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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a toilsome book about an unlikeable character, 26 Oct. 2011
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This review is from: Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography (Paperback)
The historian Hugh Trevor-Roper was snobbish, highly intelligent, versatile in the history he practised, fond of controversy, and someone a lot of people, with some justification, disliked. He could have been the subject of a short, sharp biography; of a story told with irony and relentless focus.

Instead we have this dreary, toilsome plod through his life and work. Was it really necessary for Mr Sisman to tell us about the people with whom T-R took tea, or that his car broke down on a mountainside? I think not. You have to infer from a mass of detail what T-R was really like.

T-R was a social climber who made it. He produced too much journalism, probably (though the point is not well made here) to make money in order to keep his eventual wife, the daughter of Earl Haig, in the style she required. He never produced a 'real' history book, although it is clear that he was a gifted essayist. Whether in these times he would have got the Regius Chair at Oxford, or been elected FBA, is an interesting speculation. He was a public intellectual of a kind that went rather out of fashion but has made a comeback in the shape of, for example, David Starkey or Simon Schama. He was also very unlikeable, and the fiasco over his authentication of the 'Hitler diaries' must have given many people considerable satisfaction - he had always been quick to point out the scholarly shortcomings of others. The 'Hitler diaries' tale is told here with nothing like the humour or panache that Robert Harris showed in his wonderfully entertaining book.

The subject is of some interest; the book, sadly, isn't.
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