History in Our Time

Cannadine, David
Date published: 
August 1998

Composed with characteristic fluency and verve, this book is a collection of recent writings by David Cannadine, the most accomplished historical essayist of his generation. Cannadine's subject is nineteenth-and twentieth-century Britain, from Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher, King Edward VIII to Diana, Princess of Wales. The pieces included here explore subjects as varied as suicide and divorce, patriotism and empire, class and privacy, and they examine the cult of 'Victorian values' as recently espoused and proclaimed by politicians and historians in Britain and America. Each of these essays evokes a personality or investigates a problem: the mysteries of class distinctions, the recent travails of the British monarchy, the difficulties and dangers of being the Prince (or the Princess) of Wales, the malevolence of Lord Beaverbrook, the varied motives for imperial expansion, and the unhappiness of Harold Macmillan. They discuss (and sometimes dismiss) many of the most important - and notorious - works of history and biography to have been published during the last decade on both sides of the Atlantic. And directly and indirectly they illuminate the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and John Major and the presidencies of George Bush and Bill Clinton and the ways in which contemporary events have helped to shape and change our perspectives on the past. The book not only provides entertainment and enjoyment of the highest order but also sheds new and sometimes unexpected light on that unending dialogue between the past and the present that is both the essence and the excitement of history.