Angus Calder

Historian, poet, literary critic and Scot Angus Calder has died at 66. A very sad loss. His book The People’s War remains a stand out history of the British home front in the Second World War nearly forty years after it was first published, and his study of how The Myth of the Blitz was created demonstrated an ability, remarkable in academics, to reconsider and improve his own work over time. It is astonishing to think that The People’s War was published when he was only 27: every time I go back to it I am amazed at the amount he packed in and the nuanced sensitivity with which he wrote. It is rather too easy to perceive The People’s War, alongside RIchard Titmuss’ earlier Problems of Social Policy, the Second World War chapters in AJP Taylor’s English History 1914-1945 and Constantine Fitzgibbon’s The Blitz, as the constructors of a myth of wartime consensus and unity. Bearing in mind how soon after the conflict they were written, I think the degree to which they acknowledged the variety and complexity of wartime experience is impressive. Even if Calder wasn’t ‘right’ in every case the first time around, as he himself acknowledged, it’s rare to find a nuance he didn’t mention. RIP.

Edit, 11/06/08 – obits from the Independent, the Herald and, from Bernard Crick, the Guardian.

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