Simon Skinner

Simon Skinner teaches modern British history at Balliol College, Oxford.

Tea with Medea: Richard Cobb

Simon Skinner, 19 July 2012

Who now, other than historians of modern France, remembers Richard Cobb? Cobb’s Wikipedia entry – the canonical index of posterity’s interest – measures three lines; by contrast, Hugh Trevor-Roper, his principal addressee in this collection, gets five thousand words. Yet Cobb, who died in 1996, was not only a historian of acknowledged genius. As these letters...

The note accompanying Thomas Jones’s reflections on generational attitudes to Armageddon says that he ‘edits the LRB blog from a secure bunker, in an undisclosed location’ (LRB, 5 April). I believe previous leaks have disclosed that his bunker is in Orvieto, and he will therefore almost certainly know about – and if not, would certainly relish a trip to – the former nuclear...

Trampled by an Elephant

10 September 2014

It was important to be reminded by R.W. Johnson that Clement Attlee – executive midwife of the National Health Service, Town and Country Planning, as well as the nationalisation of coal, the railways and canals, iron and steel, the Bank of England and civil aviation – should have regarded ‘Indian independence’ as his administration’s ‘greatest achievement’...

Who to blame?

17 February 2011

Julian Bell writes drolly to protest John Lanchester’s characterisation of the current political high command as white men in their forties with humanities degrees from Oxford, on the grounds that Nick Clegg is a white man in his forties with a humanities degree from Cambridge (Letters, 17 March). The wider question is whether these are men with ‘humanities’ degrees in any received...

Where to Put the Jug

14 August 2008

Hilary Mantel’s lament for the NHS amplifies a rising note in popular comment on British hospitals: the incapacity and rudeness of so many nurses (LRB, 14 August). A corollary is appreciation for a new phenomenon, the conscientious and communicative hospital doctor. These views disorientate us, given the long-standing stereotype that nurses are the under-remunerated angels of the ward, while...

Make way

21 July 2005

E.S. Turner’s mention of the apocryphal encounter between John Wesley and ‘Beau’ Nash in Bath in 1739 reminded me of another later meeting in which Nash was supposedly bested (LRB, 21 July). Walking towards Wesley along a narrow pavement, Nash is said to have proclaimed, ‘I never make way for a fool.’ Stepping aside, Wesley replied: ‘Don’t you? I always do.’

Quite Normal

19 September 2002

John Sturrock, in his review of The Keys of Egypt (LRB, 19 September), remarks that its authors ‘sink to a new low in asinine anglicisation by turning the Ecole Normale into the Normal School’. Whether this is quite such a low is debatable, but it is very far from new. A proposal for a teacher-training Normal School administrating non-denominational religious instruction was central to...

Bennett Notebook

20 January 2000

Another true story: a highly educated and linguistically gifted acquaintance, born and raised in Ohio, thought until adulthood that the opening line of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was a homage to the Hispanic element in the US melting pot: ‘José, can you see…’

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