A. J. P. Taylor

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A. J. P. Taylor (1906-03-251990-09-07) was a British historian, journalist, broadcaster and scholar. His approachably written and sometimes contentiously revisionist studies of 19th and early 20th-century subjects brought academic history to a new audience.


  • A racing tipster who only reached Hitler's level of accuracy would not do well for his clients.
    • The Origins of the Second World War ([1961] 1962), Chap. 7, p. 134
  • The First World War had begun – imposed on the statesmen of Europe by railway timetables. It was an unexpected climax to the railway age.
    • The First World War ([1963] 1970) p. 20
  • In 1917 European history, in the old sense, came to an end. World history began. It was the year of Lenin and Woodrow Wilson, both of whom repudiated the traditional standards of political behaviour. Both preached Utopia, Heaven on Earth. It was the moment of birth for our contemporary world.
    • The First World War ([1963] 1970) p. 165
  • Like most of those who study history, he learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.
    • "Mistaken Lessons from the Past", The Listener (June 6, 1963)
    • Referring to Napoleon III
  • History gets thicker as it approaches recent times: more people, more events, and more books written about them. More evidence is preserved, often, one is tempted to say, too much. Decay and destruction have hardly begun their beneficent work.
    • English History 1914–1945 ([1965] 1985), "Revised Bibliography", p. 729
  • Taylor's Law states: "The Foreign Office knows no secrets."
    • English History 1914–1945 ([1965] 1985), "Revised Bibliography", p. 730
  • The greatest problem about old age is the fear that it may go on too long.
    • An Old Man's Diary ([1981] 1984) p. 39
  • I was a narrative historian, believing more and more as I matured that the first function of the historian was to answer the child's question, "What happened next?"
    • A Personal History ([1983] 1984) p. 301.

The Trouble Makers: Dissent over Foreign Policy, 1792-1939 (1957)

Comprises the text of the Ford Lectures on English History, 1956. Quotations are cited from the 1985 edition, ISBN 0140225757

  • Every historian loves the past or should do. If not, he has mistaken his vocation; but it is a short step from loving the past to regretting that it has ever changed. Conservatism is our greatest trade-risk; and we run psychoanalysts close in the belief that the only "normal" people are those who cause no trouble either to themselves or anybody else.
    • "The Radical Tradition: Fox, Paine, and Cobbett", p. 14
  • Conformity may give you a quiet life; it may even bring you to a University Chair. But all change in history, all advance, comes from the nonconformists. If there had been no trouble-makers, no Dissenters, we should still be living in caves.
    • "The Radical Tradition: Fox, Paine, and Cobbett", p. 14
  • In my opinion we learn nothing from history except the infinite variety of men’s behaviour. We study it, as we listen to music or read poetry, for pleasure, not for instruction
    • "The Radical Tradition: Fox, Paine, and Cobbett", p. 23
  • The present enables us to understand the past, not the other way round.
    • "The Radical Tradition: Fox, Paine, and Cobbett", p. 24
  • The worker is by nature less imaginative, more level-headed than the capitalist. This is what prevents his becoming one. He is content with small gains. Trade Union officials think about the petty cash; the employer speculates in millions. You can see the difference in their representative institutions. There is no scheme too wild, no rumour too absurd, to be without repercussions on the Stock Exchange. The public house is the home of common sense.
    • "Dissenting Rivals: Urquhart and Cobden", p. 55
  • American statesmen might like some Europeans more than others and even detect quaint resemblances to their own outlook; but they no more committed themselves to a particular group or country than a nineteenth-century missionary committed himself to the African tribe in which he happened to find himself.
    • "The Great War: The Triumph of E. D. Morel", p. 157

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