter tears over my unhappy fate. Three times over did I get him to repeat to me those divine verses, rewarding his trouble with three glasses of whisky, which I bought with the few pence that made up my whole fortune. From that moment I never ceased to pray God that by His grace I might yet have the happiness of learning Greek.”
He would teach himself as an adult. From the autobiographical note in Schliemann’s Ilios, English edition, John Murray, 1880.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
In Xanadu (1989), following the path taken by Marco Polo from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the site of Shangdu, Xanadu, in Inner Mongolia, the summer seat of Kublai Khan. Posts here: Xanadu and Jehol, The Silk Road and Summer capitals, summer palaces.
City of Djinns (1994), about Delhi, where he lives.
From the Holy Mountain: A Journey in the Shadow of Byzantium (1997), about eastern Christianity. Posts here: Indian churches, Christians and Yazidi, and work back from links in latter.
The Age of Kali (1998), about trouble in modern India. Kali Yuga is the fourth age in Hindu cosmology.
Editor, Lonely Planet Sacred India (1999).
Begums, Thugs and White Mughals – The Journals of Fanny Parkes (2002), an edition of the travel journals of Fanny Parkes, who travelled in India from 1822 to ’46 and wrote Wanderings of a Pilgrim in Search of the Picturesque.
Return of a King – The Battle for Afghanistan (2012), about the first Anglo-Afghan War, 1839-42.
TV, radio, journalism.
Links to podcasts this year in the BBC Radio 4 Point of View series, with my comments:
A Lenten reflection, April 4. About the discovery, by a British hunting party in 1819, of the painted caves at Ajanta, in the western Ghats in central Maharashtra. “Along with the frescoes of Pompeii, […] the greatest picture gallery to survive from the ancient world.” The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks, but show the sensual life of the court in which the Buddha grew up, not the austerities of the religious life. They were probably painted in the 2nd century BC, with a later group from the 5th century CE. There was no conflict between the sacred and the sensual in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, says Dalrymple; he does not dwell on Hindu traditions of mortifying the flesh.
Later: Buddhist, Jain and Hindu carvings and fragments of paintings in caves at Ellora in Maharashtra. Buddhist and Hindu carvings in caves on Elephanta Island in Mumbai harbour. Erotic Jain and Hindu carvings at temples in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh.
The puritanical break in India, he suggests, came not with Islam, but with the British, with effects still felt today in a false reinterpretation of their history by Hindus. Africans and Muslims are doing the same thing with theirs. What is rejected as unMuslim and unAfrican is often nineteenth-century unWestern.
The locus classicus in modern Western art of wild eroticism united with religious sensibility is Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie. Its original inspiration wasn’t Indian, but its title is a composite of two Sanskrit words, turanga and lîla, which, apparently, roughly mean “love song and hymn of joy, time, movement, rhythm, life, and death”. (How odd that Bernstein, who conducted the Boston premiere, never returned to it or recorded it.)
A tale of two elections, April 11. About the 2014 elections in India and Afghanistan.
Travel-writing giants, April 18. About Peter Matthieson, who had just died, and Patrick Leigh Fermor.
Last year in the same series, we had Islamo-Christian heritage, December 20 2013, about the old sharing of sacred space in Egpyt, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, India by Christians, Muslims and Jews. I quoted from it here.
Islam did not tolerate Christianity: it showed great tenderness towards it. Dalrymple quotes examples from Akbar’s abortive capital at Fatehpur Sikri. Mary is mentioned more often in the Quran than in the Gospels. Many apocryphal sayings of Jesus were and are current in Islam.
Contested sites and the failure to share: Jerusalem and Ayodhya, the Temple Mount and Ram Janmabhoomi. Though the Israeli occupiers of the Temple Mount do enforce a ban on prayer by non-Muslims at its Umayyad structures, a ban which some orthodox Zionists would like to defy and nearly all Muslims demand.
The writer could still [in A.D. 1952] recapture the excitement to which he had been moved at the time by a lantern-lecture that Sir Aurel Stein had given at Oxford, in the great hall of the Examination Schools, at some date while the writer was an undergraduate (studia exercebat A.D. 1907-11). The panoramas of huge snow-covered mountain ranges would flash up in his visual memory, and he could recall how, when the lecturer had mentioned, in passing, that he had lost some toes there through frost-bite, the eager listener had recognized that he was in the presence of a discoverer who was indeed in earnest about his intellectual mission.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
In his study in Cambridge, appearing at two or three moments in this Pathé newsreel about the year 1945. There are disturbing images. Narration: Bob Danvers-Walker.
Born in the Andaman Islands, grew up under the Raj, descendant of Walter Raleigh, of whom he wrote a biography, and of Macaulay. And of Macaulay’s nephew George Otto Trevelyan of The Competition Wallah, and many other Trevelyans, and related to GM Trevelyan.
Guardian, by a relative, James Trevelyan:
“Raleigh’s yearning to revisit his childhood home at Gilgit, in Pakistan took him back to the country in the last years of his life, following his father’s footsteps to the high polo meadows of Hunza, a trek considered too dangerous for him when he was there as a boy.”
A few weeks ago, I was given his The Golden Oriole, which looks like a very rich social history of the Raj, not only based on family papers. I’ll be reading it at Christmas.
He also wrote two books about his experiences in Italy during the war, The Fortress: A Diary of Anzio and After and Rome ’44.
An immersion in clear, cool and still waters (old post).
“The spider has wove his web in the imperial palace, and the owl hath sung her watch-song on the towers of Afrasiab.”
Ferdowsi, quoted by Gibbon.
[Footnote: “From Saint Sophia he [Mehmed the Conqueror] [bracket in Toynbee] proceeded to the august but desolate mansion of an hundred successors of the Great Constantine, but which, in a few hours, had been stripped of the pomp of royalty. A melancholy reflexion on the vicissitudes of human greatness forced itself on his mind, and he repeated an elegant distich of Persian poetry.” – Gibbon, E.: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. lxviii.
In a footnote, Gibbon observes that “this distich, which Cantemir gives in the original, derives new beauties from the application. It was thus that Scipio repeated, in the sack of Carthage, the famous prophecy of Homer. The same generous feeling carried the mind of the conqueror to the Past or the Future.”]
The prophecy, uttered by Hector, is in Book II of the Iliad, lines 448-49. The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire by the polyglot Dimitrie Cantemir, Prince of Moldavia, one of Gibbon’s sources, was written in Latin. Was Gibbon reading the English translation? Who translated the distich by Ferdowsi?
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
Hugh Trevor-Roper broadcasting in French on France Culture radio on April 14 1967. It isn’t clear to me who the live audience is and whether invited or public, nor why he was asked, or chose, to speak about Churchill. He worked at MI6 during the war, but never met Churchill, though he came to know Randolph later. He admired Churchill’s life of Marlborough.
He was, at the time of this lecture, taking a strong stand against the proposed London staging of a play by Rolf Hochhuth which alleged that Churchill had been responsible for the death of the Polish prime minister, General Sikorski, in a plane crash in 1943. In April 1943 the Germans had announced the discovery of mass graves filled with the bodies of thousands of Polish prisoners of war murdered by the Soviets at Katyn Forest in 1940. Churchill, it was alleged, feared that Sikorski’s questions would damage Britain’s relations with Russia. The holocaust-denier David Irving was a friend of Hochhuth and in on the controversy.
Soon afterwards, Trevor-Roper would be on the editorial board, with Sir Mortimer Wheeler, AJP Taylor and others, of a magazine issued in 112 weekly parts by Purnell (1969-71) based on the text of Churchill’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
He isn’t really speaking French, but Trevor-Roper lecturese. Lectures were not his best medium. That was the essay.
In December 1906, [the writer] had been staying with a pair of distinguished scholars in the persons of his uncle Paget Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1855-1932), the author of A Dictionary of Proper names [sic] and Notable Matters in the Works of Dante [footnote: Oxford 1898, Clarendon Press.] and his aunt Helen Toynbee (vivebat A.D. 1868-1910), [footnote: Née Helen Wrigley, of Bury, Lancs.] the editor of Horace Walpole’s letters. At the close of an agreeable and stimulating visit, in which the boy had unselfconsciously disclosed historical interests embracing the Assyrians, the Fourth Crusade, and whatnot, he was chilled by a piece of parting advice which his uncle gave him out of the kindness of his heart. “Your Aunt Nellie and I”, the Dante scholar had announced, “have come to the conclusion that you have been dispersing your interests too widely, and our advice to you is to make your choice of some single subject and to concentrate hereafter on that.” In A.D. 1952 the writer had a still freshly vivid recollection of his own instantaneous conviction that this advice was bad, and of his likewise instantaneous decision not to follow it; and his uncle subsequently gave him reason in retrospect by amiably sacrificing his own pernicious intellectual principles on the altar of personal affection when his wife’s literary work was cut short by her premature death. From that day onwards, her loving survivor took her Walpole, as well as his Alighieri, under his wing in order to complete her edition of the letters as a labour of love. [Footnote: Paget Toynbee was handsomely rewarded for an unprofessional human piety that had taken for its counsellor an unerring heart instead of a fallible head. For one thing, he became almost as highly distinguished in the field of scholarship bequeathed to him by his wife as he had long since been in his own field. But his most gratifying reward was that, when he had made room in his quiver for Horace Walpole’s works beside Dante’s, he found himself armed with an unfailing store of apt quotations. It was hardly possible for there to be any event in the news which a scholar who had thus made himself a double hāfiz could not illustrate by a passage from one or other of the two authors whose works this intellectual archer now knew by heart. On the slightest provocation he would shoot a letter, containing a quotation from either Walpole or Dante, at the editor of The Times; and, as the quotation was always attractively felicitous and the covering letter always discreetly short, the literary arrow usually went home and, in the course of years, the deft archer scored a prodigious tale of hits. Thus, thanks to his unprofessional addition of a second string to his academic bow, Paget Toynbee succeeded in lodging in the columns of The Times a quantity of letters [1908-31] that can hardly have been equalled by any of his contemporaries.]
If Arnold Toynbee had been less inclined towards family piety, one might find something condescending in the last sentence, though not, of course, in the term “unprofessional”, which was entirely one of approbation. DNB, CM Ady, rev. Diego Zancani, quoting an obituary in The Oxford Magazine: “For Toynbee, Dante was a ‘treasure house full of obscurities and difficulties which needed elucidation and solution, and he spared no pains to provide them’. Although he confined himself to the accumulation and elucidation of facts, making no attempt at literary appreciation, his exhaustive memory and tireless energy won him a worldwide reputation as a Dantist […].”
“After his wife’s death in 1910 Toynbee took up her unfinished task of editing Walpole’s letters, and Horace Walpole, to whom Dante was ‘extravagant, absurd, disgusting, in short a Methodist parson in Bedlam’ (letter to William Mason, 1782), from then on shared Dante’s place in his activities, which resulted in three supplementary volumes of Letters (1918-25) and the Correspondence of Gray, Walpole, West and Ashton (2 vols., 1915). Toynbee was described as being both physically and mentally ‘ponderous and forceful’ in later life, as if ‘he intentionally limited his field of activity in order to probe deeper into it’ (Oxford Magazine, 722). After 1910 Toynbee, who had no children, and who suffered the consequences of typhoid fever, lived the life of a recluse at Fiveways, the house which he built at Burnham, Buckinghamshire, in 1907.”
Where was he living in 1906?
In two letters to The Times he manages to mention both Dante and Walpole.
July 20 1923:
January 13 1928:
His last letter, August 15 1931:
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
… or, Religio historici 4.
Why do people study History? Why, to put the question ad hominem, had the writer of the present work been studying History since he was a child and been spending thirty years on this book which he was now finishing? Is an historian born or made? Every historian will have his own answer to this question, because he will be speaking from his own experience. Quot homines; tot sententiae: [footnote: Terence: Phormio, Act II, scene iv, line 14 (= line 454 of the play).] each must speak for himself. The present writer’s personal answer was that an historian, like anyone else who has had the happiness of having an aim in life, has found his vocation in a call from God to “feel after Him and find Him”. [Footnote: Acts xvii. 27.]
If this personal answer finds any favour with the reader, it may help us also to answer a second question that is implicit in the one from which we have started. In beginning by asking ourselves why we study History we have begged the question: What do we mean by History? And the writer, continuing to speak simply for himself from his personal experience, would reply that he meant by History a vision – dim and partial, yet (he believed) true to reality as far as it went – of God revealing Himself in action to souls that were sincerely seeking Him. Since “no man hath seen God at any time” [footnote: John i. 18; 1 John iv. 12.] and our clearest visions are but “broken lights” of Him, [footnote: Tennyson: In Memoriam, Invocation, stanza 5, line 3.] there are as many angles of vision as there are vocations, and the historian’s angle is only one among a number of diverse angles from which souls with diverse gifts and diverse experiences obtain diverse partial visions of God seen through diverse fractions of His “inconceivably mighty works”. [Footnote: “Die unbegreiflich hohen Werke” – Goethe: Faust, l. 249 […].] Besides the historian’s angle there is the astronomer’s, the physicist’s, the mathematician’s, the poet’s, the mystic’s, the prophet’s, the priest’s, the administrator’s, the lawyer’s, the soldier’s, the sailor’s, the fisherman’s, the hunter’s, the shepherd’s, the husbandman’s, the artisan’s, the engineer’s, the physician’s – and this roll-call could be extended over many pages, since human vocations are as numerous and as various as the glimpse of God that each of them gives is narrow and feeble. Among these innumerable angles the historian’s angle is only one; but, like the others, it makes a distinctive contribution of its own to Mankind’s piecemeal vision of reality. History’s contribution is to give us a vision of God’s creative activity on the move in a frame which, in our human experience of it, displays six dimensions. The historical angle of vision shows us the physical cosmos moving centrifugally in a four-dimensional frame of Space-Time; it shows us Life on our own planet moving evolutionarily in a five-dimensional frame of Life-Time-Space; and it shows us human souls raised to a sixth dimension by the gift of the Spirit, moving, through a fateful exercise of their spiritual freedom, either towards their Creator or away from Him.
A plumber has a religion. Religion is your angle on the universe, nothing more or less.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
One of the incidental and undesigned effects of the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids and devastation of ʿIrāq was, as we have noticed already in an earlier context, the birth, in a ci-devant Syriac World’s now derelict north-eastern provinces, of an Iranic Muslim Civilization, affiliated to the Syriac, in which, for most purposes other than the exposition of Islamic theology, a New Persian language and literature were to supplant the Arabic language and literature that had been dominant in all provinces of Dār-al-Islām during the six centuries intervening between the overthrow of the Sasanids by the Primitive Muslim Arab ghāzis and the overthrow of the ʿAbbasids by the pagan Mongols. When a previously oecumenical Arabic culture retreated westwards before the face of the oncoming Mongols into a fastness in Egypt with a glacis in Syria and an eastern frontier at the western elbow of the River Euphrates, a New Persian literature that, by this time, had been on the rise for some three hundred years now at last came fully into its own; and this was perhaps the only creative cultural activity in the conquered and devastated half of Dār-al-Islām that benefited from the disaster on the very morrow of it. During the lifetime of the survivors of a generation in Dār-al-Islām that was old enough to have completed its education in a classical Arabic language and literature before the catastrophe of A.D. 1258, the cultivation of the New Persian language and literature was already relieved of the incubus of the cultural ascendancy of Arabic without being yet impoverished by being cut off from the living sources of Arabic literary inspiration. The period of Mongol domination in Iran and ʿIrāq (currebat A.D. 1258-1337) was an age in which the leading Persian men of letters were still bilingual in the full sense of still being able not merely to read Arabic but also to write in it, as well as in their native Persian tongue; [footnote] and it was also an age which produced incomparably eminent Persian historians, in contrast to both the previous and the subsequent age, in which the brightest stars in the firmament of a New Persian literature were, not historians, but poets. [Footnote.]
[First footnote in last paragraph: This point is made by Browne in op. cit. [Browne, E. G.: A Literary History of Persia […] (Cambridge 1928, University Press)], vol. iii, pp. 62-65. The historian Rashīd-ad-Dīn (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318), for example, made it his practice to arrange for the translation of his Persian works into Arabic and the translation of his Arabic works into Persian. Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s own account of these arrangements of his is quoted verbatim, from man. arabe No. 356, foll. 1 et seqq. in the Bibliothèque Nationale [ci-devant Royale] in Paris, by E. M. Quatremère in his life of Rashīd-ad-Dīn prefixed to his edition of part of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s Jāmiʿ-al-Tawārīkh (“A Comprehensive Collection of Histories”), Histoire des Mongols de la Perse, vol. i (Paris 1836, Imprimerie Royale), pp. cxxxiv-cxxxvi. A student of History will be reminded of the cultural situation in Italy under an Ostrogoth domination (durabat A.D. 493-535), when the leading Italian men of letters were still conversant with Greek as well as with their native Latin.]
[Second footnote: The pre-Mongol age of New Persian literary history had been made illustrious by Firdawsī (vivebat circa A.D. 932-1020/1) and by Saʿdi (vivebat circa A.D. 1184-1292); the post-Mongol [Timurid] age was to be made illustrious by Hāfiz (obiit A.D. 1389) and by Jāmi (vivebat A.D. 1414-92). […]]
Saadi was probably born a little later than Toynbee states and was surely not pre-Mongol: “the unsettled conditions following the Mongol invasion of Khwarezm and Iran led him to wander for thirty years abroad through Anatolia, Syria, Egypt and Iraq” (Wikipedia). And if he mentions Saadi, why not his contemporary Rumi, the most famous of all Persian poets in the West, who settled in Anatolia?
Later in the same volume he calls a Time of Troubles “an historian’s golden age”.
The ascendancy of the historians in the intervening Il-Khānī Age is significant; and it is no less significant that the two greatest members of this pleiad – ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī (vivebat A.D. 1226-83) and Rashīd-ad-Dīn Fadlallāh Tabīb al-Hamadāni (vivebat circa A.D. 1247-1318) – were also eminent civil servants in the Mongol Il-Khāns’ service, and that two of the lesser lights, Wassāf-i-Hadrat ʿAbdallāh b. Fadlallāh of Shirāz and Hamdallāh Mustawfī of Qazwīn, both of whom were protégés of Rashīd-ad-Dīn’s, were officials of the Il-Khānī Government’s Internal Revenue Department.
The pagan barbarian conquerors of Iran and ʿIrāq, who held out for thirty-seven years (A.D. 1258-95) after their conquest of Baghdad before succumbing to Islam themselves, had found themselves from the outset unable to dispense with the services of their newly acquired Muslim subjects; for the conquerors’ purpose in invading Dār-al-Islām and overthrowing the Caliphate had been to step into the Caliph’s shoes; and the only means by which these interloping barbarians could ensure that, after they had extinguished the Caliphate, the Caliph’s government should be carried on for their benefit was by drawing upon an existing panel of native Persian Muslim professional administrators. The historian ʿAlā-ad-Dīn ʿAtā Malik-i-Juwaynī’s brother, Shams-ad-Dīn Muhammad Juwaynī, managed the administration of Hūlāgū’s appanage for the conqueror and for his first two successors during twenty-one years (A.D. 1263-84) of the Il-Khānī regime as their sāhib-dīwān, and the two brothers were the sons of a mustawfi’l-mamālik (minister of finance) and the grandsons of a prime minister of a by then already fainéant ʿAbbasid Caliphate’s Khwārizmian successor-state in the north-eastern marches of Dār-al-Islām, over against the Eurasian Steppe, on which the Mongol storm had broken in its full fury in A.D. 1220 at the fiat of a world-conquering Chingis.
A discussion of Rashid-al-Din and Juvayni follows.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
“A near future will, it is to be hoped, blot out the scandal that such heathendom should ever have established itself on European soil. What has this Turkish Empire done in three entire centuries? It has done nothing but destroy.”
The same front matter page in the same pamphlet quotes Gladstone.
The title page has
“THE LIBERATION OF THE PEOPLES WHO NOW LIE BENEATH THE MURDEROUS TYRANNY OF THE TURKS”; and “THE EXPULSION FROM EUROPE OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE WHICH HAS PROVED ITSELF SO RADICALLY ALIEN TO WESTERN CIVILIZATION.”
Joint Note of the Allied Governments in answer to President Wilson.
Which the body of the text clarifies thus:
President Wilson, in his note to all the belligerent governments, called upon both parties to state in the full light of day the aims they have set themselves in prosecuting the War. The Allied Nations, in their joint response made public on January 11th, 1917, explain that they find no difficulty in meeting this request, and make good their words by stating a series of definite conditions. Among them are:
“The liberation of the peoples who now lie beneath the murderous tyranny of the Turks; and
“The expulsion from Europe of the Ottoman Empire, which has proved itself so radically alien to Western Civilisation.”
The plan of the Allies for the settlement of Turkey is thus communicated to the world without reserve, and it is worth examining what it involves, and why it is right.
No source is given for the Treitschke. Treitschke’s main historical work is Deutsche Geschichte im neunzehnten Jahrhundert (up to 1848), Leipzig, Hirzel, five volumes, 1879-94:
Bis zum zweiten Pariser Frieden
Bis zu den Karlsbader Beschlüssen
Bis zur Juli-Revolution
Bis zum Tode König Friedrich Wilhelms III
Bis zur März-Revolution.
The propagandist (old post).
“The Murderous Tyranny of the Turks”, with a Preface by Viscount Bryce, Hodder & Soughton, 1917
Gibbon’s treatment of Gregory the Great is a monument of the historian’s virtuosity in the unamiable art of bestowing praise in terms that are more devastating than a candid censure:
“The pontificate of Gregory the Great … is one of the most edifying periods of the history of the Church. His virtues, and even his faults, a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition, were happily suited to his station and to the temper of the times. …
“Experience had shown him the efficacy of these pompous rites … and he readily forgave their tendency to promote the reign of priesthood and superstition. …
“The most abject ideas must be entertained of their [the sixth-century Italians’] [bracket in original] taste and learning, since the epistles of Gregory, his sermons, and his dialogues are the work of a man who was second in erudition to none of his contemporaries.”
These are three fair samples of the laudatory arrows with which Gibbon has nailed his mighty victim to his sarcastic page in the forty-fifth chapter of his work.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
New popular history monthly (March 2014-) to compete with BBC History Magazine (May 2000-) and History Today (January 1951-). Immediate Media Company, Bristol. Subscribe.
Not a military magazine or war series or other special, just a magazine. The most downmarket of the three, but not a disaster, and good bathroom reading.
History Today (old post).
To a friend today: “To be fair to AJT, he was interested in parallels first, patterns second, cycles third.”
History Today has the wrong kind of online back issue archive. The Times has done it right.
Most publications do it wrong. What about The Tablet? Its archive, going back to its foundation – 1840, midway between Catholic emancipation and the restoration of the hierarchy – is important. It has an additional interest for me because of a family connection.
It, too, gives us OCRd text full of scanning errors. It generously says that it hopes to eliminate all of them in time. But this an impossible task. And why show OCRd text at all? The Times doesn’t present a single word like this, but offers high-resolution, generously-sized, fully-searchable images of original pages and articles.
The Tablet then tries to make up for the scanning mess – which is more than History Today does – by giving us rather mean little sub-windows onto the original printed pages. They don’t show enough and are awkward to navigate. To navigate an article in The Times, you don’t slide it around within a sub-window in your screen. Your screen is the window.
3 out of 10. A pity, because this is a major resource. The Tablet, again generously, makes it available to non-subscribers.
“His ideas on the nature and development of freedom are certainly relevant today; he indicated, for example, how important it is to protect freedom not only from its enemies but also, and even more so, from its well-meaning friends. He was devoted to the Catholic Church, whose communion, he said, was literally dearer to him than life. Yet Acton was not much preoccupied with ‘liberal Catholicism’ […]. Rather, his essential concern was with truth and how easily it could be manipulated by its apparent servants – in the name of religion or politics – so that the end would appear to have justified the means.”
Portrait by Franz Seraph von Lenbach, c 1879
Portrait by Peter Rauter
Roland Hill, the modern biographer of Lord Acton, died on June 21. He was a family friend: I have improved his Wikipedia entry. The only obituary I can find is in The Tablet, but it is rather meanly (for an article published today) hidden behind a subscriber paywall.
His main two books were Lord Acton, Yale University Press, 2000 and A Time Out of Joint: A Journey from Nazi Germany to Post-War Britain, IB Tauris & Co, 2007. On June 12 2000, I attended a lunch at Carlton House Terrace, presided over by Owen Chadwick, for the launch of the first. In 2003, I read a draft of the second in typescript.
Hill, a German Jew, had arrived in England as a refugee, after some continental peregrinations, in July 1939. He came to know the editor of The Tablet, Douglas Woodruff. Later, in 1952, he joined The Tablet’s staff as an assistant. I forget how long he stayed. My father was Woodruff’s deputy. Woodruff was married to Acton’s granddaughter Marie Immaculée Antoinette, Mia Woodruff.
Hill wrote his only piece for History Today in the year he joined The Tablet (History Today’s second year): it was on Acton (HT, August 1952). Paul Lay, the editor, has kindly given me permission to republish it.
The text is from HT’s not always reliable online archive. I have corrected it, made some interpolations in square brackets and added links.
The piece opens with a slip. Acton’s grandfather, Sir John Acton, was the admiral, not the general. The general was his brother Joseph. They were both in the service of Ferdinand I. In 1799 John secured a dispensation from Pius VI to marry his brother’s thirteen-year old daughter, Mary Anne. The older of his two sons was Lord Acton’s father.
“A Liberal, a Catholic and a great Historian who yet never composed a great work of history – these are some of the aspects in which Roland Hill considers Lord Acton’s career.”
“No great liberal historian has had a family background less liberal or more unacademic than Acton. It was love of power and money that brought advancement to his grandfather, General Acton [no, see note above!], in the service of Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. His father, Sir Richard [or Ferdinand], was a Tory squire, and his mother a member of an old Rhineland family, the Dalbergs, who had safely passed from Napoleonic orbits into the conservative and dynastic society that ruled most of Europe after the Congress of Vienna. John Acton himself was born at Naples in 1834, in Bourbon days. [He was an only child.] At the age of three, when his father died, he first came to live in England, at Aldenham [Aldenham Park or Hall, Shropshire, the family seat]. His young mother [Marie Louise Pelline de Dalberg] married again, and the friendly though remote influence of his stepfather, Lord Leveson, afterwards Earl of Granville and Foreign Secretary, gave the historian his earliest acquaintance with Whig traditions. Perhaps he owed more at this stage, however, to the benevolent concern of his uncle, Monsignor, and later Cardinal, Acton, that he should receive an English education.
“He was sent to school at Oscott, then under the presidency of Bishop Wiseman. [His father’s Catholicism had not prevented him from going to Westminster School.] ‘I am very happy here,’ he wrote to his mother, ‘and perfectly reconciled to the thought of stopping here seven more years.’ He was popular and intelligent, but not very industrious. At the age of sixteen, after a short stay at a private school in Edinburgh, he went to Munich in 1850 to complete his education in the household of Stiftspropst (Canon) Ignaz Doellinger [should be von Doellinger]; since he was a Catholic he could not be accepted either at Cambridge or Oxford. Another reason for the choice of Munich was that the Dalbergs had property nearby, at Tegernsee [which is a town as well as a lake]; there also was the house of Acton’s cousins, the Arco-Valleys, one of whom [Countess Marie Anna Ludomilla Euphrosina von Arco auf Valley, daughter of Count Maximilian von Arco auf Valley] he later married. [So Acton’s grandfather married an Acton. His father married a Dalberg. Acton married an Arco. Acton’s son married a Lyon. His grandson married a Strutt, whom I remember.]
“Doellinger’s influence was the most important in Acton’s life. When his pupil arrived, the Professor was fifty-one; he was a Privat-gelehrter, not formally connected with the University, though he occasionally lectured at it. As Stiftspropst, he was in close contact with the court of Maximilian II of Bavaria and as member of the Landtag he had attended the Frankfurt Parliament of 1848. His reputation as a Church historian was high; in episcopal circles he was very much respected and generally regarded as one of the leaders of the German Ultramontanists. The classical tradition of German literature and the Romantic revival had combined to form his mind, and the young Acton was impressed by his long quotations from Goethe, Schiller, Byron and Scott. In politics he was no Liberal; his sympathies were with the Wittelsbach dynasty and with Austria, and he held that ministers should be responsible to the Crown and not to Parliament. Though he possessed great conversational gifts, which the historian von Sybel compared to Bismarck’s, he never made the least effort to display his learning. Some of his pupils felt that he was only half-human, because he lacked Gemüt (feeling), but in spite of his ugly appearance, Acton liked him immensely. ‘His forehead is not particularly large,’ the boy wrote home, ‘and a somewhat malevolent grin seems constantly to reside about his wide, low mouth … I am inclined to think that he owes more to his character and industry than to his innate genius … He appears to have in some degree the imperfection of neglecting what he has begun.’ The pupil was to share that failing.
“Acton’s years in Munich saw the end of the Romantic age and the beginnings of Realism. The humanist traditions of the German Universities, then leading Europe in historical and philological studies, were being imperceptibly displaced by relativism and scepticism; technological developments and nationalist feelings were moving towards the triumphs they were to enjoy in the latter half of the century. Humanitarian ideals gave unexpected birth [thirty years later] to the Nietzschean superman; confidence in human reason was superseded by belief in the primacy of the will; hero-worship by the cult of the masses. Kant, Rousseau, French revolutionary ideas and the drama of the rebellious Dr. Faustus worked spiritual and intellectual disintegration. The Universities of Berlin, Goettingen and Heidelberg were the centres of the new age; and at first the tranquil and traditional world of Munich was undisturbed. But the arrival at the University – on the King’s invitation – of great scholars like Bluntschli, Siebold and von Sybel foreshadowed changes even here. The Bavarians resented the influx of the ‘northern lights,’ as they called them, for they were Protestants or non-practising Catholics. Von Sybel’s and Ranke’s influence, nevertheless, was providing the historical [historiographical] basis for the future victory of the Gotha or Prussian party. [Northern lights refers to Sybel and Ranke. Did Ranke actually work in Munich?]
“It was not contemporary trends, however, but the study of the past that Acton followed in Dr. Doellinger’s house. Bacon, Burke, Newman, Leo, Bourdaloue and Möhler [the text says Möller] were his early masters. Doellinger introduced him to the study of the Middle Ages, and the prevailing idea was to expose the Protestant falsifications of history – Macaulay was not among the Professor’s favourites. The ferment of German ideas left Acton unconcerned: ‘It is not German ways of thinking that I go there to seek,’ he wrote to his stepfather in 1854, ‘but in pursuit of my chosen branches of learning I must go to German sources, and the longer I stay in Germany the better I shall know them and know how to discriminate them.’ And he added: ‘If they [German books] have an almost universal characteristic, it is the absence of artistic management, a defect no one can acquire by studying them. The only effect they have produced on a class of persons in other countries is to make them infidels, like Carlyle.’ He was attracted neither by infidelity nor by Carlyle.
“With the Professor he visited Italy and France, meeting Minghetti, Tocqueville, Dupanloup and Montalembert. After eight years he returned in 1858 to the secluded world of Aldenham. He was twenty-four and in search of a platform; in the following year, he seemed to find one when he became editor of The Rambler, and was elected to Parliament, with Cardinal Wiseman’s blessing, for the Irish borough of Carlow [MP 1859-65]. It was Acton’s purpose in The Rambler, later replaced by the Home and Foreign Review, and in his contributions to the Chronicle and the North British Review, to teach English Catholics what he had learned in Munich – the practice of scientific enquiry in the disinterested love of truth. In England the Catholic body had only recently emerged from long isolation. More than ten years had passed since Newman’s conversion; there had been an influx of educated Anglican converts, and the Restoration of the Hierarchy had given new life to the Church. But in the world of learning, in which Acton was chiefly interested, changes were slow to come. As a cosmopolitan, he noted the provincialism, the atmosphere of authority and respectability, and the prevalence of dusty volumes, among which Lingard’s History of England held a lonely place of eminence; and he missed the sensibility to the arts, the respect for science and the open mind which were his inheritance from Munich. His fellow-Catholics, he complained, were under the delusion that their truths had only to be communicated, not to be discovered, and that their knowledge needed no increase except in the number of those who participated in it. His object was to emancipate the English Catholic mind, and to teach it the lessons, political and otherwise, which Catholics in Europe were beginning to learn: that ‘democracy is no friend of religion,’ and he would point to the example of France, Switzerland and the United States; ‘that despotism either oppresses or corrupts it,’ and there was the instance of Naples; ‘that representative institutions might be the protection of the Church in Protestant States, like Prussia, but in Catholic States, like Austria, only too frequently her scourge.’
“From political, not religious, systems came the real danger for the Church. Perfect liberty, it was his constant theme, required a scrupulous distinction between dogma and opinion; a true principle must be held more sacred than the most precious interest. He advocated the doctrine, unpopular with many ecclesiastics, that in science as in politics there was an authority distinct from that of the Church. ‘In each sphere,’ he wrote, ‘we are bound to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but only Caesar’s. There can be no conflict of duties or of allegiance between them, except inasmuch as one of them abandons its true purpose: the realization of right in the civil order, and the discovery of truth in the intellectual.’ And there was all the optimism of his age in the demand ‘that science should be true to its own method, and the State to its own principle, and beyond this the interests of religion require no protection.’
“But the English Catholic body were not prepared for the sudden appearance in their midst of this extraordinarily gifted young man. Cardinal Wiseman and his successor, Manning, were deeply suspicious of Acton’s, and Newman’s, efforts on behalf of the spiritual rights, privileges and duties of the laity. The Rambler and the Home and Foreign Review were in continual conflict with the ecclesiastical authorities. Newman’s essay On Consulting the Faithful in Matters of Doctrine was censured in Rome. Richard Simpson, a brilliant convert, and Acton’s friend and co-editor [on the Review], called down the wrath of authority by, as Newman put it, ‘his provoking habit of peashooting at any dignitary who looked out of the window as he passed along the road.’ The eminent lay professor of theology at Old Hall, W. G. Ward, whom Simpson had told ‘Come for a walk with me, and I will make your hair stand on end,’ could not but be confirmed in his aversion from ‘clever devils and Liberals,’ products, as it were, of intellectual pride.
“‘I agree with no one and no one agrees with me,’ wrote Acton later. This was certainly true of his position inside the Catholic community. In 1864 his six years of editorial activity came to an end. He had obtained the collaboration of the best European scholars for the two reviews, and probably no English periodicals have ever shown so wide a cosmopolitan interest and such a deep knowledge of European affairs. Of the Home and Foreign Review Mathew Arnold could say, at a time of many other distinguished reviews, that ‘in no organ of criticism in this country was there such knowledge, so much play of mind.’ Acton’s own written contributions were massive. In one issue of the quarterly ‘H&F’ alone ninety-four notices of books appeared, of which he had written thirty-four as well as contributing two long articles. But he felt that his objects were not being realized. In the last number of the ‘H&F’ he took leave of his readers with these words: ‘I will sacrifice the existence of the Review to the defence of its principles, in order that I may combine the obedience that is due to legitimate ecclesiastical authority with an equally conscientious maintenance of the rightful and necessary liberty of thought … To those whom, not being Catholics, this Review has induced to think less hardly of the Church, or, being Catholics, has bound more strongly to her, I would say that the principles it has upheld, of the harmony between religious and secular knowledge, will not die with it, but will find their destined advocates, and triumph in their appointed time.”
“It was as an editor that Acton came into close contact with John Henry Newman. But the young historian, fresh from Munich, and the older, delicate, sensitive man from Oriel never became real friends. Acton must have seemed very much a bull in a china shop, and though they were at one in their dislike of the narrow authoritarianism of some of the bishops and leading converts, in most other respects they differed widely. At first, Newman supported Acton’s and Simpson’s work in their reviews, but he was easily discouraged by the opposition they encountered. ‘Our part is obedience,’ he wrote to Acton, ‘if we are but patient, all will come right. The logic of facts will be the best and most thorough teacher.’ But patience was not one of Acton’s virtues. And there were deeper intellectual differences between them. ‘Everything is for him a personal matter,’ Acton wrote to his Professor in 1864, ‘and he is unable to understand the idea of objectivity in science.’ Newman had a particular devotion to St. Pius V and to St. Charles Borromeo. Acton saw in the one ‘the Pope who held that it was sound Catholic doctrine that anyone may stab a heretic condemned by Rome, and in the other an advocate of the murder of Protestants.’ For such men there was no place in his heaven. Newman remained for him ‘the finest intellect in England whose arguments are a school of infidelity.’ They drifted apart, Newman into the past, and Acton into his long and intimate friendship with Gladstone.
“Historians have treated their relationship as if the admiration was all on Acton’s side. He did, indeed, think of Gladstone as the embodiment of all the statesmanlike qualities in which he felt himself lacking, but though Gladstone seemed to him to combine ‘the virtues of Chatham, Fox, Pitt, Canning and Peel’ without their drawbacks, his admiration was by no means uncritical. His influence over the older man grew with the years. Gladstone himself, shortly before his death, remarked that in the last ten years he had trusted Acton more than any other man. One channel of his influence was through correspondence with [his daughter] Mary Gladstone: ‘It is a way of conveying some things which I cannot say right off,’ Acton wrote to his own daughter. The formation in 1892 of Gladstone’s fourth administration owed much to his efforts in persuading Lord Rosebery to follow the old Liberal leader once more. It was Acton who induced Gladstone to adopt the Home Rule policy, yet he declined all possibility of office, on the grounds that friendship alone gave him no claim for rewards. He had received his peerage in 1869, and remained the trusted counsellor behind the scenes. It was his task to try to bring the remote Gladstone into closer touch with the world of affairs. Familiar with continental politics as few other Englishmen were, Acton could point to the difference between English and continental Liberals ‘who regard the State and the popular will as the seat of all power.’ Together they travelled to Monte Cassino, stayed at the Acton villa in Cannes [La Madeleine], and went to see Doellinger at Tegernsee. Acton, too, had a large hand in rewriting and correcting the First Romanes Lecture delivered by Gladstone at Oxford. ‘Politics are more like religion for me,’ he once wrote. That was the basis of his sympathy with Gladstone. Both believed in a system of politics which combined Christianity with respect for the authority of political principle – ‘and by political principle I do not mean principles in politics.’ Toryism, in Acton’s definition, ‘is to be entangled in interests, traditions, necessities, difficulties, expedients, to manage as best one may, without creating artificial obstacles in the shape of dogma, or superfluous barriers of general principle.’ It was to the moral and religious content of Gladstonian Liberalism that he was drawn. To be a Liberal meant to him simply that one put liberty first, and it did not so much matter whether one was also a reformer or a free thinker, an intelligent Conservative or a radical democrat.
“Acton was confronted by the greatest trial in his life when in 1869 the summons to the Vatican Council was issued. He had never believed in Gallicanism, or shown the slightest sympathy for its Austrian equivalent, Josephism, but he was opposed to the false conception of history underlying the current Ultramontane attitude, according to which rights and principles were scarcely recognized, except as subordinate to the arbitrary will of the Papacy. This feeling also provided the ground for his mistrust of the dogma of Papal Infallibility. His reasons were ethical and historical, not theological. ‘Rome taught for four centuries and more,’ he wrote, ‘that no Catholic could be saved who denied that heretics ought to be put to death.’ And it was his fear, as it was Newman’s, that the extreme Ultramontanists might prevail at Rome and include in the proposed dogma the temporal power and all the pronouncements of the Popes to the Church as a whole, and in particular, confer a retrospective infallibility on a number of decrees and Bulls, chiefly about the deposing power, the Inquisition and other practices or ideas which had never been established under penalty of excommunication. Anxiously he watched the proceedings of the Council from Rome, sending daily reports to Doellinger, and was in close contact with the gradually shrinking numbers of the opposition and the Inopportunists [party opposed to the dogma of infallibility]. As in the end defined, however, the dogma did not fulfil the desire of the Infallibilists by increasing the powers of the Pope, but rather set limits on it. Acton accepted the decree, and Newman’s defence of it, admitting that he thought better of the ‘Post-July’ than of the ‘Pre-July’ Church; the very use of these words perhaps showed, however, that, unlike Newman, he was unable to look beyond the political implications of the new dogma. The threatened excommunication never came; he satisfied his own Bishop [Bishop James Brown of Shrewsbury], if not Manning, that he had not contradicted the decree, and he defended the dogma against Gladstone in his Letters to the Times. ‘Communion with the Catholic Church,’ he wrote, ‘is to me dearer than life itself,’ and to his old teacher who had not submitted to the dogma: ‘I have arrived at the conclusion that you have less hopes for the Church than I, or at least that the hopelessness is more certain for you than for me. I will not say that you are wrong. Dans le doute je m’abstiens de désespérer.’ [Embellishment of a proverb?] But he discouraged Doellinger from giving his name to the Munich Movement, which was the beginning of the Old Catholic Church – a name, he wrote, which the leaders of the Movement would merely exploit.
“In 1879 Newman’s patience was rewarded by the red hat. Equally late recognition came to Lord Acton in 1895, but from a different quarter: on Seeley’s death he was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge. It was a unique appointment for one who had never been to a University and who had not written a single book, though he had collected 40,000, and had the reputation of being one of the most learned men in Europe. His great conception of history, which he outlined in his Inaugural Lecture, was based on the gradual emancipation of the conscience; Mommsen had written history to glorify power; Macaulay to illustrate the politics of his time; Ranke to relate what happened; for others history was merely a matter of documentary evidence; but for Acton modern history was primarily the history of ideas, and the Universal History which he planned for inclusion in the Cambridge Modern History, but did not complete, was placed on that elevated field beyond the technicalities and meaningless surface of events, where the historian should be above prejudice, party, religion and nationality. In his work, as in the History of Liberty for which he amassed his library but which was never accomplished – and perhaps could not be by a single author – he aimed at perfection; that, indeed, was his greatest failing, if failing it is. He was for ever trying to read everything that could be read on a given subject, making notes and filling cardboard boxes with the thoughts of other men. Dr. Doellinger foretold that ‘if Acton does not write a book by the time he is forty, he will never write one.’ Yet he had written a great deal, and his essays and book reviews are masterworks of compression. His powers were perhaps wasted in a full social life, in his duties as Lord in Waiting, in an immense correspondence, and in political missions which he undertook for Gladstone. Among his hitherto unpublished letters to Dr. Doellinger and to his daughter, those to Mary Acton show a warm humanity of which there was otherwise little evidence in his marriage. He could rightly say on being asked to write his own life: ‘My autobiography is in my letters to my girls.’
“A gifted but not an easy writer, he possessed a combination of qualities rare in great historians: an intimate knowledge of sources, a sharpness of considered judgment, subtlety, irony and a wealth of allusion. In his careful choice of words, in his portrayals of every facet of a subject, he could be compared to the sculptor rather than to the painter. Many of his judgments have the impact of brilliance. He defined liberty as ‘the freedom to do not what we like but what we ought.’ He said that the Roman Empire perished for the lack of a Land Bill. Of Peter the Great: ‘He raised the condition of the country with great rapidity, he did not raise it above his own level.’ And prophetically of Prussia and Russia: ‘That is the tremendous power, supported by millions of bayonets which grew up at Petersburg and was developed, by much abler minds, chiefly at Berlin; and it is the greatest danger that remains to be encountered by the Anglo-Saxon race.’ His condemnation could be scathing; so of one historian: ‘His lectures are indeed not unhistorical, for he has borrowed quite discriminately from Tocqueville.’ And of another: ‘Ideas if they occur to him he rejects like temptations to sin.’ His answer to Creighton’s views on the Popes of the fifteenth century has become famous: ‘I cannot accept your judgment 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 the holders of power, increasing as the power increases. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority. There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it.’
“In his moral judgments, he became increasingly severe, but at the end of his life he solemnly adjured his son to take care always to make allowance for human weakness. His severity was perhaps pardonable, living as he did in the midst of a moral relativism in which there was a glaring need to uphold the supremacy of conscience. His isolation seemed to be complete when he found that Doellinger, from whom he had learned the principles of toleration, regarded persecution as an evil rather than as a crime. The sanctity of human life seemed to him the only independent principle on which historical judgment could be based. Whoever violated that without just cause ‘I would hang higher than Haman.’ On those who knew him, his personality and striking appearance, with the high forehead and black beard, made an unforgettable impression. He had that most un-English of traits, a passion for ideas. Hearing him speak, Lord Bryce wrote: ‘It was as if the whole landscape of history had been suddenly lit up by a burst of sunlight.’ In the fifty years which have passed since Lord Acton’s death at Tegernsee in June 1902, freedom has suffered many deaths, and a revaluation of his thought is more than ever worth while. Alone in his day he recognized the destructive element in the triumphant principle of nationality and advocated a community of autonomous nations, a Federal system, as the most effective means of checking the tendency of autocracies, and of democracies, to centralized, concentrated and unlimited power.”
Through Mia Woodruff, Roland came under the spell of the Actons, as did I, in a younger generation. His biography begins with an Author’s Note:
“The Hon. Marie Immaculée Antoinette (Mia) Woodruff was the eldest of seven daughters and two sons of the second Lord Acton. Although she never met her grandfather, the first Lord Acton, she was devoted to his memory and ideals and familiar with the painful struggle of his life. With her husband, Douglas Woodruff, who died in 1978, she temporarily had the care of the extensive family papers, which they made readily available to scholars once the family seat, Aldenham Hall, was sold . Ultimately the papers found a permanent home at the Cambridge University Library.
“Like her husband, who for thirty-one years was the editor of the British Catholic weekly the Tablet, Mia Woodruff was a leading figure in the Catholic world of her generation. She was a veritable grande dame, a woman of great spirit, trenchant wit, and deep religious devotion who cared for others in numerous voluntary organizations, particularly for refugees of all races and creeds before, during, and after World War II. It was a fitting gesture, when she was buried next to her husband in the little Anglican churchyard of Lyford, Oxfordshire, that the tin hat she had worn as an air-raid warden in wartime London should have been placed in her grave. She died, aged eighty-nine, on 5 March [no, 5 April!] 1994, not long after she prepared these words.
‘I never knew my grandfather. He died in 1902, and I was born in 1905. What I do know about him is what my Aunt Mamy told me. She was his favourite child [Marie Elizabeth Anna Dalberg-Acton], and he wrote the most wonderful letters to her as well as telling her many fine tales about himself. I think of him as a lonely young man spending much of his time at St. Martin’s, the holiday home of the Arcos in Upper Austria, in the company of his future bride and his very beloved future mother-in-law [Anna Margareta Maria Juliana Pelina Maresclachi], who was a great influence on his life. I imagine him at Aldenham in the vast library he built himself – which has since, alas, been demolished – surrounded by his thousands of books, now at the Cambridge University Library. I think of him at Tegernsee in Bavaria, where the Arcos had a lovely villa, and where we used to stay as young children, my brother and I. It was a most beautiful chalet with balconies all round, covered with verbena and wisteria, and the garden leading right down to the lakeside, where we used to fish. My grandfather spent the last days of his life there and is buried at Tegernsee. My grandmother and her two daughters remained there until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 and then moved to Switzerland, where my aunts both died, Annie [Annie Mary Catherine Dalberg-Acton] in 1917, Simmy [Jeanne Marie Dalberg-Acton] in 1919. [Mamy survived until 1951.] After that their mama [Acton’s widow] came to live with us at Aldenham for the rest of her life, and there she died on 2 April 1923. There is a plaque in the church at Bridgnorth to the memory of my grandfather and various members of the Acton family. He was MP for Bridgnorth at one time [1865-66], and he helped in the building of St. John’s parish church.
‘I feel my grandfather lived by his conscience, which enabled him to fight his battle against Papal Infallibility in 1870 as well as practise a very simple private religion. I hope that from him I have inherited a great love for history and keen interest in the affairs of the Church. I hope that Roland Hill’s sympathetic biography will interpret my grandfather’s enigmatic personality for his readers and enhance his memory. He must have been a very fine man. May he rest in peace.
Marcham Priory, Oxon’”
The second “I hope” in the last paragraph was characteristic. She was not going to commit herself to more than “sympathetic” before she had seen the book, which she did not live to do.
Hill’s book was important and the result of many years of work. It was generally well-reviewed, but not universally. There were some who felt that Acton had, once again, eluded us.
“A veritable grande dame”, indeed. Mia Woodruff seemed an embodiment or projection of the Catholic aristocratic history of Europe. She was very grand and had grand faults. She was also content, in her charitable work and in attending to her friends, to be a low-ranking Christian soldier. She had a deadpan and mordant wit.
Roland should have made tapes. It’s a matter of regret to me that I was too immature or too busy to interview her properly. Her world is gone: “a thing never known again”.
Portrait by Bassano Ltd, January 29 1944, National Portrait Gallery
Since all history writing is about two things, the perspective of the historian and the purported subject, I am happy with out of date books. 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.
“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 (which Creighton edited) 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.
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 Jaffé, Eric Linklater, Philip Magnus, LB Namier, JH Plumb, GM Trevelyan, Hugh Trevor-Roper, Arthur Waley, Veronica Wedgwood, Elizabeth Wiskemann, GM 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, on the whole, 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 page and article images. Then you have everything. The Times has managed this with some difficult typography for every page of every issue since 1785. 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, since you can’t cut and paste. The alternative, scanned and OCRd text, will be full of mistakes. 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 relative importance of the articles, and no images. None of the cultural meanings which come with page images. 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 – 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):
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!
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
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!”
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 Queene. John 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 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
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.
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.”
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 essays; letters 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.
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).
Bodley Head, 1972
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934