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Friday, April 04, 2014

Plus ca Change

I'm rereading Adam Sisman's very well-done and readable biography of the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. Here's a passage in which Trevor-Roper, a thoroughly nasty and brilliant man, describes the work of his colleague Lawrence Stone: "[He] wrote articles which, by the triple technique of a challenging thesis (generally a mere exaggeration of a borrowed thesis), a dogmatic ex cathedra style, and a portentous array of documentation . . . were taken everywhere, even by the elect, as being important contributions to scholarship." The next passage in the biography adds: "In later life Stone admitted that he saw nothing wicked about going into a different field of study 'with a pickaxe and digging out the gold and getting out fast.'"

Posted by Paul Horwitz on April 4, 2014 at 12:02 AM in Paul Horwitz | Permalink


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I read the first three lines of this post and thought, "I'll bet Horwitz wrote this."

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 4, 2014 12:25:32 AM

I took a graduate seminar from Stone in his last years of teaching and read most of those articles. I always got the sense--from both the articles and the man--that Stone was playing (and relishing) a very elaborate game. What confuses me is that it also seemed that all the other significant British historians of that generation were playing the same game. I guess Trevor-Roper never got the memo.

Posted by: Andrew Siegel | Apr 4, 2014 8:50:00 AM

A fine biography indeed (particularly good on the "Hitler Diaries" fiasco), but why RE-read it already? It only came out last year and is almost 700 pages!

Posted by: Lois Turner | Apr 4, 2014 2:06:54 PM

Lois, fair question and in a sense, I thought I should say "rereading" instead of "reading" because it seemed like an odd choice and I didn't want to cosmeticize it. Partly because I have a bad habit of re-reading, often especially when I'm looking at starting some new but daunting book; mostly because I recently started reading Letters From Oxford, the volume of T-R--Bernard Berenson correspondence, and some of it drove me back to the biography.

Andrew: Thanks! I should say that the description of Stone in the Berlin letters is quite different and much more generous, especially once Stone got to Princeton. It was obviously the description(s) I was interested in, for their resonance; I haven't read Stone and am in no position to take a stand on him. T-R, it seems to me, was very perceptive, and if there was a fault to be found, he would probably find the right one; but I wouldn't take his judgments without a whole shaker of salt.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 4, 2014 2:17:22 PM

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