An Historian in the Twentieth Century

Chapters in Intellectual Autobiography

Max Beloff

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Max Beloff, one of Britain's most distinguished historians, here offers an eloquent account of the relationship between history and politics in the twentieth century as seen from the perspective of his own professional life.

Lord Beloff opens the book with an account of his own route to professional history and the reasons he became involved in different areas of historical specialization. He then reflects on the nature and purpose of historical studies in the light of current controversies on both sides of the Atlantic. Beloff discusses the contemporary problems and opportunities of the nations he has studied and traversed during his half-century as a working historian: Britain, France, the United States, Russia, and Israel. The last chapters deal with two major themes in Beloff's work that have formed a bridge between his scholarly contributions and his activity in politics—the quest for European unity and the collapse of the European empires that recently culminated in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The book concludes with Beloff's provocative opinion that, based on his work on the fall of the British Empire, the end of European imperialism is a matter not for rejoicing but for regret.

Max Beloff was Gladstone Professor of Government and Public Administration and is now professor emeritus at Oxford University. In his long and varied career, he has taught or lectured on every continent, and he was the founder-principal of the University College at Buckingham (now the University of Buckingham). Max Beloff was created a Life Peer in 1981 and in the House of Lords has specialized in constitutional matters, foreign affairs, and higher education. Among his many books and articles are The Age of Absolutism, 1660-1815; The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia; Thomas Jefferson and American Democracy; Imperial Sunset; and The Government of the United Kingdom.

"It . . . brings to mind a dictum of Robert Conquest's: the more you know about something, the more reactionary you will be about it. Lord Beloff finds the present Western leadership's ignorance of history disturbing."—Norman Stone, Sunday Times

"[A] sage new book."—Niall Ferguson, The Daily Mail

"Impressive. . . . Full of stimulating insights."—Robin Edmonds, International Affairs

"A cultural autobiography interlaced with eight elegant essays on a formidable range of subjects: France, Russia, 'the uniqueness of Britain', the United States."—Norman Stone, Times Saturday Review

"[Beloff's] trenchant, iconoclastic views on such topics as American party politics, French intellectuals, Russian imperialism, and post-colonial Africa, reveal traditional European sensibilities and an aggressively conservative intellect."—Virginia Quarterly Review

"His determination to communicate the lessons of a lifetime, even in unfashionable terms, produce insights of great freshness."—John Ramsden, Political Studies

"An Historian in the Twentieth Century ranges from Israel to Russia, from France to the United States. His reading is truly impressive; the footnotes alone are a delight. In a strange way—and I think it is this that makes the book great—the story of Beloff's life merges into history: his life is history. . . . Enjoyable and thought-provoking."—Jane Ridley, Independent

"This fascinating and beautifully written book details the author's process of development as a professional historian working in specialised fields, including work in both the United Kingdom and the USA. . . . A 'must' for all persons, professional or lay, who are really concerned to understand the role and functions of the historian in making sense of the world of human affairs."—Bob Swan, Australia and World Affairs

"Excellent reading. . . . An eloquent account of the relationship between history and politics in the twentieth century as seen through the perspective of [Beloff's] own professional life."—Yesterday and Today

ISBN: 9780300057430
Publication Date: October 28, 1992
144 pages, 6 x 9