Raymond Carr

A leading light amidst the gloom

Isaiah Berlin was a much-loved friend and a dominant influence on my thinking as an historian. His death in 1997 left a void that cannot be filled. I first met him in 1946 playing tiddlywinks on the floor of his room in New College. The letters in this book of some 700 pages, magnificently edited

Secrets of the parsonage

Of the hundreds of books I have reviewed in the last half century only two could be classified as definitive. Margaret Smith’s three volumes of Charlotte Bront

Spain through true blue eyes

Richard Ford is now a forgotten figure and we must be grateful to Ian Robertson for bringing him to life in this scholarly biography. His Handbook for Travellers in Spain was published in 1845 by John Murray as one of his guides for the middle-class tourists who had replaced the aristocrats of the Grand Tour.

Only one factor among many

This is a fascinating book on a fascinating subject, written by a master of his craft as a military historian. Sir John Keegan’s declared purpose is to answer a simple question: ‘How useful is intelligence in war?’ The answer he gives is that, however useful intelligence is in disclosing the enemy’s intentions, strengths and weaknesses,

Battling for Britain Prussian style

During my first term at Oxford in 1938, when walking down the south side of the Christ Church quad, I passed a large man in a bowler hat and a smart London suit. The only persons in the college who wore bowlers were the porters and most dons followed David Cecil’s advice to dress in

The triumph of outrage

In this book Russell Martin seeks to explain to the common reader how Picasso’s largest canvas, measuring 11′ 6” high and 25′ 8” long, came to be called ‘Guernica’, after a small Basque market town of some 7,000 inhabitants and how it became the painter’s best known work as an icon of the radical Left

The greatest Briton

MAN OF THE CENTURY: WINSTON CHURCHILL AND HIS LEGENDby John Ramsden HarperCollins, £25, pp. 652, ISBN 002570343 In January 1965 John Lukacs came from France with his son to attend Churchill’s state funeral. He came, he writes in the contemporary account of his visit, reprinted in this book, in order to say ‘farewell to the

History from below

Professor Linda Colley is a distinguished historian. In her Britons, published in 1992, she proved that good, imaginative professional history could attract a wide public. Captives is a more complex book that demands close reading, as she unravels the ambiguities that challenge customary certainties of imperial history. The empire celebrated at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee