Synopses & Reviews
"Biographies of historians seldom make exciting reading. One exception, however, is the biography of A.J.P. Taylor, who at one time or another was an historian, essayist, journalist, popular radio and television personality, book reviewer, and Oxford don. Taylor's last doctoral student at Oxford has written a fascinating, detailed biography of a very complicated man as well as an analysis of his research and writing. His private life involved three tempestuous marriages and six children; he was outspoken, sometimes quarrelsome and always opinionated. Taylor was probably the best-known British historian of the 20th century who wrote 23 books including his two masterpieces The Struggle for Mastery in Europe and English History 1914—1945. However, he is best remembered for The
Origins of the Second World War. This volume was praised and condemned chiefly because Taylor argued that Hitler had no preconceived master plan, only exploited opportunities and was supported by the German people. A member of the Communist Party in his youth, after World War II Taylor became outspoken in his anti-American views and in his support for an Anglo-Soviet alliance. Taylor also gained renown in Britain for his lectures on radio and later on television and for his writing in the daily press all of which brought history into the lives of millions of people in Britain and supplied him with the income that he needed to support his life style. It is a delightful book about a controversial man." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
Popular, prolific, and impassioned, British historian A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) was also outspoken, controversial, and quarrelsome. Taylor's many books, including The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, The Origins of the Second World War, and English History 1914-1945, changed the way history was written and read. His legendary television lectures, delivered live and unscripted, brought history to a huge popular audience. In this masterful biography, Kathleen Burk provides a perceptive account of the life and achievements of Britain's most famous twentieth-century historian. Burk draws on her personal acquaintance with Taylor in his later years and on an array of previously untapped archival materials to analyze the successes, failures, and controversies of Taylor's life as historian, Oxford don, broadcast journalist, husband, and friend.
The author sets Taylor's professional work in the context of the development of history in England during the century, and she traces the relations between his writings and his reactions to domestic and foreign politics. Her account of Taylor's years at Oxford explores the customs and rituals of the academic community, his colleagues, and the successive crises that beset him personally and professionally. The book also assesses Taylor's political activities and his self-described role as an "impotent socialist," his development as a journalist and broadcaster, previously unknown financial aspects of his freelance activities, and his private upheavals, in particular his failed marriages.