Angus Calder

Angus Calder Revolutionary Empire: The Rise of the English-Speaking Empires from the 15th Century to the 1780s will be published in March. He is the author of The People’s War: Britain 1939-1945.



11 March 1993

David Townsend (Letters, 10 June) may well be on firm ground when he challenges my suggestion that approved children’s fiction incites to violence. It could be that Stevenson, Richmal Crompton and Ransome were so successful as children’s writers because they saw very clearly that children had wicked propensities and addressed them on this basis, diverting them from real violence into morally tolerable...

The Sadist

12 March 1992

I’m surprised that Doris Lessing should feel drawn to defend Sir Richard Burton so hotly against remarks in my review of Frank McLynn’s careful biography (Letters, 9 April). I did not ‘find it remarkable that he continues to attract biographers.’ I wrote, on the contrary, that the complexity of his personality ‘will always draw biographers towards him’.There are other signs in her letter...

God’s Own

Angus Calder, 12 March 1992

It is no surprise when you arrive in Harare, formerly Salisbury, and a taxi driver recommends the Courtney Hotel. After all, there is still a hotel named after Speke in Kampala, Uganda, and the New Stanley Hotel has remained a well-known establishment in Nairobi. But to discover that the Courtney is in Selous Avenue is more of a jolt It’s over a decade since Mugabe and his guerrillas in effect won the war to liberate Zimbabwe, but its capital’s street names are a bizarre mélange. North of Selous the next avenue is Livingstone; then comes Herbert Chitepo, named after an African leader martyred in the struggle. To the south, Baker and Speke intrude between Samora Machel and Mugabe. Since those two famous explorers never came anywhere near the territory formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, their continued invocation in the centre of decolonised Harare is remarkable testimony to the charisma attached to the myth of the doughty white man worming into the core of a dark continent.


Distaste for Leavis

11 October 1990

David Craig writes as movingly and candidly about his personal relationship with F.R. Leavis as Paul Addison, in the same issue, does about his with A.J.P. Taylor. But isn’t the contrast between their two mentors illuminating? Taylor never sought to create a ‘Taylorite’ school. His verdicts on other historians never had the force of anathema.When a group of us arrived at King’s College, Cambridge,...

Enemies of Promise

Angus Calder, 2 March 1989

Just seventy years after Friday, 31 January 1919, when troops and tanks stood by to quell a mass rally, in Glasgow’s George Square, of West of Scotland workers campaigning for a forty-hour week, the event was remembered in the People’s Palace, the museum of labour history on Glasgow Green. A bronze bust of Willie Gallacher by Ian Walters was not so much unveiled as proclaimed. It sits at the top of the building, in the room where Ken Currie’s controversial Rivera-style murals of working-class history can be seen around the ceiling: but the speeches were made in the Winter Garden downstairs, where heavy rain dripping through the glass roof and a chill which gnawed one’s bowels did not dismay the two hundred people who had gathered to honour the man who from 1935 to 1950 was Honourable Member for West Fife (Comm.), and an activist long before that on the Clyde Workers Committee.

A myth now, what is that? ‘A purely fictitious narrative embodying some popular idea concerning natural or historical phenomena,’ my Shorter Oxford says, adding: ‘Often used...

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Kiss Count

John Campbell, 19 April 1984

The spectacle of members of the upper class setting out solemnly and in a spirit of scientific research to study the lower classes in their natural habitat is a peculiarly Thirties phenomenon....

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Freaks of Empire

V.G. Kiernan, 16 July 1981

‘Revolutionary empire’ is a bold term which may be taken in various senses. Like the Roman and Arab before it, but on a grander scale, the British Empire was a powerful force in...

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