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Conservative revolutionary

The lives of Lewis Namier

By David Hayton

Conservative revolutionary

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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8603-8
  • Pages: 472
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: RRP £25.00, NOW £15.00
  • Published Date: August 2019
  • BIC Category: History, BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Historical, POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, HISTORY / Historiography, Humanities / Historiography, Biography & True Stories / Biography: historical, political & military, Humanities / 20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000

Description

Acclaimed after the Second World War as England's greatest historian, Sir Lewis Namier was an eastern European immigrant who came to idealise the English gentleman and enjoyed close friendship with leading figures of his day, including Winston Churchill. Today, Namier is associated with the belief that the thoughts and actions of elites matter most, and with a view of politics in which those who enter public life do so only in pursuit of personal and material advantage. This exaggerated view has made him a hero to social and political conservatives, and a demonic figure to the Left. Preoccupied by nationalism, empire, and human motivation, Namier also remains famous in academic circles for supposedly declaring that any reference to ideas in political discourse was nothing more than 'flapdoodle'. The first biography of Namier in over thirty years, this book is based on a vast range of sources, including rich new archival material.

Reviews

'Judicious, balanced, thorough . David Hayton's book will be accepted as the definitive biography of a fascinating man.'
Adam Sisman, author of A.J.P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper

'Hayton has left hardly any relevant archive or printed source uncombed . The result is a definitive account of its subject. As histories of historians go, it definitely ranks with Haslam on E. H. Carr, Sisman on Taylor and Trevor-Roper, and Bentley on Butterfield.'
Miles Taylor, author of The Age of Asa: Lord Briggs, Public Life and History in Britain since 1945

'One of the most important books in British historiography for decades. Nobody is better placed than David Hayton to recover Namier's unsurpassed technical mastery of historical problems. But Hayton is equally alert to Namier's chequered life and overpowering personality, while his deft and unobtrusively witty style makes this a pleasure to read. A masterpiece.'
Colin Kidd, author of The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000

'An important and compelling study. The product of many years of research, this scholarly and well-written biography goes beyond a familiar English environment to expand Namier's significance as a major figure in European and Jewish historiography.' Michael Bentley, author of The Life and Thought of Herbert Butterfield: History, Science and God

'Lewis Namier (1888-1960), has long held a legendary status among historians. When I was an undergraduate, my teachers told me he had revolutionised the study of our subject. DW Hayton's startlingly honest biography, Conservative Revolutionary: The Lives of Lewis Namier (Manchester University Press), puts him in his contexts - a Polish-Jewish immigrant to the UK, a painstakingly exact scholar, a Freudian who thought that ideas played no part in history or in the motivation of individuals, a Zionist who disliked Israel, and a thoroughly unpleasant man. Hayton shows both why his work on 18th-century politics was hailed as revolutionary on its first appearance, and why it is no longer influential today. Masterly. '
New Statesman

'That is a bald summary of a life brilliantly covered by Hayton, and with a great mastery not only of obvious sources but also of an astonishing range of obscure ones. The back cover has Adam Sisman claim the book as definitive, which is wrong as no historical work can be, but it is certainly excellent. Hayton's conclusion makes it apparent that he came to like Namier, a difficult man; but not even Namier's most devoted pupils and friends were blind to his faults and this is an even-handed biography. It is not the sort of cosy study recently produced for Hobsbawm. Instead, this is a psychologically grittier work and one that asks tougher questions of a man who struggled to provide a consistency to his life and work.'
History Today

'Until now the standard version of Namier's life was the biography by his widow, whose inclinations were mystical rather than historiographical. Hayton's is triumphantly comprehensive, unobtrusively weaving high politics with historiography, the life of the mind (and its whimsies) with the body: Namier's minor obsession with graphology, his years in psychoanalysis, the botched sinus operation of his adolescence, his writer's cramp, his insomnia.'
London Review of Books

'Namier, an extraordinarily talented man, had an extraordinarily unhappy life . This book is especially good in revealing the central European and Zionist dimensions of Namier's work and knowledge, including his writings on nineteenth- and twentieth-century European history . a carefully researched biography'
J. C. D. Clark, The Critic

'deeply researched. a work of mature and exact scholarship'
Jim Smyth, Dublin Review of Books

'D. W. Hayton's biography - scrupulous, humane and leavened with dry wit - does its subject justice.'
Richard Viven, Literary Review

'
Books are often described as definitive when they are nothing of the sort. This magnificent biography truly deserves the accolade.'
Lord Lexden, Conservative History

Awards

The Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography 2020

Contents

Prologue: In search of Namier
1 Avenues of history: the child and the man, 1888-1913
2 Personalities and powers, 1913-1917
3 Facing east, 1917-1920
4 In the margin of history,1920-1928
5 Skyscrapers, 1928-32
6 Europe in decay, 1932-8
7 In the Nazi era, 1938-47
8 Crossroads of power, 1947-56
9 Conflicts, 1956-60
10 Vanished supremacies: Namier in retrospect
Index

Author

D. W. Hayton is a Visiting Professor in the School of English and History at Ulster University

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