We don’t have in this country an academic who may be said to seriously rival as a celebrity the British author of A Personal History. A. J. P. Taylor’s scholarship over half a century is formidable: close to thirty solid works in international history and biography, some eminently controversial, but none, I believe, charged with either superficiality or ineptitude. He has household status in his country as a newspaper columnist dealing with up-to-the-minute political and diplomatic affairs; and he is as widely known a television figure as anyone in England. Finally, he has a cultivated sense of the outrageous, both in his university and media roles. “Extreme views weakly held” is his description of his politics.

In the preface to A Personal History, Taylor informs us that the book might have been more interesting were it not for the libel law in Great Britain,...


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