Top critical review
Disappointing. A dull book on a very entertaining man.
1 September 2000
This is a solidly-researched biography of one of the best-known dons of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, and despite being one of his pupils, the author does not seem to like her subject very much, and she has managed to write a dull book about a very entertaining man. One reason is that she does not seem to have a sense of humour; another is that she has chosen to structure her book thematically, so that having reached the end of his career in one chapter the reader is plunged back in time half a century or so to the beginning again at the start of the next. The implication is that Taylor lived his life in separate compartments -- that there was no relation between his personal and professional life, for example. There is little sense too of context, a strange omission by an historian, particularly in writing about a man who was so interested in events happening in the world in his own lifetime. Professor Burk seems shocked that Taylor should have earned more from writing books and newspaper articles, and appearing on television, than he did from his teaching. This seems a quaint attitude when historians such as Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson, Norman Stone and Martin Gilbert are media stars. Taylor's style was famous curt and much lampooned: Burk recognises this, but alas her own prose is pedestrian. This is a book which may or may not appeal to professional historians...