A half century ago students at American and British universities were well acquainted with the work of Lewis Namier, since two of his books—The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III (1929) and its sequel, England in the Age of the American Revolution (1930)—were indispensable primers in how to study history, illuminating the crucial role of elites in shaping events. To say that nowadays his works are out of fashion is a drastic understatement; we are now told that the really important players in the past were “marginalized peoples”—racial minorities, women, illiterate laborers, and so forth. Why, then, a biography of a historian, and a major one at that, widely regarded as passé? The answer is that the man...


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