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A. J. P. Taylor could never be dull, least of all in the essay. The medium was perfect for his qualities. In expression he displayed elegant brevity: in argument paradox: in knowledge lightly-worn mastery. The result was an aphoristic concinnity only perhaps bettered among historians by Macaulay.
Faber Finds has reissued three volumes of Taylor’s essays expertly assembled and introduced by Chris Wrigley. This second volume concentrates on the twentieth-century and, among other virtuoso displays, includes his controversial reappraisal of the beginnings of the First World War, ‘War by Timetable’ in which his relish of the paradox is seen at its most stimulating.
‘Once you start reading, it is hard to stop … The style is always arresting, the conclusions often startling. Taylor’s subjects rage from Trotsky to Churchill, from Bernard Shaw to Malcolm Muggeridge.’ Observer
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