A.J.P. Taylor (1906–1990) was a British diplomatic historian.

A Great Place to Visit

This is a monumental work in more than one sense. It catalogues virtually every historic monument in England from neolithic fragments of stone to museums devoted to the Second World War—no doubt when there is a second edition it will include museums devoted to the battle of the Falkland Islands.

Pictures from an Expedition

In the First World War Western Europe was the main theater from first to last. Creat Britain and later the United States behaved as European powers, dispatching their troops to the western front much as France did. The first battle on the western front, the battle of the Marne, determined …

Excelsior!

Most men are content with one career. Winson Churchill had half a dozen. Time and again he mastered a different field of politics and rose to a great height. On every occasion except the last his career ended in failure and even on the last occasion he was not sure …

Glamour Boy

Winston Churchill records that he only once spent a sleepless night of worry before and during the Second World War. That was on February 20, 1938, when he learned that Anthony Eden had resigned as foreign secretary. A tribute indeed to Eden as “the life-hope of the British nation.” David …

God Save Our Old Nobility

F.W. Maitland spoke of history as “a seamless web” and lesser historians bow to Maitland’s authority. As a matter of practical convenience however history is usually divided into separate areas and periods. Europe-oriented historians chop their subject into three chunks—ancient, medieval, and modern. We can forget about antiquity, which was …

His Uncle’s Nephew

Prince Louis Napoleon once occupied a great place on the European stage. From 1852 to 1870 he was Napoleon III. Emperor of the French, reviving if only in name the glories of his uncle. The other European rulers feared and courted him. Queen Victoria visited him at Paris with her …

The Legal Revolutionary

Historic Hungary was an exception to all the rules and never more so than in 1848, the great revolutionary year. Hungary was the only state in central Europe that had preserved its traditional constitution, though not without some interruptions. In 1848 the liberal program was carried through by ostensibly legal …

Some Views of Mrs. Thatcher’s Victory

Kingsley Amis Before trying to interpret this election we might notice what happened at it. Mrs. Thatcher’s victory was unusually decisive in two senses. She won by a bigger margin than any other Opposition leader since the Second World War, and she overcame the general tendency of the British electorate …

War in Our Time

The conference at Munich which led to the partition of Czechoslovakia was held over forty years ago on September 30, 1938. To judge from the books that still appear about it and the passionate feelings it evokes, the Munich conference was as significant as the congress of Vienna or the …

Who Shot Aunt Sally?

“The study of politics is just now in a curiously unsatisfactory position.” This sentence by Graham Wallas is evidently a favorite of David Cresap Moore’s. He uses it a number of times. This is indeed a habit of his. Once he has found a good quotation he repeats it again …

Imperial Germany’s Jewish Banker

Gerson Bleichröder rose highest of all Jews in Imperial Germany. He was the Rothschild of Berlin, his wealth second only to Alfred Krupp’s. He was the first Prussian Jew to become a “von” without conversion to Christianity. What carried him to greatness was his association with Bismarck. Bleichröder was Bismarck’s …

The Great Pretender

Benito Mussolini was the last of the romantic revolutionaries, a man born after his time and gone sour. In the nineteenth century he might have been one of Garibaldi’s Red Shirts. More likely he would have been at home with Bakunin, hatching ineffective conspiracies with nonexistent conspirators. As it was, …

Boyish Masters

Empire is the domination of one race, nation or culture over others. This domination rests on superiority of two sorts. Military superiority comes first. It is the essential factor. Without it, no empire could come into existence. Without it, no empire could survive. But there is also cultural superiority, a …

Talleyrand’s Cut

Talleyrand once asked a lady friend: “What do you think posterity’s opinion of me will be?” She replied: “That you set out to stir up controversy about yourself.” Staring at her in amazement, he said: “You are right, you are absolutely right. I want people to go on for centuries …

Through the Keyhole

Spying makes news. Captain Dreyfus is the only officer of the French army in the 1890s whose name is still remembered. Mata Hari gets more space than most generals of the First World War. But what did they achieve apart from a sensation? Suppose the activities of which Dreyfus was …

Rational Wars?

Twentieth-century man is supposed to be more rational than his forefathers. He attempts to solve his problems by rational discussion. By the use of rational processes he has achieved almost unlimited power over nature. He understands the working of the universe. According to the psychiatrists he can even understand himself.

The Independent Habit

Sir Lewis Namier told a story of a priest in Galicia who was trying to explain miracles to a peasant. The priest said: “If I jumped from the top of that church tower and landed unhurt, what would you call it?” The peasant answered: “An accident.” “If I did it …

Surprise Party

Men hope to acquire certainty about the future and are always disappointed. The ancients consulted the oracle at Delphi and scrutinized the entrails of fowls. The Middle Ages relied devoutly on the relics of saints. When the Reformation opened the Bible to all, zealots fell upon the Prophetic Books, and …

Scarred Monuments

The eighteenth century was the great age of funeral monuments. When Westminster Abbey was packed two-deep with them, they invaded St. Paul’s Cathedral. Other cathedrals are fully stocked, and nearly every parish church has a monument or two to members of the local family. Most of them follow a common …

The Emperor Industry

There are more books about Napoleon than about any other human being (a phrase carefully chosen in order to rule out Jesus Christ). More than 100,000 titles appeared by the end of the nineteenth century, and no one has made the count of those which have appeared since. Probably the …

Top Family

What makes history tick? Historians have backed religion, nationalism, class consciousness, and all the sociological rigmaroles from aggressiveness to curiosity. The strongest motive force in history is the one most often over-looked. It is family attachment and ambition. Men who would not strive for themselves do so for their families—meaning …

The Hero City

Let no one forget, let nothing be forgotten. This is the last line of a poem by Olga Berggolts, carved on a wall of the Piskarevsky cemetery. There lie many of those who died during the German siege of Leningrad—perhaps six hundred thousand, perhaps well over a million, no …

That War Again

Combatants fight while a war is on. Historians fight about the war when it is over. Few topics have been so fertile in historical disputes as war origins. The most ruthless aggressor likes to claim that he was provoked into war by the other side. No doubt Attila used to …

Watching the World Go By

Diplomacy is a strange profession. Its practitioners spend their lives either actually in foreign countries or else thinking about them. Often they seem to become half foreign themselves. They develop exceptional sensitivity in two opposite ways. On the one hand, they are more acutely obsessed than their fellow citizens with …

Far-Away Countries

The years before the Second World War continue to provide difficulties for historians. There is an enormous amount of available material in erratic proportions—sometimes excessively rich on less important subjects and sometimes tantalizingly small. There is also an assembly of accepted beliefs which are often treated as sacred and immune …

The Great Schism of Our Age

It is generally supposed that the cold war started in 1945 or soon afterwards. Innumerable lectures, articles, and books have been devoted to its origins. By now it has become a stock question in examination papers at Universities, and students labor over the theme: “Assess the origins of the Cold …

Bogey Men

Spies are big business nowadays. Every major Power has ten or twenty thousand on the payroll.There is a spy serial on most television circuits nearly every night, and spy stories make the best money for writers. Scientists perfect the most ingenious devices for spies. Politicians tremble before them. Nearly everyone …