In his foreword Tony Blair suggests that this book 'offers an overview of the important themes in the WEA's history and relates the past to the present and future of the association.' This is indeed true. The book acknowledges the association's successes, but is critical of its failures; its tone is at times joyful and at others poignant.
Child of the Enlightenment is a captivating book: charming, moving, and richly informative, it melds the intimate and distant, weaving together bodies, emotions and minds, Enlightenment ideas and philosophy, and revolutionary politics.
We all now realise that fascism was a very serious business indeed, and historians have been treating it seriously for some time, even its maligned claim to be totalitarian. Historians have also moved way beyond the still lingering popular perception that Italian Fascism was somehow less radical, less totalitarian, less ‘fascist’ than German Nazism.
Of all the Federal Arts Projects set up as part of the New Deal, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) was, in the words of one contemporary, the ‘ugly duckling’ (p. 35).
It was more than 30 years ago when Albert Hourani pointed to the common Ottoman lineages of the Arab political elite active in the inter-war Middle East. ‘They had been at school together in Istanbul’, he noted.
The most remarkable feature of the mould-breaking expansion of higher education that took place across the world in the 1960s was the foundation of some 200 entirely new universities.
Britain has never been a meritocracy. Despite the concept’s widely-evoked vision of a ‘fair’ or ‘just’ social order, one where individuals rise or fall according to their ‘talents’ or ‘efforts’, the rise of the meritocracy has continually been scuppered by the perseverance of inherited privilege or democratic pressure.