Paul Addison

Paul Addison, who died in 2020, taught history at Edinburgh, where he directed the Centre for Second World War Studies. His books include The Road to 1945 and two biographies of Churchill.


Paul Addison, 11 May 1995

For every one book or article on the Conservative Party, there used to be ten on Labour and the Left. Lacking as they were in sympathy for Toryism, most academics seemed also to lack curiosity about it. Today the position is very different. The shattering experience of living through Mrs Thatcher’s counter-revolution has awakened both historians and political scientists to the fact that Conservatism is one of the central mysteries of 20th-century British history. The discovery of enormous gaps in our understanding is particularly exciting for younger academics who, irrespective of their own political views, are attracted by sweeping prospects of revisionism.

How Left was he?

Paul Addison, 7 January 1993

John Maynard Keynes is famous for his private life and associations with Bloomsbury and famous, too, as the economist who campaigned for public works between the wars, and revolutionised economics with his General Theory. A biographer of Keynes has to straddle two very different worlds, and it is one measure of Robert Skidelsky’s achievement that he writes with equal authority of both in this deeply researched and densely textured book. But what marks out his work as truly masterly is his portrayal of the interplay between the private and the public in Keynes, the tensions between the two, and the dynamism released by the growing fusion between the two halves of his nature.

War within wars

Paul Addison, 5 November 1992

As he looks forward to his 70th birthday Sir Michael Howard can also look back over a distinguished career which began with Wellington, Christ Church and the Coldstream Guards. In 1943, as Lieutenant Howard, fresh from the University, he led his platoon in a dangerous uphill charge against a German position north of Salerno. For this he was awarded the Military Cross, and ended the war, twice wounded, as Captain Howard. Returning to Oxford, where he had already obtained a first in Part I of Modern History, he set his sights on an academic career. But as a result, perhaps, of the distractions of the Oxford Union, and a performance just before finals as Wolsey in Shakespeare’s Henry VIII, he missed a First in Part II. This was a stroke of luck which, by ruling out a tutorship at Oxford, freed him to pursue his interests in military history as a lecturer at King’s College, London. His first book, a history of the Coldstream Guards written jointly with John Sparrow, was published in 1951.

Dismantling the class war

Paul Addison, 25 July 1991

In a chapter of the Cambridge Social History V. C. Gatrell describes the relationship between policing and crime. ‘More policing,’ he writes,‘leads to more reported crime; more reported crime results in the unfortunate statistical corollary of lower clear-up rates; these in turn unleash a call for additional police resources; more resources lead to more reported crime.’ A similar model applies to the writing of British social history. Since the Sixties more and more historians have been recruited to the field. Inevitably the number of historical problems has multiplied, giving rise to more and more debates and controversies – thus proving the need for more research.’

The Road to 1989

Paul Addison, 21 February 1991

Kenneth Morgan’s history of our times is both rewarding and frustrating. It is rewarding on government and politics since 1945, and frustrating on social and economic structure. Between the two, at the point where government and society meet, Dr Morgan is at his most interesting and controversial. He develops a thesis about the decline of leaderships and authority in Britain which may or may not be right, but which lends the book a vision and a theme.

When Chamberlain took the British to war in September 1939, he had little idea of how they would respond. Very few of those in authority did. In their introduction to this important collection of...

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Sunny Days

Michael Howard, 11 February 1993

Peter Hennessy has chosen for the dust jacket of Never Again a picture that exactly captures the mood of 1945. A returning British serviceman is being welcomed home by his wife and small son....

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Outbreak of Pleasure

Angus Calder, 23 January 1986

Towards the end of the Second World War, the Common Wealth Party produced a striking leaflet – ‘Again?’ – to play on the widespread fear among British voters that victory...

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