The Darkened Light of Faith

Frederick Douglass, credit Wikipedia

The Darkened Light of Faith; Race, Democracy, and Freedom in African American Political Thought, Melvin L. Rogers, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2023, 380 pp, hb, reviewed by Leslie Jones

The European is to the other races of mankind “what man is to the lower animals; – he makes them subservient to his use” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835). Tocqueville despaired of ever seeing an aristocracy “…which is founded upon visible and indelible signs”, ever disappear. The habit of servitude, in his estimation, had given the slave “the thoughts and desires of a slave”. He noted that the prejudice of race was even stronger in the states which had abolished slavery, where the white “…fears lest they [the blacks] should someday be confounded together”.

Tocqueville’s pessimism about Europeans ever mixing with blacks was shared by several American commentators, notably Martin Robinson Delany. Born in 1812 in Virginia, Delany’s father was a slave, but his mother was free. Between 1850 and 1851, he was one of only four African Americans allowed to attend Harvard Medical School. He left in March 1851, never to return. The Dean, Oliver Wendell Holmes snr and many of the students had vehemently opposed the admission of black students. Professor Rogers considers Delany’s The Condition, Elevation, Emigration; and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States (1852) a “powerful indictment of American life”. Delany espoused a theory of history in which the role of elites was pivotal. Human nature, he averred, “generally produces political and ethical hierarchies to organise human relations” (Rogers, p158).

For Delany, his dismissal from Harvard Medical School and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 underlined the unequal status of blacks in the United States, based on prevalent notions of their inborn racial inferiority. Unlike Frederick Douglass and David Walker, author of the incendiary Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), Delany regarded the white citizens of the United States as beyond redemption. The law, as Tocqueville maintained, is an expression of the underlying ethos of the people and it made African Americans “alien to the polity” (Rogers, p119). Frederick Douglass, in contrast, believed that man “is still capable of apprehending and pursuing that which is good”. He opposed Delany’s support for an independent black state by colonisation and emigration, accusing him of spreading “hopelessness among the free colored people …and thereby…resigned to the degradation which they have been taught …must be perpetual”. According to Delany, however, Douglass obfuscated the alien status of black people. In a letter to William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, dated May 1852, he confided, “I have no hopes in this country – no confidence in the American people – with a few excellent exceptions – therefore I have written as I have done”.

Could the revolutionary spirit of 1776 transform America into what the author calls “a racially just society” (page 160), or the “more perfect union” referred to by Barack Obama, in a speech in 2008? Douglass, for one, concluded his eloquent 1852 Address ‘What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?’ on a relatively positive note, stating “I do not despair of this country…I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope”.

However, “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11: 1). Faith is transcendental, whereas social science endeavours to be realistic, evidential and empirical. Professor Rogers acknowledges that in the 1890’s even Douglass’s faith in democracy dimmed, as, towards the end of his life, did that of W.E.B. Du Bois. In his autobiographical work Dusk of Dawn (1940), Du Bois states that the focus of his Souls of Black Folk (1903) was “the admission of my people into the freedom of democracy”. The lynching of Sam Hose in 1899, he also informs us, disrupted his sociological work of the 1890’s, as “one could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist while Negroes were lynched, murdered and starved…” “Chin up”, he urged a friend, “and fight on, but realize that American negroes can’t win”.

Melvin R. Rogers regards Donald Trump as a supporter of “white supremacy [and] nativism” (p 3). And while he generally eschews Afro-pessimism, he advises black Americans to “always look on their white counterparts with suspicion”.

“Men”, Marx contends, “make their own history, but they do not make it as they please” (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte). We commend Professor Rogers for his indefatigable labours.

[Editorial note; many thanks to Judith Cannon for her technical prowess]

Dr Leslie Jones is the Editor of QR

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Endnotes, December 2023

Lemminkäinen’s Mother at Tuonela, Robert Wilhelm Ekman, credit Wikimedia Commons

Endnotes, December 2023

In this edition: Collectors’ corner, vintage Elgar and Sibelius; Parry, Symphonic Variations, reviewed by Stuart Millson

Occasionally, it pays to walk away from the current CD catalogue and download ‘playlists’ and delve into the still-living and listened-to treasury of gramophone records. There is a true acontact with the spiralling grooves spinning at 33 1/3 rpm on the turntable; a real sense of pride in a collection as one holds the record cover ~ often a tangible, physical reminder of a particular time in life; a favourite composer, an obsession with a particular piece.

Those who think only of CDs, or whose music collection is locked inside an electronic bank of files –  think again. A trip to a specialist record shop, or trawl through internet lists, may put you in touch with an almost lost world of orchestras and conductors from times past; captured with recording techniques which can sometimes prove worthy rivals to contemporary labels. This month, we look at two such examples: medium-play microgroove records (i.e. c. 12 minutes of music per side) from the 1950s: Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and Serenade for Strings played by the New Symphony Orchestra under Anthony Collins; and Sibelius’s The Swan of Tuonela, coupled with a thrilling recording of Lemminkainen’s Return, Op. 22, No. 4, from Thomas Jensen and the Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra.

The conductor Anthony Collins has faded from view today, unjustly, as he recorded for Decca the first British Sibelius symphony cycle ~ a set which was transferred to the stereophonic Decca Eclipse label in the 1970s, joining a re-engineered mono-sound Vaughan Williams cycle from Boult and the LPO, and Holst’s The Planets in a 1958 rendition by Sargent and the LSO. For his Elgar music for strings, Collins (as in Sibelius) takes a direct, no-frills approach to those two curtain-raising staples of the English repertoire ~ generating in the (1905) Introduction and Allegro a tinge of that sea-breeze freshness which so inspired the composer on his musically fruitful holiday to Cardiganshire.

Unlike many modern interpretations, Collins (in straightforward Decca sound quality) exerts no pushing or pulling of the music; no unduly over-sensitive touches, no over-elaboration. Some, of course, might argue that alongside classic recordings (Barbirolli and Britten, or more recently, Edward Gardner and the BBC SO), the Collins approach lacks emotion. But by ‘playing a straight bat’, the (old) New Symphony Orchestra, allows listeners to savour a simplicity of style and faithfulness to the score. Yet that is not to say that the New Symphony strings lack vitality, for in the impetuous concerto grosso passages (so associated with Ken Russell’s 1960s’ Elgar film) listeners will find themselves lifted to the high trackways of the Malverns, the surging waters on the River Severn, the skyscapes of the English-Welsh border where Elgar roamed and (in his words) ‘dreamed of something very great’.

The Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra of 65-75 years ago was clearly a force to be reckoned with; Decca’s sound-technicians of the time capturing a woodwind sound of sparkling intricacy ~ a sunlit Nordic tide bringing the Finnish folk-hero, Lemminkainen, to the country of his childhood. Part-Don Juan, part-Siegfried, the legendary warrior clearly inspired an outburst of national rejoicing in Sibelius’s writing, as an inextinguishable orchestral surge builds and recharges, before releasing the tension in a finale of affirmation and victory.

Any listener will surely be gripped by the cutting call-to-arms delivered by the very forward brass sound of the Danish orchestra ~ a startling blast, in a somewhat unnatural ambience, reminiscent of trumpets as famously captured in Janacek performances on the Czech Supraphon label.

Sir Hubert Parry’s Symphonic Variations were premiered two years before Elgar’s rather longer-in-span and more famous ‘Enigma’ Variations, yet some passages match (or rival) Elgar for heroic melancholy. And yet in Parry, the autumnal elegies of Brahms’s slow movements are never far away: the English master taking the clarinet and horn sound of the great Johannes, transposing it from Hamburg or the Rhineland to the willowy walks of Sussex.

Listen, though, for a change of mood just over halfway through the work; a furrowing of the brow by Parry, as urgent, stormy strings and organ-like blocks of sound from French horns create a terrible grandeur ~ like glimpses of winter sunshine through a tempest. Playful, bittersweet woodwind usher in delight and nostalgia, so we are hearing far more than stately, Teutonic gestures ~ the woodwind managing a final re-appearance ~ giving the work an optimistic ending.

The variations run as a continuous whole, Parry emerging as a true master of our English musical renascence ~ the foundation-builder of what was to come in the age of Elgar and Vaughan Williams.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review

Record and CD details:

Elgar, Introduction and AllegroSerenade for Strings. New Symphony Orchestra of London, Anthony Collins. LW 5047.

Sibelius, The Swan of TuonelaLemminkäinen’s Return. Danish State Radio Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Jensen, conductor. LW 5105.

Parry, Symphonic Variations. London Philharmonic Orchestra, Mathias Bamert. Chandos 6610.

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Sir Kenneth J Dover, the Contours of his Life

Hyakinthos, credit Wikipedia

Sir Kenneth J Dover, the Contours of his Life

Edd., Stephen Halliwell & Christopher Stray, Scholarship and Controversy: Centenary Essays on the Life and Work of Sir Kenneth Dover. Bloomsbury 2023. Pp. i-xiii; 1-362. $144.00.

Edd., Stephen Halliwell & Christopher Stray, Marginal Comment: a Memoir Revisited by Sir Kenneth Dover. Bloomsbury 2023. Pp. i-xi; 1-350. $90.00. Reviewed by Darrell Sutton

These two volumes complement each other. The former publishes the papers of a symposium, the latter is a reissued autobiography accompanied by explanatory notes. Sir Kenneth Dover (1920-2010; KD) had a distinguished career as a Hellenist, gaining a formidable reputation for his powers of exegesis as he devoted his energies to the study of Attic prose, Greek morality and Greek sentence structure. His erudition in those disciplines was unmatched. So long as Aristophanes is studied, KD’s critical editions of Clouds (1968) and Frogs (1993) will be on the lists of required reading. One project, A Historical Commentary on Thucydides, was realized by a joint effort with A. Andrewes (1910-1990). The two final commentaries (1970,1981) are brilliant works of scholarship that rounded off the herculean project originally begun by A.W. Gommes (1886-1959).

KD acquired a taste for Western Pacific languages early in his youth. Precocious, he excelled at St. Paul’s School, traveled to Greece twice while young, in 1937-38. He even wrote some poetry. His classical training at Oxford was sound enough. Prizes and scholarships followed. His eminent tutors, notably Eduard Fraenkel (1888-1970), E.R. Dodds (1893-1979), and Russell Meiggs (1902-1989)) left their mark. Fastidious, meticulous, and downright fussy when resisting the temptation to generalize, his philological work served to disclose nuances often missed in casual readings of texts. Excepting comparative philologists with the dexterity of J. Wackernagel (1853-1938) or C. Watkins (1933-2013), certain Indo-Europeanists whose linguistic techniques are instinctively etymological, can scarcely read ancient Greek fluently. KD, however, although interested in historical linguistics, was a grammarian in every sense of the word and much more. He was a master of ancient Attic Greek idiom in the texts into which he delved.

Each sentence of every scholarly article composed by KD was measured and was the product of long and patient deliberation. Anxieties about how rightly to understand Greek popular morality consumed decades of his life. His publications in this area polarized opinion. British views on how homosexuality in mid-20th century England distressed him. He was averse to dogma, anti-Christian and vociferously progressive. He advanced to graduate study but did not complete his DPhil. degree under the renowned historian, A. Momigliano (1908-1987). Lacking a doctorate degree, KD attained a reputation that most holders of doctoral credentials never realize. With few exceptions, his published work was first-rate. Knighted in 1977, he received several honorary degrees. He was a President of a college, a Chancellor of another institution. He was beloved by family and respected by his friends but his disdain for people he disliked was intense.

In Scholarship and Controversy (SC) there is an Introduction, Part I: The Life. Part II: The Work, then an Epilogue. The authors recall him fondly and praise him for his administrative and scholarly virtues . The centenary essays are informative in one regard, disappointing in another. Mostly historical, the investigations provide few analytical investigations, especially considering the specialized collection of papers KD assembled in Greek and the Greeks (1987) and The Greeks and their Legacy (1988), both incredible compilations. Through C. Stray’s Introduction, readers are informed of the original intent to celebrate KD’s memory in 2020, a century after his birth. Covid derailed the celebration. Stray’s Introduction was not meant to be more than  a thin outline of material that would be fleshed out in succeeding chapters. Later, Stray’s second piece on ‘Marginal Comments’ Composition… Reception’ fills many gaps in knowledge and adds specific details otherwise unknown.

By making ample use of private correspondence, readers learn that contrary to the hostile posture conveyed by KD toward his father in the Marginal Comment (MC), he exhibited affection toward both his parents. Part I traces his career from school age through the controversies at Corpus and in the British Academy, none of which need reiteration. So much of MC is cited in SC that only a small amount of new or expanded information is provided. The better part of The Life section establishes the context in which he was schooled. However, through 100 pages, and aside from data on courses offered in Oxford, what was said in MC is just restated in SC in a different way. The personal recollections of E. Craik and E. Bowie were valuable and insightful. Speaking of Dover, E. Craik says that in his view Pindar’s Greek was not ‘peculiarly difficult’; and in Craik’s view KD was ‘first and foremost a linguist’ (p.54). I disagree with them both. KD’s minor rivalry with Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones is treated objectively. As related, clearly it was not easy for MC to find a publisher, seeing that aspects of the narrative contained salacious material.

In Part II, very well written papers appear. The endnotes are comprehensive. But here again, few new facts emerge. All the heated debate kindled by the publication of Greek Homosexuality (GH;1978) is retold briefly. It died down quickly because only a handful of scholars concentrated on those sources anyway; fewer still were able to evaluate the Greek correctly. In her article, Carol Atack theorizes about how those studies took shape. Nonetheless the main theme of that one book, although innovative at the time of issue, cramps the discussions in several papers, excepting the ones treating of language in marginal ways, or the one on Theocritus and also C. Pelling’s compelling examination: ‘Dover on Thucydides’.

Though Greek H0mosexuality may be the one book for which KD is remembered by scholars in general, it is startling to read on p.205 J. Elsner’s judgment: ‘Dover was a terrible art historian with no eye, no training and absolutely no reflex to question the problems of his evidence beyond what he wanted it to do’: see ‘Dover’s ‘Inch’…’. Elsner alleges the evidence was examined by KD with bias. On that basis, numerous art historians, who did not publish their views, came to believe his interpretations of ancient Greek vases to be wrongly construed. His portrayal of ancient Greek homosexuality will be called into question as close-reading scholars of this generation re-inspect the same sources KD read. In particular, there is one Greek vase that he used to form a theory for his view of homosexuality (12.5,p.211). It patently depicts homoerotic acts and bestiality, actions that KD muted in his discussion of the object, not wanting to provide any public linkage of the activities in the images as he referenced ancient Greek culture.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the greatest weakness in KD’s treatment of that theme, and in C. Atack’s paper, was the fact neither KD nor Atack told readers that some types of acts favorably illustrated on ancient pots are no sure confirmation of their popular acceptance and practice in society at large. In Marginal Comment… Revisited, KD claims he knew so, p.167; but that impression is not vigorously defended by him. Whatever one thinks of the powers of the Greek imagination, fantasy frequently made its way into hundreds of ancient paintings and drawings too. Plato’s Symposium is a rhetorical masterpiece, but one should not to take too literally the factual nature of the speeches on eros. Both ancient Greek comedy and tragedy, along with Plato’s ‘philosophical’ addresses, were often enfolded in creative discourse (vid. KD’s quoted remarks on p.171, linked to fn.23, and fn.39 on p.175). For a somewhat critical but stalwart defense of KD’s construals, see S. Halliwell’s Foreword, ‘The Book and its Author’ in Greek Homosexuality (2016 reissue).

In R. Hunter’s superb paper dealing with ‘Dover and Theocritus’, philosophical matters are engaged critically. He tells readers that “Theocritus was Dover’s only real ‘foray into Hellenistic poetry or, indeed, into Hellenistic literature…’”. Hunter sees flaws in KD’s Theocritan research that went either unnoticed or unstated by others.

Incidentally, I am unable to understand why papers were not commissioned to discuss KD’s research regarding the textual criticism and transmission of Clouds and Frogs or an article on his tests and trials as editor of the Classical Quarterly from 1962-68). The deficiencies in KD’s thin expositions of Greek piety and the ideas associated are neglected by Halliwell and Stray. The Greeks were no less religious than their neighbors to the North, East and South. Religion of any kind had little appeal to KD. Dover’s first presupposition was that religion was irrelevant or useless. He then attacked the veracity of texts of any extremely religious society as though their presumptions were more speculative than his own. His interests did not lead him to describe fully the spiritual facets associated with Greek attitudes and behavior. C. Carey on ‘Dover and Greek… Morality’ is helpful here.

Prauscello’s paper ‘Dover as Historian of Greek Language’ elucidates KD’s hermeneutic method. KD did not believe that words had any real defined etymological meanings that extended beyond how they were being used at the time they were spoken. This belief affects modern interpretations of ancient concepts. Grammar and syntactical matters certainly are difficult, but surely there were scholars who could investigate his editorial work on Denniston’s Greek Particles or his own chronological studies of Greek words and their translations into English. C. Güthenke’s piece on ‘Dover and Greek Drama’ lacks focus., The reviewer is unable to visualize the many textual networks of influence she supposes directed KD’s reading of ancient Greek dramatic pieces.

Cartlidge, ‘Dover on Style’, is well worth reading, but his survey lacks the precision one expects from this area of study. How Dover analyzed the composition of sentences and how he comprehended the staging of Greek words in a sentence is not addressed. Cartlidge possesses a solid grasp of the history of scholarship; although he did not look further beyond Denniston’s work to see the underpinnings of German philology in Dover’s views on style. Besides, what is style? Cartlidge begins with thoughts on prose and verse compositions. The personal elements he includes add nothing to the readers’ knowledge of what Dover intended by his research. It is true that writers are capricious in their compositions, especially where inflected languages are concerned. Few rules can be detected. Every writer has habits.

Cartlidge’s procedure is difficult to understand. Primarily he presents KD as a statistical syntactician. From there little progress is made. Unsure of what exactly his aims demanded, he did not reach any goal regarding Dover on style. A couple of paragraphs speak of Greek Word Order (1960). Three pages discuss The Evolution of Greek Prose Style (1997). In any case, what is the value in knowing how often EGPS was cited in select volumes of Cambridge’s Green and Yellow series? Seeing that KD spent so much time sorting out matters in speeches of Attic orators, an analysis of why KD’s assumptions in Lysias and the Corpus Lysiacum (1968) were deemed to be untenable by Lysian experts, (the bulk of whom still reject KD’s main contentions), would have proved more beneficial to his honor and to scholarly research today.

Halliwell looks at a few non-specialist pieces of KD that provide ‘critical reflections on the way in which Kenneth Dover’s distinctive intellectual values informed his (evolving) conception of classics’ (p.292). KD’s chief concerns were with history, and his perspective was relativistic. His preference for the study of Greek terms outweighed any love for the literature itself; and in their written form, his popular lectures do not inspire in readers the same enthusiasm for classical studies that he possessed for the Greek language. In Halliwell’s appendix, [‘Kenneth Dover, ‘The Value of the Classics’], KD’s lecture translated from Italian, it is quickly understood that classics in Great Britain survives notwithstanding ‘good reasons for the study of history in general’ (p.308).

Several papers do not meet the standards established by KD’s laborious scholarship, nor do they match the high-quality papers in the 1990 festschrift, Owls to Athens: Essays on Classical Culture… published in KD’s honor. Indeed, Owls to Athens is one of the finest classical studies festschrifts to be published in the English language.


Not much needs to be said vis-à-vis the new edition of Marginal Comment: A Memoir Revisited (MCR). S. Halliwell’s ‘Introduction: The Conception and Reception of Marginal Comment’ should be read along with C. Stray’s second piece, chapter, six, in SC. In MCR the editors’ annotations are instructive, exploiting three sources (p.ix): (1) special type-script notes by KD, (2) his letters to his parents from 1938-1963, and (3) marginalia from his own copy MC. The editors’ comments clarify numerous statements in the autobiography.

KD’s remarks therein on the controversies over Russian spy Anthony Blunt (1907-1983) and Trevor Aston’s (1925-1985) unruly nature at Corpus promoted the volume in scandalous ways. The press could not get enough of it. No need to rehearse it here. But it also had other content that aroused opposition. On occasion, the pages contain explicit descriptions that were off-putting to certain people. KD’s sexual activities began in his youth at an all-male private day school. These affairs involved a small clique of boys whose eroticisms were curious to KD, quite clean and pure in their own eyes, but perverse to those from whom they were shielded. The events described are perplexing, involving adolescents from five to sixteen years of age. Undetected conduct must have been common: in the wider world, older schoolboys who prey on younger ones would draw the attention of authorities and provoke lawsuits. KD’s personal remarks are straightforward and at times tend toward wonderment.

KD’s memoir contains a miscellany of revelations. Invitations to give lectures came to KD regularly; he declined Professorships at Berkeley and UCL. And though he was not a Pro-Life enthusiast, he had ‘some misgivings about abortion’ (p.223). He counted friends among the clergy; but his spiritual experience, in which he was born-again ‘in reverse’, is sketched resolutely on pages 158-9. He says, mockingly, that ‘the heavens opened’ and he heard a voice that declared ‘you have no need of a God.’ KD did not shy away from expressing harsh feelings relating to his colleagues and other academics: see chapter 10, ‘History, Comedy and Other Things’. His statements about R.M. Ogilvie (1932-1981) were scathing (pp.209,232). Theoretical linguistics were uninteresting to KD (p.264). WWII induced in him a fear of flying for several years (p.271). ‘As for race’, KD averred that ‘the Greeks were aware that if you go far enough south you meet black people, and if far enough north, people with fair hair and blue eyes, but nothing in Greek literature suggests awareness of any physical differentiation eastwards and westwards, from Portugal to Iran’ (p.324).

As the editors show on more than one occasion, sometimes KD’s memory played tricks on him. Nevertheless, pupils of the history of classical scholarship will find these two volumes  a precondition for understanding Sir Kenneth James Dover.

Printing errors: the word ‘modern’ turns up as ‘modem’ on pages 96 and 127.


 Table of Contents for Scholarship and  Controversy: Centenary Essays on the Life and Work of Sir Kenneth Dover

Introduction, Christopher StraySwansea University

Part I The Life
Dover at school and university (with an Appendix: Two poems by Kenneth Dover), Christopher StraySwansea University
Dover, Oxford and the study of classical literature: the making of a professional scholar, Tim Rood, University of Oxford
Dover and St Andrews, Elizabeth Craik, University of St Andrews
Dover and Corpus (with two Appendices), Ewen Bowie, University of Oxford
Dover, Blunt and the British Academy, Robin Osborne, University of Cambridge
Marginal Comment: composition, publication and reception, Christopher StraySwansea University

Part II The Work
Dover on Thucydides, Christopher Pelling, University of Oxford
Dover and Plato’s Symposium: attraction, aversion and intemperance, Frisbee Sheffield, University of Cambridge
Dover and Greek popular morality (Christopher StraySwansea University
Dover and drama, Constanze GüthenkeUniversity of Oxford
After Greek Homosexuality, Carol Atack, University of Cambridge
Dover’s inch: reflections on the art-historical method in Greek Homosexuality (with an Appendix: Dover’s list of vases collated against Beazley’s corpora by provenance), Jas Elsner, University of Oxford
Dover and Theocritus, Richard Hunter, University of Cambridge
No stone unturned: Dover as historian of Greek language between epigraphy and literature, Lucia Prauscello, University of Oxford
Dover on style, Ben Cartlidge, University of Oxford

Dover and the public face of Classics (with an Appendix: Kenneth Dover, ‘The value of Classics’, an article translated from the Italian original), Stephen Halliwell, University of St Andrews
Memories of Kenneth Dover, Rebecca Dover, Sir Brian Harrison, Jay Parini, David Stuttard

 Darrell Sutton is a Classicist

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Comments on a Complex Catastrophe

Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, in 1901, credit Wikipedia

Comments on a Complex Catastrophe,
by Wade Smith

Will this, the latest war in the Middle East become a major regional military conflict? [1] And what will be its economic consequences? In his statement to the nation of 28th October, Benjamin Netanyahu upped the ante, linking the war in Gaza to the Holocaust. He stated,

Our heroic soldiers have one supreme goal; to destroy the murderous enemy and ensure our existence in our land. We have always said “Never again”. “Never again” is now.

Historical facts are open to revisionist research [2], while their interpretations and memories, whatever their objective veracity, play a persistent part in traditional desires and political ideals. This is evident in the clash between Zionists and Islamists, with consequences far beyond their particular communities. Truth is a casualty not only during warfare but in its preparation and subsequent record. Atrocity stories are nowadays aggravated by cyberspace disinformation and blogger anarchy.

“The enemies of Israel are the enemies of reason and civilisation, and of our tradition of criticism,” writes philosopher Brett Hall, adding that defenders of reason are duty-bound to “speak out” at the present time, “one of the darkest” in modern history [3]. Let us oblige him, even if less reasonable readers dismiss the following brief critique as “Anti-Semitism” or “Islamophobia”, or both – subjects too sensitive, complicated and semantically fluid for substantial examination here. “Israel is a Jewish state, a state that exists to protect Jews,” Hall avers. “This is required because there have been systematic attempts over thousands of years to exterminate Jews,” who first “populated the land where Israel is today in around 2,000 BCE” and “continuously populated” it for “close to 4,000 years”. It is not our intention here to discuss these specific assertions, nor to engage with Palestine/Israel partisanship [4], but instead to emphasise past mistakes that led to the current crisis, and which require consideration if any future resolution is feasible.

Although hostility towards Jews has existed from antiquity [5], it dates among Arabs from “early medieval” conversion to Islam and has persisted ever since [6]. To introduce, consolidate and extend an expressly Jewish sovereign state among them was a gamble, albeit unintentionally provocative. The Salafists of Hamas regard Palestine to be an inalienable Waqf for recovery, and Muslims generally oppose the surrender to infidels of consecrated land. [7]

Several alternative territories had been proposed by friend and foe alike, from “Uganda” to Madagascar, potentially to accommodate up to 10-million Jews. Given ceremonial attachments to Jerusalem before 135 CE, it was hardly surprising that the 1905 Zionist Congress rejected fertile living-space in East Africa after the death of Theodor Herzl, a secularist despite his diarised paradoxical hope to reach Euphrates as scripture promised. [8]

Three decades after the conditional “national home” declaration from Balfour, the titanic defeat of Hitler ended the worst calamity. “But tragedy overwhelmed the Jews of Moslem lands, where a revived nationalism and sympathy for fellow-Moslems defeated by Israel aroused the populations against the Jews who had for many centuries lived in their midst”. [9]

“The foundation of the state of Israel was believed by Zionists to be the only solution to anti-Semitism, but as a result of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Muslim anti-Semitism is even more virulent than its Christian counterpart” [10]. After welcoming German, Russian and other refugees, while nevertheless losing thousands through emigration, how can the Knesset now guarantee permanent protection for its own multi-ethnic citizenry and Diaspora olim? According to Emeritus Professor of Judaism Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok, “the Zionist aspiration to solve the problem of anti-Semitism by creating a Jewish state in the Middle East has proved an illusion…. As humanity’s most persistent hatred, anti-Semitism continues to flourish…. In a world now faced with the very real threat of mass destruction, the flames of such hostility continue to burn bright, with the threat of Jewish extermination as great as ever” [11].

The passage of the Israeli Law of Return for all Jews (but not displaced Arabs) coincided with the start of escalating Muslim emigration, both legal and “undocumented”, from successive regions and for various motives. Today, the estimated Muslim population of Western Europe is more than 6% and is rising rapidly. In Britain it could exceed 17% by 2050 [12]. Even those who have sought asylum because of barbarity in their original homelands are disturbed by allegations of oppression and brutal incidents under Israeli jurisdiction, which predated the horrific Hamas incursion. Direct Palestinian fatalities since 1948 may seem trifling compared other conflicts around the world during the same period, but events in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will multiply the death-toll. There is also anger over UK military co-operation with Israel and participation in warfare against Islamic states, from Egypt (1956) to Libya (2011).  During the New Labour period, huge civilian losses in Iraq were “matched” numerically by the influx of foreign families. As recent demonstrations have shown, the Muslim demographic can feed unrest and even violence, especially against Jews. Islamic terrorists remain a major threat. Yet Siren voices from different directions urge that survivors expelled from Gaza should find refuge in Britain.

Internally, we contend with two political follies, not one. The first was the import of many thousands of immigrants already ill-disposed towards Jews. The second is that our supposedly beneficial alliance with Israel has enflamed that hostility and is cynically exploited by anti-religious and anti-nationalist revolutionaries like the Socialist Workers Party. Civic tranquillity, not just free speech, needs to be prioritised. Externally, the ultimate folly would be a geostrategic contest between expansionary Islamism and obdurate Zionism drawing in the major powers, and eventually risking a nuclear Armageddon.

Editorial note; Wade Smith is a pseudonym. Publication of this essay in QR does not constitute endorsement of its contents.


[1] RUSI, Global Security Briefing 62, 1 November 2023, online; Thomas Fazi, “Will Israel-Hamas cause a world war?” UnHerd, 1 November 2023; Mark Almond, “The savagery displayed by Hamas…” Mail Online, 10 October 2023; Wikipedia, “Samson Option,” online
[2] See e.g.: Margaret MacMillan, The Uses & Abuses of History (2010), 47,88-89, 105-109 & 137 on Israel.  Other examples include Gulag mortality estimates over four decades from 1.2 million (Adam Augustyn) to 60 million (Avraham Shifrin), Guernica and Dresden, the Armenian massacres; and positive re-assessments of Genghis Khan, Shaka Zulu & Neville Chamberlain.
[3] “Antisemitism: The sinister pattern,” Quillette, 1 November 2023, online
[4] Comparese Edward Said, David Gilmour, Rashid Khalidi, Norman Finkelstein, Jonathan Cook & Nur Masahla with David Pryce-Jones, Elie Kedourie, Robert Wistrich, Ben-Dror Yemini, Rick Richman & Jake Wallis Simons, amid a vast literature.
[5] Peter Schaefer, Judeophobia (1998); Jerome Chanes, Antisemitism (2004); David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism (2018)
[6] “Islam: References to Jews in the Koran,” Jewish Virtual Library, online; Andrew Bostom, The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism (2020); Yehoshafat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel (2017); Thomas Kiernan, The Arabs (1991), 120f
[7] John Jenkins, “The Iran Trap,” The New Statesman, 10 November 2023; David Bukay, Islam & the Infidels (2020); Patrick Sookhdeo, Faith, Power & Territory (2008); Dr Ahmad Abu Halabiya: “Have no mercy on the Jews, no matter where they are…. Kill those Jews and those Americans who are like them and those who stand by them…because they established Israel here in the beating heart of the Arab world” (Palestinian Authority TV, 13 October 2000/MEMRI)
[8] Gen. 15.18, Deut. 1.7-8 & 11.24, Josh. 1.4, 2 Sam. 8.3. Cf. Daniel Pipes, “Imperial Israel,” Middle East Quarterly (March 1994), note 11.  This biblical basis has been refuted by the non-observant Jew Jerome Slater; and by the evangelical Christian Stephen Sizer [IVP 2007] and ex-communist Muslim Roger Garaudy [SFI 1997], both consequently penalised for “antisemitism”.
[9] Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews (1968), 723
[10] John Bowker (ed), The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (1997), 76
[11] Anti-Semitism: A History (2002 ed), 341-342
[12] Olan McEvoy, Statista, 28 February 2023, online; Guilio Meotti, “Great Britain: Multiculturalism & Islam turn it upside down,” Gatestone Institute, 18 December 2022, online; Douglas Murray, The Strange Death of Europe (2018 ed), 336-7

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Brave New Suburbs

The back road from Middleton Tyas to Barton, North Yorkshire, credit Wikimedia Commons

Brave New Suburbs,
by Bill Hartley

The urge to live in the country has led to considerable infilling and expansion of North Yorkshire villages in recent years. Across the county there has been a range of new developments some of which impose designs better suited to suburbia than a largely rural county. Arguably one of the worst offenders has been bungalows, whose uniformity makes the approach to some villages more like entering the outskirts of a town. However, this sort of development is far less popular now than it once was, although not because of changing tastes in design. A recent BBC report, citing a housing expert, pointed out that there is far more value to be had from building a two or three storey property on the same plot. Builders, accordingly, have adopted a different approach to selling the rural dream.

Nostalgia is one of the reasons for urban to rural migration, witness a plethora TV shows and lifestyle magazines such as Country Life, together with a whole swathe of imitators devoted to particular English counties. Of course, there are only so many period properties available. These days the suburban bungalow in a rural setting has been superseded by designs meant to fit in with an imagined vernacular. Many villages in North Yorkshire now have a development grafted on which fits this description, though in terms of an actual connection to the broader surroundings, they are little better than bungalows. The result is a sterile exclave; in the village but not exactly of it. Design and the need to make a profit don’t always make for a harmonious outcome.

Villages tend to evolve and grow in a piecemeal fashion. Often this is what enhances their appeal and makes them so attractive. A mixture of housing styles down the years may reflect economic activity past and present, together with social gradations. There has of course always been infilling. For example, some villages come with a collection of council houses. These were built between the wars during a time of agricultural depression, when farmers were evicting labourers from their tied cottages. Uniform in appearance when they were built, many have since been sold off to their former tenants and have acquired some individuality, as the owners have invested in new windows and other external features.

Promoting the rural idyll means that the latest developments come with more than just a sales office on the construction site. Websites show aerial shots of the countryside just beyond the village. The emphasis is on a lifestyle that the homeowner may buy into, even though aerial views seem to emphasise the separateness of what is being built. The reason is because the design of the development means it fails to dovetail with the actual village.

The use of nostalgia as a marketing tool has been revealed by researchers at the University of Southampton. They note that an atmosphere of nostalgia has a capacity ‘to weaken consumers’ grasp on their money’. A challenge for the designer is that villages are rarely uniform in appearance, since they have grown organically down the years. A way round this is to go for a melange of styles ranging from Georgian to Victorian, sometimes with more than one on the same property. For example, windows can vary from gothic to oriel. The American publication Old House Journal describes this trend as ‘remuddling’. On a single property the effect isn’t necessarily unpleasing but used in an entire development the impression is baffling. It suggests that whoever was responsible lacked the confidence to come up with something original and instead raided the past to create a pastiche of what houses in a village are ‘meant’ to look like. Even with the passage of time it seems unlikely they will ever really fit in, the disharmony of the whole acting as a barrier.

Not all of this is to do with the actual houses. It seems that local authorities who sign off on these developments insist they should be open plan. In theory this is a nice idea and certainly looks good on the sales brochures. Presumably there are covenants in place which prevent buyers from erecting fences, growing hedges, or other barriers above a certain height. The intention is to move away from a regimented layout into a sweeping, flowing arrangement of buildings and roads. In an urban area this would probably work but villages generally aren’t like that, hence the difference is accentuated.

There is a proverb: ‘good fences make good neighbours’ and sometimes the question ‘who owns what’ can arise. A website called Boundary Problems advises on this and provides an insight into how small strips of land where no fixed boundary exists can become the source of disputes. Furthermore, open plan devoid of hedges and walls is rather lifeless and removes any sense of welcome and homeliness.

In the 1970s, architect Oscar Newman came up with ‘defensible space theory’. Admittedly he was considering town planning from the perspective of creating safer neighbourhoods, which hardly has the same significance in rural North Yorkshire. However this is a good starting point to consider what these developments end up looking like. Newman’s idea was of a socio physical development which creates a sense of territoriality. If there is a barrier separating the homeowner from the outside world, then they are far more likely to take an active interest in what is going on in their neighbourhood. When one cannot impose individuality on the exterior due to restrictive covenants, then the result is bland and runs contrary to the idea of what the developers were originally promoting: a niche in a cosy village.  In such places there seldom seems to be anyone about. It is as if every home is a show home and the lack of boundaries creates a feeling of exposure and a desire not to linger. In a village proper there are signs of actual occupancy: children’s toys perhaps, or other personal items in the front garden. Some are pristine, some are neglected but whatever the case they create a sense of vibrancy.

Adding to this separateness, such developments are usually in a cul de sac. The aim is to avoid through traffic, though in a village this is unlikely to be a problem. Not only is it insulated from traffic but also from people passing through. This is the pièce de resistance which ensures that though sharing the same postcode, these exercises in nostalgia will remain cloistered and separate.

William Hartley is a Social Historian

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Endnotes, November 2023

Arthur in the Barge, credit Wikipedia

Endnotes, November 2023

In this edition: seasonal music by Bax, Medtner in England, reviewed by Stuart Millson

Sibelius once remarked that the English composer, Arnold Bax, was “his son in music”. Readers who are familiar with the early-to-mid 20th-century Finnish symphonist’s dark works which evoke landscape (such as Tapiola, dedicated to an ancient spirit of the forests) will immediately grasp the significance of the quotation: Sibelius’s nature-worship and the intense, ‘dark-brown’ orchestration of so many of his works, providing ~ if not a template ~ but a lodestar for British music’s custodians of twilight Celtic romanticism.

Bax (1883-1953) was at his best, perhaps, in the medium of the orchestral tone-poem ~ his Arthurian fantasy, Tintagel being the best-known example. Mythical oceanscapes were also conjured in the dreamy horizons of The Garden of Fand ~ but the composer firmly rooted himself in mossy thickets and tree-shadows in The Happy Forest; and in the longer, majestic and mystical November Woods, conceived in the later years of the Great War (at about the same time as Tintagel).

November Woods evokes the gloom of a late-autumn, early-winter day; a cold breeze causing the branches of bare-boned trees to shiver in the dying light of the ever-shorter days. Mahler-lovers might also sense some of the atmosphere of the movement, ‘The Lonely One in Autumn’, from Das Lied Von der Erde, in Bax’s brilliantly effective painting of nature and the elements in his score. Yet the work is really a musical memoir of a love-affair, conducted by the composer in the landscape of the Chiltern Hills with musician, Harriet Cohen.

Bax wrote:

‘It may be taken as an impression of the dank and stormy music of nature in late autumn, but the whole piece and its origins are connected with certain rather troublous experiences I was going through myself at the time, and the mood of the Buckinghamshire wood, where the idea of this work came, seemed to sound a similar chord as it were… The middle part may be taken as a dream of happier days, such as sometimes come in the intervals of stress either physical or mental.’

Two particular recordings of November Woods stand out: the first, a classic reading by Sir Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in the rich, analogue sound associated with the Lyrita label in its 1960s-‘70s period; the second, a live recording from the 2003 Proms, with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (the flagship orchestra, founded by Boult in 1930) under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis ~ now himself a ‘grand old man’ of English music. In the Royal Albert Hall acoustic, Bax’s music seems to have that extra dimension of air and reverberation, thus adding to Bax’s winter daydream. Devotees, though, of Boult’s conducting style will sense a more ‘four-square’ approach to the music ~ perhaps leading to a less ‘impressionistic’ feel; a version that would fit well with Boult’s Elgar and Vaughan Williams discography. Whatever version you choose, November Woods is the perfect piece for this time of year.

Finally, to a new release of chamber music on the SOMM label, dedicated to the lesser-known Russian emigre, Nikolai Medtner ~ a figure who, like Rachmaninov, experienced the patriotic pain of exile from his beloved Russian heartland. Unable to cope with the barbarism of Bolshevism, Medtner and his wife took their homeland in their hearts, to distant shores and freedom.

On a CD entitled Medtner in England, SOMM brings together Natalia Lomeiko (violin), Alexander Karpeyev (piano) and Theodore Platt (baritone) for the Violin Sonata No. 3, the Sonata-Idylle in G major, and Eight Songs, Op. 61 ~ a splendid, representative sample of Medtner’s essentially romantic, but clearly intense 20th-century idiom. Francis Pott’s sleeve-notes bring Medtner to life, presenting much useful biographical information; pointing to the composer as a very private, sensitive but ‘lofty’ soul ~ with a strong attachment to Germanic culture (through a Teutonic strain in his ancestry). A photograph, taken in Warwickshire in the 1940s, reproduced on page 6 of the booklet, shows the composer in generally avuncular mood, holding a panama hat; smiling, yet with an expression hinting (perhaps) at a mind preoccupied with the emotions of an exile’s loss ~ as may be found in his Eichendorff setting in Eight Songs:

‘The path may take me where it will,
the sky is now my roof;
the sun appears with each new day,
the stars they keep their watch.’

Serenity and ‘a valedictory late-summer haze’ can be found in the music on this inspiring and intriguing CD, as well as dynamic scherzo passages, and ~ in the Violin Sonata ~ the satisfying momentum of an Allegro Molto finale in which Natalia Lomeiko and Alexander Karpeyev convince us that Medtner deserves to be far better known. The venue for the recording, the Wyastone Concert Hall, Monmouthshire, seems the perfect choice: clarity of sound, warmth, detail are all there for our complete enjoyment.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review.

CD details:

Bax, Tone Poems, Boult/LPO, Lyrita, SRCD231.

Bax, November Woods (with works by Elgar, Britten and Walton), BBC SO/Davis, Warner Classics 2564 61550-2.

Medtner in England, SOMMCD 0674.

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Traitor King

King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia, 1936, credit Wikipedia

Traitor King,
Andrew Lownie,
Blink Publishing Bonnier books, 2021,
isbn 978-1-78870-487-8, reviewed by Monty Skew

Before his death in 1972, Edward, Duke of Windsor, mindful of history and his inglorious role therein, gave an interview in which he boasted of his ‘love for Britain’ and how he wished it well. This interview was welcomed by diehard fans of the Duke and of his wife, Wallis Simpson. Any remaining fans should reconsider their views after reading this book.

Prior to the Norman conquest there was in some parts of England an Anglo-Saxon system for choosing or replacing a king known as Witemagot. The Accession Council is the nearest equivalent. Under Witemagot, Edward would not have been chosen as king and indeed might have been removed. Much has been written about the prevalence and dangers of royal inbreeding. All dynasties have methods of ridding themselves of an obvious encumbrance. Sultan Ibrahim, the mad Ottoman sultan, was a Canute-like figure. He ordered hot coal to be shovelled into the sea to keep it warm. He was removed by a plot involving his generals and bureaucrats. His own mother consented to his execution by strangulation. They could not countenance a monarch who was deranged while the country was at war.

Edward ascended the throne in 1936 on the death of his father George V, a strict disciplinarian, evidently exasperated by his weak son. He wanted his younger son George to succeed him (which he did eventually). Edward did not last long. He formed a liaison with twice divorced Wallis Simpson while head of the church. This was not acceptable to public opinion which turned against him. King Edward abdicated because he was forced to. He may even have been blackmailed into it because of youthful indiscretions. He was kept under constant surveillance as he could not be trusted. Wallis herself had a colourful and chequered past. It was not only that she was divorced. In her laughable hagiography of Simpson, Diana Mosley (wife of Oswald) suggests that Simpson added to her income by her ‘winnings at poker’ in Shanghai. There are many unsavoury activities associated with casinos. Let’s just say she swallowed more than her pride during her Shanghai days. Although the British press kept quiet, Windsor and Wallis were featured in the continental tabloid press. It was in fact concerned Britons abroad sending cuttings to No 10 which activated the proceedings.

The scheming adventuress Wallis desperately wanted to be Queen Consort but the abdication shattered her dreams. She never forgave Edward and the rest of their lives were spent pretending to have had a great love affair. Lownie takes up the story post-abdication. The control that she exerted over Windsor continued. There is absolutely no doubt about Windsor’s sympathies. He did not feel British. He even boasted about his lack of British blood. He spoke fluent German and once proclaimed “I am German”. Like many unconfident and sexually repressed men, he had fascist/Nazi sympathies. The sham of his ‘love of the century’ was slow to be exposed as so many journalists and publicists etc invested in the myth. Their livelihood depended on continually re-cycling this fictional love story. The Windsors, tied together and dependent on each other, were tabloid fodder.

Churchill was a strong supporter of Windsor during the abdication crisis. Like Windsor, he had extravagant tastes and many of his bills were settled by supporters. But at least Churchill did not mix with undesirable elements in casinos and nightclubs. Edward was a well-trained sponger who lived off those who wanted to rub shoulders with royalty. Both Windsor and Simpson, though rich, were grasping and exploitative. He has been accused of shady dealings and of defrauding insurance companies after the theft of her jewellery which later turned up in their possession. There are parallels here with former king of Spain, Juan Carlos, who stood down under a cloud of allegations of money-grabbing. Wallis Simpson sometimes sent for her own chef to cook at a meal to which she had been invited. Her love of luxury, at a time when Britain was at war and suffering privations, was unseemly. So was her constant craving for attention. She wanted to be addressed as HRH with continual curtsying. Royalty deserves respect but not obsequiousness.

Certain archives remain locked. Some have been embargoed for the next 80 years. Robert Vickers in his hagiography discusses this but avoids the contentious issue of whether Windsor was a traitor. His appointment as ‘Governor of Bahamas’ in 1940 ensured that he could be kept under observation by the secret service. Churchill, now PM, gave Windsor a coded warning of a possible court-martial for refusing to obey military orders. The evidence of his treason is over-whelming and any jury would have found him guilty. There is more than circumstantial evidence that he either deliberately informed the Germans of certain secret plans or was indiscreet about them. His version was ‘seeking peace’. Simpson was also close to German connected sources and some of her staff may have been placed by the Germans.

In the event of a German occupation, Edward would have regained his throne and served as figurehead Quisling. Much of this is detailed by Sybil Oldfield in The Black Book, the Gestapo’s well-developed plan for utilising members of the elite in occupied Britain. There is no doubt that Edward was a traitor. This book proves it. Baldwin was a divisive figure but in getting rid of Windsor he was perhaps the last PM, outside of wartime, to put country before party.

Future historians will doubtless refer to Traitor King, which includes interviews and private correspondence. Readers will find the bibliography useful, including the list of the trashy novels written about Windsor. Meticulously annotated throughout, this book may well become the definitive account of Edward, Duke of Windsor, after his abdication.

Der Herzog von Windsor auf der Ordensburg Crössinsee in Pommern am 13.10.37. Der Herzog schreitet die Front der SS im Burghof ab.

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Hayek, A Life, 1899-1950


Gustav Klimt, Philosophy, Ceiling Panel for the Great Hall of Vienna University, credit Wikipedia

Hayek A Life, 1899-1950, Bruce Caldwell & Hansjoerg Klausinger, University of Chicago Press, Chicago & London, 2022, 840pp, HB, reviewed by Leslie Jones


Friedrich August Hayek’s family was conservative, “culturally German” but only nominally Christian. Both parents belonged to the Viennese lower nobility or “second society”. His father August (1871-1928) was a district physician. August’s grandfather Heinrich had squandered the family fortune. The upshot was that August’s academic ambitions (his “passion was botany”) were thwarted, although he was awarded an extraordinary professorship in 1916, albeit unpaid. Friedrich (henceforth Hayek) evidently owed his love of German literature and of the theatre to his father – ditto his interest in natural science. He became a convinced Darwinian in his middle teens. His mother Felicitas von Juraschek was the daughter of a wealthy university professor and civil servant. Her inherited wealth helped pay for the servants, private schooling etc considered obligatory in these circles.

Hayek was intellectually precocious. Easily bored, his performance at school was dismal. Like other members of the Viennese bourgeoisie, he attended a gymnasium. At the Franz-Joseph Real Gymnasium, where he was enrolled from 1909-1911, scientific subjects were emphasised. Ancient Greek and Latin had been replaced by modern foreign languages.

In November 1918, Hayek enrolled in the faculty of law at the University of Vienna. He eschewed both racist nationalism (the race war) but also Marxism (the class war). With his close friend Herbert Fürth, he helped organise the German Democratic Student’s Union (DDHV). Jewish students were active therein. Hayek, then, was aligned with the progressive/liberal elements in the Viennese bourgeoise. In this context, his involvement in an informal discussion group in the early 1920’s, nicknamed the Geistkreis (‘circle of the spirits’) was pivotal. Its members “belonged mostly to the best type of Jewish intelligentsia…” (Hayek, quoted C & K, p152).

The growth of fin de siècle anti-Semitism in Austria-Hungary, facilitated by the extension of the franchise leading to the rise of mass parties, is a prominent theme in Hayek a Life. Georg von Schönerer’s pan-German party excluded those of Jewish descent, as did Karl Lueger’s Christian Social Party. Anti-Semitism, supposedly now scientific, was rife in Austrian universities. Indeed, August Hayek was a founder member of a section of the Verein deutscher Ärzte in Österreich (Association of Doctors). The Verein’s Aryan paragraph restricted membership to those of “German lineage”. Caldwell and Klausinger (henceforth C & K) acknowledge the anti-Semitism at the heart of Hayek’s family but they magnanimously conclude that August was not irredeemably tainted. Note, however, that both Hayek’s mother and his brother Heinz subsequently supported Hitler. Even Hayek himself was not entirely immune to anti-Semitism. Interviewed in 1983 by W. W. Bartley 111, in preparation for a prospective biography of Hayek, the latter described his onetime psychology lecturer Siegmund Kornfeld as “…a rather comic Jewish figure…” (C and K, p. 130). In similar vein, in 1939, Hayek wrote to Beveridge, the former Director of the LSE, on behalf of economist Karl Forchheimer, dismissed from his position in the Austrian Ministry of Social Affairs, stating that although Forchheimer was “I understand, fully Jewish, he is not pronouncedly so and I should have hardly known he was a Jew” (C & K, p. 396).

Hayek turns to economics.

Appropriately enough, Hayek A Life was showcased at the Adam Smith Institute on 26 April 2023. On August 1, 1932, Hayek became Tooke Professor of Economic Science and Statistics in the University of London. In his inaugural lecture delivered at the LSE on March 1, 1933, Hayek lauded Adam Smith for identifying “a mechanism that coordinates economic activity” but which arose spontaneously. This was the so-called “invisible hand”, referred to just once in Wealth of Nations (vol II, restraints upon importation). Carl Menger, appointed Professor of Political Economy at Vienna in 1879, was the founder of Austrian School of Economics and a critic of the Historical School of Economics. In his Grundsätze or Principles of Economics (1871) Menger elaborated an idea analogous to the “invisible hand”, to wit, the “spontaneous generation of institutions”. Hayek read the Grundsätze in 1921 and said that the conception of the “spontaneous generation of institutions is worked out more beautifully there than in any other book I know” (quoted C & K, p138).

In his Observer review of Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (1944), George Orwell pithily opined, “Capitalism leads to dole queues, the scramble for markets, and war. Collectivism leads to concentration camps, leader worship, and war”. C & K’s contention, however, is that Hayek sought a middle way between these extremes. For them, The Road was ultimately a defence of the beleaguered liberal values which he shared with his mentor, Ludwig von Mises – notably reason and tolerance – rather than a celebration of laissez-faire per se. Given that “scarcity will always be with us” (the economic problem) whose needs are to be satisfied and what is a just wage for any given occupation? Thus, the economic problem is also a social and political problem. For Hayek, socialism, whether of the left or right, cannot be combined with freedom because it has dispensed with “decentralisation plus automatic coordination”. Socialism must eventually impose as arbitrary set of values in order to address the economic problem.

“Toutes les familles heureuses se ressemblent”. C & K understandably hesitated to deal with Hayek’s acrimonious divorce of his wife Hella, the mother of his two children, and his subsequent marriage to Linerl, his first love. Volume 1 of Hayek, a Life concludes with this episode, painful for all concerned, but nonetheless a compelling read.

Alumni of the London School of Economics will enjoy the depiction of the Senior Common Room in the 1930’s. Professor Lionel Robbins, for one, recalls in his autobiography the “friendly badinage between Tawney and Gregory on the merits and demerits of the free-enterprise system…” . Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski and historian Elie Halévy, likewise,  occupied what Hayek called the “Sardonic Corner”, expatiating on “the folkways of English academics”. When the planned second volume is complete, this will become, as the authors intended, “the definitive full biography of F A Hayek”.

Klimt, Medicine, Hygieia, credit Wikipedia

Dr Leslie Jones, PhD LSE, is the Editor of Quarterly Review.

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Commissar Order

Russian Political Commissar, at Soviet-German military parade in Brest-Litovsk, 1939, credit Wikipedia

Commissar Order,
by Bill Hartley

Commissars can be traced back to the Commissaire politique of the Revolutionary Army during the French Revolution. Armies are something of a blunt instrument, a necessary arm of the state but in some countries notoriously unreliable. Having people in the ranks to keep them onside has been considered necessary by various political groups. For example, they were introduced into the Red Army by Leon Trotsky, who was tasked with ensuring that the party could rely on the loyalty of the military.

Commissars served alongside commanding officers exerting ideological control over and being closely involved in command decisions, with the power of veto. Even the Nazi’s were not above taking a leaf from the Soviet book. In the latter stages of the Second World War, when doubts arose about the loyalty of elements of the Wehrmacht, they appointed National Socialist leadership officers.

An article in American Thinker in March of this  year wondered what the difference is between a Soviet political commissar and a diversity officer. The article described the diversity officer as being tasked with enforcing ‘leftist policies in corporations, universities and government agencies’. Although definitions vary somewhat, diversity claims to eradicate prejudice and discrimination.

The Americans had the advantage of an early start in this field. The UK isn’t that far behind though, and for this we have the unintended consequences of the Equalities Act (2010). A piece of legislation which ought to be within the remit of a corporate Human Resources department to manage has become the building block for an exciting new field of employment. Some organisations and businesses seem to have convinced themselves that the only way to avoid criticism or worse is to get with the programme and employ diversity equality and inclusion officers to ensure ideological conformity. Of course, when it’s public money the decision is easier and the NHS isn’t short of diversity officers.

Just what does a diversity officer do? There’s no shortage of information for anyone contemplating a career in this field. He or she starts the day by checking social media to find the latest views and trends. Meetings feature prominently in the working day; diversity officers tend to be in close proximity to people who actually do the work, presumably just like any commissar, to ensure ideological conformity.

Prior to getting into this field of ‘work’, preliminary training is considered important. Some diversity practitioners recommend ‘unconscious bias’ training in order to ‘unpick core beliefs’. The job itself is all about ‘promoting positive attitudes’ and ‘reviewing policies’. Diversity people like finding things to do. One example is the diversity and inclusion survey, to discover how employees ‘feel’ by delving into their comments to gain a deeper perspective. There are organisations which can do this for a company. One advertises this as a way to ‘spark change with actionable diversity and inclusion surveys.’ Another is able advise how to ‘overcome barriers and create a safe space’. Rather dubiously it has been claimed by one source that adopting a diverse and inclusive culture resulted in a ‘19% higher innovation revenue than companies with below average diversity’. This rather obscure term is defined as a way of increasing competitiveness or organisational effectiveness, by listening to employees. Quite how it was measured isn’t stated.

Interestingly one critic from an ethnic minority commented that when it comes to diversity you can never say anything bad about it. He noted that the vocabulary is constantly changing and suggested that this leads to a culture where people are too afraid to say anything. Inclusively has its limits though. Although religion is a protected characteristic under the Act, it is often avoided, since practising Christians may have socially conservative views. This is something surveys steer clear of.

In the relentless drive for diversity, training videos are available. Some of these are both inept and unintentionally funny. One example involves a white middle-aged male (naturally) ‘helping’ a female select a team leader for a project for which she has oversight. The woman proposes a name and the man immediately dismisses him as being too introverted. The individual referred to works in IT and has an Asian name. Inference: racial stereotyping, even though he does elaborate on his view. In contrast, the woman says nothing. She makes no attempt to explain why this individual might be a good choice. As the conversation continues the man insists on talking over the woman, who adopts an expression of saintly fortitude. Another name arises and the man emphasises his familiarity with this individual by using his nickname. He suggests this man is a good candidate, the sort who can quickly get the project underway and enthuse people. Bad manners apart, he at least makes a good case for the candidate, unlike the woman who simply endures his clumsy attempts to help.

Pursuing a career as a diversity practitioner entails coming up with appropriate answers to interview questions. However, help is at hand. One question someone might be asked at an interview is, ‘what would you do if you overhead someone making an inappropriate remark?’ The correct answer is, publicly confront the person immediately and tell them you do not wish to hear that remark again. An alternative answer might be, ‘I need more diversity training so that I can accept people with opinions that diverge from my own’. It calls to mind an imaginary painting in the Socialist Realism style entitled, ‘Challenging the Inappropriate Comment’, featuring a group of people sitting around a conference table, one pointing accusingly at another.

Curiously all of this training seems designed for the office workplace or for what used to be called white collar employment. Manual work doesn’t seem to feature much in the world of diversity training. Challenging an inappropriate remark among, say, a group of scaffolders, would likely be beyond the capacity of even the most dedicated diversity officer.

If blue collar workers aren’t the best choice for expansion then catching them young seems to be the alternative. One organisation tells parents, ‘your child belongs in our circle’ and ‘we commit them for the next step at school and beyond’. Older children should be ‘involved in conversations about fairness and equality’. There are even ‘anti-bias’ lessons available for pre-schoolers.

Diversity is a big business. The afore-mentioned article in American Thinker reported that the average American university now has more than 45 people devoted to promoting diversity on campus, which is a more generous allocation of commissars than a regiment in the Red Army used to receive. A whole career structure has sprung up supported by training and qualifications. Yet it has its critics who will point out that such training isn’t effective. In ‘Diversity Inc.’ subtitled ‘the failed promise of a billion-dollar business’, Pamela Newkirk points out that in the US, whilst diversity targeting is flourishing, diversity is not. She considers it a feel- good exercise and maintains that such initiatives can ironically make matters worse by triggering resentment. Furthermore, organisations who wish to put in place the symbolic structures of diversity don’t bother to test their efficacy. In other words, the diversity apparatus doesn’t have to work it just has to exist. Newkirk concludes that such training can be counterproductive by making stereotypes more prominent and reinforcing them. For companies it may be little more than a box-ticking exercise, helping people answer survey questions in the way that they ‘should’. Even those tasked with managing these training programmes recognise them as ineffective, although in the public sector it would be unwise to voice criticism. Just as soldiers in the Red Army disdained but feared political commissars, today’s employees view them as useless pen pushers but wisely elect to say nothing.

 William Hartley is a Social Historian

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Six Poems, Concerning An Affair

Woman’s Head, Picasso, credit Wikipedia

Six Poems Concerning An Affair

Near Waterloo Bridge

I’m not sure why I did it.
She’d said something self-deprecating
This young girl; semi-star-struck, smitten;
Who’d taken me to some hippy pub in Lower Marsh.
Theatrical props, psychedelic paintings,
All wrapped-up in Victorian brick.
I put my arm around her
And kissed her on the top of the head
And in that moment I felt every muscle
In her body relax,
Every anxiety evaporate
Like Jasmine steam from an evening bath.
Fallow-blonde hairs against my chaffed March lips
Seemed to sink down, like a blanket
Onto the safety of a warm bed.
In that dim-lit cellar
Life itself seemed as psychedelic as the paintings,
But as certain as the Empire brick.

 A Nose for History

As they gathered at St Mary the Virgin
That crisp Harvest Festival evening
Just for an hour or so
It was 1662.
The language, the rituals, even the must
Were the same
And like those Civil War re-enactors
With real ale fetishes
And far too many folk music CDs
They were one with their ancestors;
A hundred hands reaching back to the Restoration.

Which brings me to your nose.
In the Old Alresford of 1662
I can hear some burring yeoman
Leaving his acres at dusk
Even he’d see it: “I suppose
“Your knows ‘er nose is your nose!
“That’s why you likes it so!
“It says in Song o’ Songs:
‘Your nose is like the Tower of Lebanon
‘Lookin’ towards Damascus.’
“Even they know’d the allure
Of a nice, sharp nose!”

It’s also his nose. And his wife’s.
And with that nose
Like the re-enactors now imbibing at The Bell Inn
Or the Hampshire worshippers receiving bread and wine
We connect with our ancestors
An unbroken proboscis-al line
Whispering: “Keep it going!
“It’s your duty to us!
“Keep it going, little organism!
“Keep it going!
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