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Grains and Pinches

V.G. Kiernan, 9 July 1992

Salt and Civilisation 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £45, March 1992, 0 333 53759 9
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... A ‘covenant of salt’ meant to the Hebrews an inviolable pledge, most likely because salt has served through ages as a preservative. Early Christians were taught to think of themselves as ‘the salt of the earth’. No other chemical has found its way into the common sayings of so many lands as sodium chloride has done. It has been an emblem of human relations and loyalties ...

Evil Days

V.G. Kiernan, 10 May 1990

Luther: Man between God and the Devil 
by Heiko Oberman, translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart.
Yale, 380 pp., £18.95, March 1990, 0 300 03794 5
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... Lord Rosebery described Luther, with Victorian blandness, as ‘the German apostle of light and freedom’. Professor Oberman is another admirer, but a judiciously critical one, not a hagiographer. He begins by summing him up as ‘a late medieval man for whom Satan is as real as God and mammon’. Further on, he modifies this by saying that Luther was ‘no longer medieval, but neither had he become modern ...

Vietnam’s Wars

V.G. Kiernan, 3 December 1981

Vietnam: The Revolutionary Path 
by Thomas Hodgkin.
Macmillan, 433 pp., £25, July 1981, 0 333 28110 1
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Death in the Ricefields: Thirty Years of War in Indochina 
by Peter Scholl-Latour, translated by Faye Carney.
Orbis, 383 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 85613 342 6
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Hollywood’s Vietnam 
by Gilbert Adair.
Proteus, 192 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 906071 86 0
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... It was a happy inspiration for a writer who has spent many years studying Africa to transport himself to the other end of the world and look at the evolution of a totally different society, though one equally in the end herded by Western guns into a new era. Hodgkin brings to his task a mind trained by long observation of pre-modern communities, and sensitive to the divergences and novelties pointing towards a dénouement far removed from anything to be found in Africa, south of Algeria at any rate ...

The Unrewarded End

V.G. Kiernan: Memories of the CP, 17 September 1998

The Death of Uncle Joe 
by Alison Macleod.
Merlin, 269 pp., £9.95, May 1997, 0 85036 467 1
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Enemy Within: The Rise and Fall of the British Communist Party 
by Francis Beckett.
Merlin, 253 pp., £9.95, August 1998, 0 85036 477 9
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... Studies of the Communist Party of Great Britain and its troubled history proliferate. An attraction for some must be that it is now safely dead and buried: there is no live bear to break out of its cage and retaliate. In 1995 Francis Beckett added his Enemy Within to the growing list of works. His researches were thorough; he had gone round meeting veterans of bygone days, nearly all of whom were happy to chew over their recollections with him ...

Centralisation

Peter Burke, 5 March 1981

State and Society in Europe 1550-1650 
by Victor Kiernan.
Blackwell, 309 pp., £12, December 1980, 0 226 47080 6
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... one such article was ‘Foreign Mercenaries and Absolute Monarchy’, published in 1957 by Victor Kiernan. Professor Kiernan has many historical interests, and he moved on to The Revolution of 1854 in Spanish History (1966), and The Lords of Human Kind (1969), a discussion of 19th-century European attitudes to the rest of ...

Knowing more

Rosalind Mitchison, 14 September 1989

Poets, Polities and the People 
by V.G. Kiernan, edited by Harvey Kaye.
Verso, 239 pp., £29.95, June 1989, 0 86091 245 0
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For King and Conscience: John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee 
by Magnus Linklater and Christian Hesketh.
Weidenfeld, 244 pp., £16.95, June 1989, 0 297 79540 6
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... Victor Kiernan is here presenting essays produced over the last 45 years: the texts are only occasionally given recent additions. The topics include three essays on literature but are otherwise historical: on English patterns of protest, the expansion of literacy among working men, political aspects of religion, and Communist activity in the Thirties and after ...

The point of it all

Linda Colley, 1 September 1988

The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Oxford, 360 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 822566 0
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History, Classes and Nation-States: Selected Writings of Victor Kiernan 
edited by Harvey Kaye.
Blackwell, 284 pp., £27.50, June 1988, 0 7456 0424 2
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... short, really see duelling as a by-product of aristocratic dominance, as a mark of caste? Victor Kiernan’s answer in this intriguing and invariably well-written book is an emphatic and unsurprising yes. Kiernan is both a Marxist and a student of Antonio Gramsci. Like the majority of British historians who take even a ...

Glory

Eric Hobsbawm, 3 June 1982

War and Society in Revolutionary Europe 1770-1870 
by Geoffrey Best.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 336 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634747 9
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European Empires from Conquest to Collapse 1815-1960 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Leicester University Press/Fontana, 285 pp., £12, March 1982, 0 00 634826 2
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... whose contributions to the Fontana History of War and European Society are the first to appear, Kiernan is a Marxist of long standing, while Best’s initial approach to war is indicated by the title of his recent book, Humanity in Warfare. Neither of these books will be of much help to the reader who wants to know about the strategy and battles of any ...

Booze and Fags

Christopher Hitchens, 12 March 1992

Tobacco: A History 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Radius, 249 pp., £18.99, December 1991, 0 09 174216 1
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The Faber Book of Drink, Drinkers and Drinking 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 554 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 571 16229 0
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... close at times to suggesting that drinking and smoking are all right in moderation. Victor Kiernan would be incapable of saying anything so trite. But his book is the record of a long farewell to a much-loved addiction, and he has not permitted his change of heart to make him into a fanatical opponent. The population is praised for puffing its way ...

Du Maurier: A Lament

Jeremy Harding, 24 March 1994

Cigarettes Are Sublime 
by Richard Klein.
Duke, 210 pp., £19.95, February 1994, 0 8223 1401 0
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... in moments of fear and faint-heartedness. ‘Everyone who is or has been a smoker,’ says V.G. Kiernan in his book about tobacco, ‘must have a private history of his own.’ That valedictory smoke with Ian Dryden was the last I saw of mine. I keenly regret them ...

Heroes of Our Time

Karl Miller, 19 May 1988

The Monument 
by T. Behrens.
Cape, 258 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 224 02510 4
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The Passion of John Aspinall 
by Brian Masters.
Cape, 360 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 224 02353 5
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... the novel: if so, the outcome does not appear to have gone according to Lermontov’s plan. V.G. Kiernan’s new book on the history of duelling – the work of a historian who is able to grasp, as many historians now are not, that the literature of the past is evidence of the past – discusses Lermontov’s real and imaginary duels.* The book indicates ...

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