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Raison de Mourir

Peter Ackroyd, 21 January 1982

The Mad Bad Line 
by Brian Roberts.
Hamish Hamilton, 319 pp., £15, July 1981, 0 241 10637 0
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... the light which the falling Oscar distributed upon them, they would have remained in obscurity. Brian Roberts may well have stumbled upon them by accident. Four of his previous biographies have been set, wholly or partly, in Africa; perhaps it was while he was examining the records of Zululand in 1881 that he came across a most improbable figure, Lady ...

Sisterhoods

Brian Harrison, 6 December 1984

Significant Sisters: The Grassroots of Active Feminism 1839-1939 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 353 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 436 16113 3
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Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Movement 1900-1918 
by Les Garner.
Gower, 142 pp., £15, July 1984, 0 435 32357 1
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Women First: The Female Tradition in English Physical Education 1880-1980 
by Sheila Fletcher.
Athlone, 194 pp., £18, July 1984, 0 485 11248 5
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A Woman’s Place: An Oral History of Working-Class Women 1890-1940 
by Elizabeth Roberts.
Blackwell, 246 pp., £14.95, September 1984, 0 631 13572 3
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... and ably re-creates the college’s mood and impact. Oral evidence lies at the heart of Elizabeth Roberts’s rich and careful study of early 20th-century women in their family context. ‘Often, at the beginning of a series of interviews,’ she writes, her informants ‘expressed surprise that anyone should be interested in their ...

Fundamentally Goyish

James Wood: Zadie Smith, 3 October 2002

The Autograph Man 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 420 pp., £16.99, September 2002, 0 241 13998 8
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... a tendency to elongate into lists whenever possible (of the ‘there were ten things that Brian really disliked’ kind); kooky epigraphs, mixing high and low authorities; long, feverish run-on sentences, desperately semaphoring their gross mimetic appetite, their need to capture as much of ‘the madness of the times’ as possible, as much of ‘the ...

Boys will be soldiers

Brian Harrison, 20 October 1983

Sure and Stedfast: A History of the Boys’ Brigade, 1883-1984 
edited by John Springhall.
Collins, 304 pp., £10, June 1983, 0 00 434280 1
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... officers, past, present and future; two of its authors are Brigade officers. John Springhall and Brian Fraser have collaborated on the British chapters; Michael Hoare has written the chapters on the movement overseas. The Brigade has shown an admirable willingness – by no means common among voluntary bodies – to give its historians free access to its ...

English Butter

David Trotter, 9 October 1986

Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... Biography, and so on. Clearly these are important ‘places’ on the ‘map’. But, apart from Brian Doyle’s account of the early years of the English Association and Philip Dodd’s brief discussion of plans for a National Theatre, we learn nothing about them: about the reasons for their establishment, about the way they worked. The preference for ...

Ramadhin and Valentine

J.R. Pole, 13 October 1988

A History of West Indies Cricket 
by Michael Manley.
Deutsch, 575 pp., £17.95, May 1988, 0 233 98259 0
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Sobers: Twenty Years at the Top 
by Garfield Sobers and Brian Scovell.
Macmillan, 204 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 333 37267 0
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... as one of the most devastating bowlers in history, extracting life from a faceless Oval pitch when Roberts seemed to have given up the effort. Continuous very fast bowling gradually induces fear: Manley denies intimidation, and hedges on the issue of excessive bouncers, but freely acknowledges this principle in the West Indian attack. It also inevitably slows ...

Votes for Women, Chastity for Men

Brian Harrison, 21 January 1988

Troublesome People: Enemies of War, 1916-1986 
by Caroline Moorehead.
Hamish Hamilton, 344 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 241 12105 1
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Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860-1914 
by Susan Kingsley Kent.
Princeton, 295 pp., £22, June 1987, 0 691 05497 5
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Women, Marriage and Politics, 1860-1914 
by Pat Jalland.
Oxford, 366 pp., £19.50, November 1986, 0 19 822668 3
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An Edwardian Mixed Doubles: The Bosanquets versus the Webbs. A Study in British Social Policy, 1890-1929 
by A.M. McBriar.
Oxford, 407 pp., £35, July 1987, 0 19 820111 7
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... preserved, disputes prevented, standards upheld. ‘Over our community,’ wrote Robert Roberts of the Edwardian Salford slum, ‘the matriarchs stood guardians, but not creators, of the group conscience and as such possessed a sense of social propriety as developed and unerring as any clique of Edwardian dowagers.’ It was the same at the other ...

Thatcherism

Gordon Brown, 2 February 1989

Thatcherism 
edited by Robert Skidelsky.
Chatto, 214 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 7011 3342 2
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The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left 
by Stuart Hall.
Verso, 283 pp., £24.95, December 1988, 0 86091 199 3
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... on this aspect that Anthony King and Ivor Crewe concentrate in the Skidelsky collection. Margaret Roberts moved from her Anglo-Poujadist origins via Oxford, the lab and the bar to eventual leadership and Gaullist ambitions, more honoured in rhetoric than in achievement. The grocer’s daughter hectors for national regeneration with less success than the ...

Is this successful management?

R.W. Johnson, 20 April 1989

One of Us: A Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Hugo Young.
Macmillan, 570 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 333 34439 1
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... working class. One or two things seem to have eluded Young. He mentions the young Margaret Roberts’s election campaign in Dartford in 1950, but neglects the best part of it. Ms Roberts insisted throughout the campaign that she would win. As they neared the last lap, her agent advised her to drop this line. She ...

Histories of Australia

Stuart Macintyre, 28 September 1989

The Oxford History of Autralia. Vol III: 1860-1900 
by Beverley Kingston.
Oxford, 368 pp., £22.50, July 1989, 0 19 554611 3
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The Road from Coorain: An Australian Memoir 
by Jill Ker Conway.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 434 14244 1
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A Secret Country 
by John Pilger.
Cape, 286 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02600 3
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Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past 
edited by Stephen Nicholas.
Cambridge, 246 pp., $45, June 1989, 0 521 36126 5
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... Confident Morning’ was taken from Browning and used in a key passage in the work of Brian Fitzpatrick, a libertarian radical and freelance mentor of the Old Left historians. He wrote of the strikes and the depression and drought at the end of the century as bringing to an end an age of innocence: ‘What took place was like the ending of ...

Rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat

David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... to humanise it. His great find is a previously unseen cache of letters from the young Margaret Roberts to her older sister, Muriel, written variously from Grantham, Oxford and Dartford. There, she talks about boyfriends, fashion, shopping and the various inconveniences of life in wartime and then austerity Britain. They are, I suppose, human. But boy are ...

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