Tuesday, May 19, 2009

How to Write History

Norman Stone on the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in February 1918:
'On the other [side] were representatives of a new state, soon to be called the Russian Socialist Federation of Soviet Republic - some Jewish intellectuals, but various others, including a Madame Bitsenko who had recently been released from a Siberian prison where she had been put for assassinating a governor-general, a 'delegate of the peasantry' who had been picked up from the street in the Russian capital at the last minute as useful furniture (he, understandably, drank), and various Russians of the old order, an admiral and some staff officers, who had been brought along because they knew about the technicalities of ending a war and evacuating a front line (one was an expert in black humour and kept a diary).'

24 comments:

  1. Is that in his short history of the First World War? I respected him enough to buy it but not, so far, to read it.

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  2. Wonderful stuff. May I commend George Dangerfield's elegant and entertaining Strange Death of Liberal England in these uncertain times? Written in 1935, Dangerfield could have been writing about the modern Labour Party. Nihil novem sub solem.

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  3. I was fortunate enough to catch some of his renowned lectures, often conducted away from the academy and in a pub. These were the most intellectually stimulating and entertaining talks I've ever come across. The man is a giant of erudition and wit and also happens to be very kind to his students.

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  4. On every page in his WW1 A Short History he has something new and original to say: an exceptional achievement; and so compelling that after the wonderful preface I read it until I fell asleep furious that I couldn't finish it in one go (and I know what happens).

    It also has one of the most terrifying photographic images of warfare you will ever see as its jacket illustration.

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  5. I think this episode is even better described in Orlando Figes book about the Russian Revolution.

    He has the entire story about how the token Russian peasant was picked up en route to Brest Litovsk.

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