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How far should the practising historian accept the conclusion of the idealist analysis of history carried out by Michael Oakeshott in Experience and Its Modes (1), probably the most brilliant book on the philosophy of history written in the first half of the 20th century (even possibly includi
'It is not necessary to be dull to write about history', Ged Martin remarks (p. 8). One suspects that many historians would add, 'but it helps'. This book is a wonderful antidote to that excessive seriousness. The style is crisp, paradox and aphorism abound – 'historians love paradoxes', Martin says (p.
It is given to few to be accorded ‘classic’ status in their own lifetime, but Marc Ferro has qualified twice over – not only for the work under discussion here, but also for his account of The Great War, 1914–1918 (1973).
Totalitarianism as a concept has made something of a comeback in recent years.
Edward Hallett Carr's contribution to the study of Soviet history is widely regarded as highly distinguished. In all probability very few would argue against this assessment of his multi-volume history of Soviet Russia. For the majority of historians he pretty much got the story straight.
Ernest Gellner, who died on 5 November 1995, was one of the great polymaths of the century. Many of his twenty books were concerned with philosophy, sociology and anthropology. Yet at the core of his work was an historical question.