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Rosalind Mitchison, 2 August 1984

An Old Man’s Diary 
by A.J.P. Taylor.
Hamish Hamilton, 155 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 241 11247 8
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... The examining in my university is over for the year. After the usual haggling – ‘is this worth 69 or 70?’ – with nasty points of principle raised and evaded, the lists have been signed, and that is the end of what a colleague once described as ‘the annual session of egg grading’. We are free to go to the hills, equipped with walking boots, a hotel booking, a Highland bus time-table and the literature for the West Highland Way ...

Carlyle’s Mail Fraud

Rosalind Mitchison, 6 August 1981

The Collected Letters of Thomas and Jane Welsh Carlyle: Vol. VIII 1835-1836, Vol. IX 1836-1837 
edited by Charles Sanders and Kenneth Fielding.
Duke, 365 pp., £32.95, May 1981, 0 8223 0433 3
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... These volumes are issued as a pair, with a single index, and rightly, because they hold together for a coherent segment of Carlyle’s life. The dominant theme of the two is the writing of The French Revolution: in Volume VIII Carlyle is struggling with the first two volumes, in IX he produces the third, spends four months battling with the proofs and finally sees the whole book published and reviewed ...

Transformation

Rosalind Mitchison, 21 January 1982

Enemies of God: The Witch-Hunt in Scotland 
by Christina Larner.
Chatto, 244 pp., £12.95, September 1981, 0 7011 2424 5
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The Enlightenment in National Context 
edited by Roy Porter and Mikulas Teich.
Cambridge, 276 pp., £19.50, September 1981, 0 521 23757 2
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... Witchcraft can be seen as an area of criminal law, a manifestation of religious belief or secular power, a sign of social stress, a display of sexual prejudice and fear, a temporary and inexplicable mania, or a nasty and squalid manifestation of cruelty. Some of these approaches are unrewarding because they deflect the critical intellect; some can lead to historical understanding ...

The British Dimension

Rosalind Mitchison, 16 October 1980

The Life of David Hume 
by Ernest Campbell Mossner.
Oxford, 736 pp., £20, March 1980, 0 19 824381 2
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‘The People Above’: Politics and Adminsitration in Mid-18th-Century Scotland 
by Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 199 pp., £12, March 1980, 0 85976 053 7
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The Laird of Abbotsford 
by A.N. Wilson.
Oxford, 197 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 0 19 211756 4
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The Strange Death of Scottish History 
by Marinell Ash.
Ramsay Head Press, 166 pp., £6.50, March 1980, 0 902859 57 9
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... The first three books are studies within the narrow élite of landed society in a small, rapidly modernising country – Scotland. They concern men who took for granted the perpetuation of their society, of security for property and a due hierarchy of rank. For the most part, they are also of people who did not want this hierarchy to be totally fixed ...

Monsieur Montaillou

Rosalind Mitchison, 7 August 1980

The Territory of the Historian 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Sian Ben.
Harvester, 346 pp., £12.50, May 1979, 0 85527 565 0
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Montaillou 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Barbara Bray.
Penguin, 382 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 14 005471 5
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Carnival: a People’s Uprising in Romans, 1579-1580 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Mary Feeney.
Scolar, 426 pp., £12.50, May 1980, 0 85967 591 2
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... These books are the recent work of one of the leading exponents of the ‘new’ history of the French school. The historical achievement of French academics over the last twenty years has set an example to historians in all other countries. French demographers have reopened the whole topic of population change, devising new techniques, asking new questions, and combining accurate measurement with insight into social constraints and mental pathways ...

High Time for Reform

Rosalind Mitchison, 1 May 1980

The Philosophic Radicals: Nine Studies in Theory and Practice, 1817-1841 
by William Thomas.
Oxford, 491 pp., £15, December 1979, 0 19 822490 7
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... There are two interwoven stories here. One is the ostensible one of the activities and developing ideas of the various radicals, seen during the years in which these men reached some turning-point or other. They stand in sequence and so illustrate the expansion and eventual contraction of the political prospects of this diverse and individualistic movement ...

Kind Words for Strathpeffer

Rosalind Mitchison, 24 May 1990

The British Isles: A History of Four Nations 
by Hugh Kearney.
Cambridge, 236 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 521 33420 9
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Cromartie: Highland Life 1650-1914 
by Eric Richards and Monica Clough.
518 pp., £29.50, August 1989, 0 08 037732 7
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Jacobitism and the English People, 1688-1788 
by Paul Kléber Monod.
Cambridge, 408 pp., £30, November 1989, 0 521 33534 5
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... Hugh Kearney has written a book to assert the reality of the British Isles as an intercommunicating group of cultures with many features in common but also with strong regional or national differences. It is a timely reminder that the political dominance of these islands by England from the 17th century covers only a small part of their various histories ...

Nations

Rosalind Mitchison, 17 September 1987

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 160 pp., £5.95, November 1987, 0 86091 759 2
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Culture, Identity and Politics 
by Ernest Gellner.
Cambridge, 189 pp., £8.95, June 1987, 0 521 33667 8
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The Ethnic Origins of Nations 
by Anthony Smith.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 631 15205 9
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Us and Them: A Study of Group Consciousness 
by W.A. Elliott.
Aberdeen University Press, 164 pp., £12.50, November 1986, 9780080324388
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... What nationalism is, and how it came to exist, are topics of some significance today. One reason for this is practical: that a suitable answer to these questions would justify some states, sure of their own right to nationalism, in suppressing national claims by minority or neighbour populations. There are other, more intellectually respectable, reasons ...

Nimbying

Rosalind Mitchison, 31 August 1989

Poverty and Welfare in Scotland 1890-1948 
by Ian Levitt.
Edinburgh, 241 pp., £30, November 1988, 0 85224 558 0
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The Retreat of Tuberculosis 1850-1950 
by F.B. Smith.
Croom Helm, 271 pp., £25, January 1988, 0 7099 3383 5
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Below the Magic Mountain: A Social History of Tuberculosis in 20th-century Britain 
by Linda Bryder.
Oxford, 298 pp., £30, April 1988, 9780198229476
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... Anyone who has kept hens knows that these unattractive creatures make a point of brutality to any among them sick or weak. Some other ‘social’ animals share this antisocial tendency. The human species has a wide pattern of response to distress, but under the influence of moral or religious pressures, or of medical fancies, it is as capable as hens of behaving badly to those least able to withstand unkindness ...

Making and Breaking

Rosalind Mitchison, 21 December 1989

Health, Happiness and Security: The Creation of the National Health Service 
by Frank Honigsbaum.
Routledge, 286 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 01739 4
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CounterBlasts No 5: Into the Dangerous World 
by Marina Warner.
Chatto, 58 pp., £2.99, September 1989, 0 7011 3548 4
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... Nobody could call Frank Honigsbaum’s book ‘user friendly’. Some reasons for its indigestibility are inherent in the topic: the moves, some effective, most frustrated, by civil servants and politicians, towards the creation of the British National Health Service. But there are also self-inflicted handicaps to ready comprehensibility: the author has done his best to impede communication ...

Women and children first

Rosalind Mitchison, 1 June 1989

Wet Nursing: A History from Antiquity to the Present 
by Valerie Fildes.
Blackwell, 300 pp., £19.50, September 1988, 0 631 15831 6
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Women and Marriage in 19th-Century England 
by Joan Perkin.
Routledge, 342 pp., £30, December 1988, 0 415 00771 2
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Consumer Behaviour and Material Culture in Britain 1660-1760 
by Lorna Weatherill.
Routledge, 252 pp., £30, July 1988, 0 415 00723 2
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Childhood in 19th-Century France: Work, Health and Education among the ‘Classes Populaires’ 
by Colin Heywood.
Cambridge, 350 pp., £30, September 1988, 0 521 35038 7
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... Geography is about maps and history is about chaps – someone must have been very pleased with himself for producing this snappy definition. But traditionally history wasn’t simply about chaps: it was about chaps in power, the men who ran politics, the Church, the banks, and any other institution considered important. Women, and even children, might be allowed onto the scene for dynastic reasons ...

Missing Elements

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 May 1992

Strategic Women: How do they manage in Scotland? 
by Elizabeth Gerver and Lesley Hart.
Aberdeen University Press, 216 pp., £9.95, June 1991, 0 08 037741 6
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A Guid Cause: The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Scotland 
by Leah Leneman.
Aberdeen University Press, 304 pp., £11.95, June 1991, 0 08 041201 7
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Marriage and Property: Women and Marital Customs in History 
edited by Elizabeth Craik.
Aberdeen University Press, 192 pp., £6.95, June 1991, 9780080412054
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A Woman’s Claim of Right in Scotland 
Polygon, 142 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6103 4Show More
Nationalism in the Nineties 
edited by Tom Gallagher.
Polygon, 192 pp., £7.95, August 1991, 0 7486 6098 4
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Cultural Weapons: Scotland and Survival in a New Europe 
by Christopher Harvie.
Polygon, 119 pp., £7.95, March 1992, 0 7486 6122 0
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Literature and Nationalism 
edited by Vincent Newey and Ann Thompson.
Liverpool, 286 pp., £27.50, June 1991, 0 85323 057 9
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The Invention of Scotland: The Stuart Myth of the Scottish Identity, 1638 to the present 
by Murray Pittock.
Routledge, 198 pp., £30, September 1991, 0 415 05586 5
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Scotland: A New History 
by Michael Lynch.
Century, 499 pp., £18.99, August 1991, 0 7126 3413 4
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... In all our sets of mental pigeonholes there is one labelled ‘don’t bother’. It contains groups of people and of ideas to which we have decided not to pay attention. These books, in one way or another, relate to such groups. Women are an obvious case. Yet, except in societies which kill off female babies or starve small girls, they cannot be dismissed as a minority ...

Room at the Top

Rosalind Mitchison, 15 November 1984

An Open Elite? England 1540-1880 
by Lawrence Stone and Jeanne Fawtier Stone.
Oxford, 566 pp., £24, September 1984, 0 19 822645 4
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... At some time in the 1730s Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, Midlothian, wrote down advice on the building of what he called ‘a family house’. This should consist of a central main block and two side pavilions, as a precaution against destruction by fire. ‘The main or chief Body of the House ought to be at Least double the Bigness of each pavilion and may serve chiefly for lodging the Master of the family and the better kind of Guests who come to visit him ...

Stewarts on the dole

Rosalind Mitchison, 10 November 1988

Bonnie Prince Charlie 
by Rosalind Marshall.
HMSO, 208 pp., £8.50, April 1988, 0 11 493420 7
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Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography 
by Susan Maclean Kybett.
Unwin Hyman, 343 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 04 440213 9
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Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts 
by Frank McLynn.
Routledge, 640 pp., £24.95, September 1988, 0 415 00272 9
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Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure 
by Jenny Wormald.
George Philip, 206 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 540 01131 2
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Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms 
edited by Michael Lynch.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £25, July 1988, 0 631 15263 6
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The Shadow of a Crown: The Life Story of James II of England and VII of Scotland 
by Meriol Trevor.
Constable, 320 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 09 467850 2
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The Scottish Tory Party: A History 
by Gerald Warner.
Weidenfeld, 247 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780297791010
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The Elgins, 1766-1917: A Tale of Aristocrats, Proconsuls and their Wives 
by Sydney Checkland.
Aberdeen University Press, 303 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 08 036395 4
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... Recent anniversaries for Scotland have been encouraging the simplified version of its history that obtains in most English minds. Two topics are sufficiently dramatic to break through cultural isolationism: the reign of Mary Queen of Scots and the Jacobite risings. The more sophisticated English absorbers of history may also entertain an uneasy recollection that the Scots had something to do with the English Civil Wars, and may even have an impression of outbreaks of Presbyterian intransigence in the 19th century: but for most people in England Scottish history means Mary and Prince Charles Edward, whose deaths, one of which was directly caused by England, are associated with ’87 and ’88 ...

Northern Lights

Rosalind Mitchison, 19 April 1984

Literature and Gentility in Scotland 
by David Daiches.
Edinburgh, 114 pp., £6.50, June 1982, 9780852244388
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New Perspectives on the Politics and Culture of Early Modern Scotland 
edited by John Dwyer, Roger Mason and Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 340 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 85976 066 9
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Adam Smith 
by R.H. Campbell and A.S. Skinner.
Croom Helm, 231 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 9780709907299
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Sister Peg 
edited by David Raynor.
Cambridge, 127 pp., £15.50, June 1981, 0 521 24299 1
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Boswell: The Applause of the Jury 1782-1785 
edited by Irma Lustig and Frederick Pottle.
Heinemann, 419 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 434 43945 2
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Muir of Huntershill 
by Christina Bewley.
Oxford, 212 pp., £8.50, May 1981, 0 19 211768 8
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... The leading figures in all these books are well-known, and are located in a period of conspicuous intellectual activity in the Scotland of the mid and late 18th century. This was the time when the modern social sciences were created as areas of legitimate study, much of their content for the use of teenage university students. There was also a modest literary revival ...

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