Troublemaker

The Life and History of A.J.P Taylor

Kathleen Burk

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February 8, 2002
512 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
30 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300094534
Paper

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Popular, prolific, and impassioned, British historian A. J. P. Taylor (1906-1990) was also outspoken, controversial, and quarrelsome. Taylor’s many books, including The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, The Origins of the Second World War, and English History 1914-1945, changed the way history was written and read. His legendary television lectures, delivered live and unscripted, brought history to a huge popular audience. In this masterful biography, Kathleen Burk provides a perceptive account of the life and achievements of Britain’s most famous twentieth-century historian. Burk draws on her personal acquaintance with Taylor in his later years and on an array of previously untapped archival materials to analyze the successes, failures, and controversies of Taylor’s life as historian, Oxford don, broadcast journalist, husband, and friend.

The author sets Taylor’s professional work in the context of the development of history in England during the century, and she traces the relations between his writings and his reactions to domestic and foreign politics. Her account of Taylor’s years at Oxford explores the customs and rituals of the academic community, his colleagues, and the successive crises that beset him personally and professionally. The book also assesses Taylor’s political activities and his self-described role as an “impotent socialist,” his development as a journalist and broadcaster, previously unknown financial aspects of his freelance activities, and his private upheavals, in particular his failed marriages.

Kathleen Burk is professor of modern and contemporary history at the University College London.

"Kathleen Burk has written a lively and readable life of A. J. P. Taylor that expands the two Taylor biographies which preceded it. For that reason it is likely to be the more useful in fully understanding its subject."—Robert Cole, Albion

“Ms. Burk has done all intellectual troublemakers—and an intellectual should always be such—a favor by bringing the life of England’s most eloquent modern Socratic newly to the fore at life-long length.”—Michael Freedberg, Boston Phoenix


“A fascinating, balanced and carefully researched appraisal, interweaving [Taylor’s] torrid personal life and ruthlessly directed historical one.”—Ben Pimlott, Financial Times

“This is a big book (in both senses of the term) and deserves a wide readership.”—Chris Wrigley, History Today

"Burk was the last of Taylor's graduate students and she writes with knowledge and affection."—Melvin C. Shefftz, International Studies in Philosophy

“Taylor’s contribution to the intellectual history of this century makes this account fascinating and valuable.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This book is a remarkable portrait of a remarkable man. . . . No future historian can hope to explain [Taylor’s] impact on his times better than Kathleen Burk has done.”—Raymond Carr, Literary Review

“A fascinating study of difficult but brilliant man.”—Simon Shaw, Mail on Sunday

“[T]his worthy book, with its balanced emphases on the professional and the personal, will please historians of every stripe.”—Publishers Weekly

“[A] superb new biography. . . . Here is the life of the mind lived at its fullest by a distinguished historian who was a pioneering broadcast journalist as well as a writer and an Oxford don.”—Sewanee Review

“Burk’s splendid biography iss a sympathetic but nnot hagiographical account of the man she judges to have been ‘possibly the greatest, and certainly the most famous diplomatic historian of the twentieth century’. Impressively researched and beautifully written, the book analyses Taylor as historian, controversialist, media personality, political activist, university teacher, and human being.”—Alan Sharp, The International History Review

“A book which admirably combines the engaging readability of the sympathetic biographer with the tough-minded analysis of the professional historian.”—Stefan Collini, The Observer

“Burk’s biography admirably balances the personal with the public side of Taylor’s life. . . . [This] compelling portrait makes this complex and prickly man sympathetic and, occasionally, quite admirable.”—F.M. Leventhal, Twentieth Century British History

“A fascinating, detailed biography of a very complicated man as well as an analysis of his research and writing. . . . It is a delightful book about a controversial man.”—Virginia Quarterly Review

“Burk, an American who was Taylor’s last graduate student, has mastered the vicious subtleties of the British class system and managed to produce a biography that is fair and well judged. She comprehends both Taylor’s resentments and the attitudes of his enemies. . . . Above all, she conveys Taylor’s distinction as a historian, a career to which he came late, after a false start in law.”—Martin Walker, Wilson Quarterly

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