Commonplace 2023


“I had a conversation with Eric Hobsbawm just before he died, and he said that the most civilized countries to live under, with the best guarantee of freedom in the world, were constitutional monarchies.” (Robert Harris, in the Spectator, 17-31 December, 2022)

“For all its propensity to violence, Russia has made decisive contributions to the global equilibrium and to the balance of power for over half a millennium. Its historical role should not be degraded.” (Henry Kissinger, in the Spectator, 17-31 December, 2022)

“The last joke he told me, only a week or two before his death, concerned a couple walking down the street when they spot someone across the road. ‘Isn’t that the archbishop of Canterbury?’ says the wife. ‘Is it?’ says her husband. ‘Go and ask him,’ she says. So the man goes over, apologises for troubling him and asks: ‘Aren’t you the archbishop of Canterbury?’ ‘Bugger off.’ He returns to his wife. ‘What did he say?’ ‘He said: “Bugger off.”’ ‘What a shame,’ says the wife. ‘Now we shall never know.’”  (Alan Bennett on Barry Cryer, from LRB, January 5)

“All good historical work is at heart ‘revisionist’ in that it uses new findings from the archives or new perspectives from historians to improve, to perfect — and yes, to revise — our understanding of the past.” (from  Myth America: Historians Take On the Biggest Legends and Lies About Our Past, a collection published this month and edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, historians at Princeton, quoted by Carlos Lozada in NYT, January 8)

“The truth is that by the time a person becomes conscious there is such a thing as a ‘working class,’ he has already lost touch with it and has ceased to be a credible authority on its characteristics.” (Paul Johnson, in 1990, according to his NYT obituary, January 13)

“New prisoners are largely of two kinds – there are those who for shame, fear or shock wait in fascinated horror to be initiated into the lore of prison life, and there are those who trade on their wretched novelty in order to endear themselves to the community.” (from Chapter 6 of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold)

“And finally, they would know it was a gamble. They would know that inconsistency in human decision can make nonsense of the best-planned espionage approach; that cheats, liars and criminals may resist every blandishment while respectable gentlemen have been moved to appalling treason by watery cabbage in a departmental canteen.” (from Chapter 7 of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold)

“In itself, the practice of deception is not particularly exacting; it is a matter of experience, of professional expertise, it is a facility most of us can acquire. But while a confidence-trickster, a pay-actor or a gambler can return from his performance to the ranks of his admirers, the secret agent enjoys no such relief. For him, deception is first a matter of self-defence. He must protect himself not only from without but from within, and against the most natural of impulses; though he earn a fortune, his role may forbid him the purchase of a razor, though he be erudite, it can befall him to mumble nothing but banalities; though he be an affectionate husband and father, he must under all circumstances withhold himself from those to whom he should naturally confide.” (from Chapter 13 of John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold)

“It’s implausible to expect scholars with insecure jobs to offer bold and innovative claims about history when they can easily be fired for doing so. Instead, history will be studied increasingly by the wealthy, which is to say those able to work without pay.” (Daniel Bessner, in NYT, January 15)

“She was no fool, either. When the 1930s smart set were treating Hitler’s rise as a joke, or, in the case of two Mitford sisters, Unity and Diana, a glamorous gimmick, this Scottish pragmatist picked up an unexpurgated translation of Mein Kampf on board ship, read it and started sending copies and notes to friends urging them to take more seriously his terrible “mentality, ignorance and obvious sincerity”. This hardened her attitude to the collaboration-minded Duke of Windsor, and to Wallis.” (Libby Purves, in review of Gareth Russell’s Do Let’s Have Another Drink, a biography of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, in TLS, January 6)

“Salman Rushdie, for this reason, insists that without freedom of expression there cannot be freedom of thought at all: ‘The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.’ His rule of thumb? ‘You never personalize, but you have absolutely no respect for people’s opinions.’ And by ‘no respect’ he means the highest respect: a true desire to participate collectively in reaching the goal of truth.”  (N. J. Enfield, in review of Susie Alegre’s Freedom to Think, in TLS. January 13)

“Speaking of ‘unwoke’ encyclopedia entries (January 6), may I refer your readers to the entry on the ‘British Empire’ in the 1911 edition of Britannica, which proffers this disclaimer in its opening paragraph: ‘The term “empire” is in this connexion obviously used rather for convenience than in any sense equivalent to that of the older or despotic empires of history.’” (letter from Edward Moran in TLS, January 20)

“The Cold War began with the Polish monitoring of Russian communications in 1944.” (Dermot Turing, in XYZ: The Real Story of How Enigma Was Broken, p 268)


“It is perfectly possible for a statement to be precise without being accurate (e.g. ‘Big Ben is located in Merthyr Tydfil’), and to be accurate without being precise (e.g. ‘Big Ben is located in England’.) (from letter by Professor Stuart Dunn in Private Eye, 20 January-2 February)

“But Mises, like his socialist opponents, was forearmed against bad news. When he talked about capitalism, he was not thinking about oligarchs, tycoons, nepotists, profiteers, kleptocrats, inheritors, asset-strippers, mafiosi, hedgers, money-launderers, monopolists, loan sharks, fraudsters, arms dealers, racketeers, tax-dodgers, plutocrats, press barons, slave traders and cartelists, but of plucky little Crusoes who start with nothing and make their luck by working hard and doing everyone a good turn. “ (Jonathan Rée in review of Hayek: A Life, 1899-1950 by Bruce Caldwell and Hansjoerg Klausinger, in LRB, February 2)

“Among boys at school the same thing is even more conspicuous, because boys have less of conscience than men, are more addicted to tyranny, and when weak are less prone to feel the misery and disgrace of succumbing. Who has been through a large school and does not remember the Maxwells and Grindleys, – the tyrants and the slaves, – those who domineered and those who submitted? Nor was it, even then, personal strength, nor always superior courage, that gave the power of command. Nor was it intellect, or thoughtfulness, nor by any means such qualities as make men and boys loveable. It is said by may who have had to deal with boys, that certain among them claim and obtain ascendancy by the spirit within them: but I doubt whether the ascendancy is not rather thrust on them than claimed by them. Here again I think the outward gait of the boy goes far towards obtaining for him the submission of his fellows.

But the tyrant boy does not become the tyrant man, or the slave boy the slave man, because the outward visage, that has been noble or mean in the one, changes and becomes so often mean or noble in the other.” (Anthony Trollope, in Can You Forgive Her?, Chapter 16)

“There is no vulgar error so vulgar, – that is to say, common or erroneous, as that by which men have been taught to say that mercenary tendencies are bad. A desire for wealth is the source of all progress. Civilization comes from what men call greed. Let your mercenary tendencies be combined with honesty and they cannot take you astray.” (Plantagenet Palliser, in Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her?, Chapter 25)

“We all know the tone in which servants announce a gentleman when they know that the gentlemen is not a gentleman.” (Anthony Trollope, in Can You Forgive Her?, Chapter 60)

“Tell me something I don’t know.” (Lady Glencora to Alice Vavasor, in Anthony Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her?, Chapter 62)

“Greg Garrett, a professor who teaches literature, pop culture and theology at Baylor University, says humans are hard-wired to be threatened by things that we don’t recognize.” (from NYT, February 5)

“As the psychologists Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky have shown, our brains are hardwired to fail to judge probabilities consistently. We ae subject to any ‘cognitive biases’, as psychologists call them, which distort our judgement.” (from Henry Marsh’s Admissions, p 245)

“I wish I were a sea-squirt,

If life became a strain

I’d veg out on the nearest rock

And reabsorb my brain.”

(by the author’s wife Kate, from Henry Marsh’s Admissions, p 265)

“I have come to the opinion that archaeologists, scientists, museum curators, historians and dons make the best intelligence officers. They have this in common that they are accustomed to gathering information from a wide variety of sources and reaching a logical conclusion. Actors, artists, poets and other literary men are just the opposite. They deal in emotions. They give to airy nothing a local habitation and a name, which is just what a good I.O. must not do.” (from S. John Peskett’s Strange Intelligence, Chapter XVI)

“In the end, a strong case can be made that the concept of ‘revisionist history’ is so widely applied and the realities behind it so deeply infused into historical thought that it’s useless as a distinctive feature of any work of history. All written history is—in one respect or another, on one scale or another, and with one impact or another—revisionist in intent or consequence. Revisionist history is a universal phenomenon. Historians’ debates and shifting views of their subjects are the principal means by which they approach, while never reaching, their goal of understanding the extraordinary complexity of human life in times before their own. In fact, their arguments about the past and their varied ways of going about their work should be celebrated as signature characteristics of a democratic culture. Where enforced orthodoxy exists, there lies totalitarianism.” (James M. Banner Jr., in Humanities, Summer 2022)

“Straight-tusked elephants went extinct at least 30,000 years ago; many factors were probably to blame, Dr. Roebroeks said, including predation, climate change, reduction in food availability and competition from woolly mammoths moving into their territory. Neanderthals had already disappeared by then, pushed aside as Homo sapiens inherited Earth. As Mr. Cuppy observed, ‘That kind of progress is called evolution.’” (Franz Lidz in NYT, February 7)

“The gentlemen of England always play the game, but reserve the right to change the rules at half-time if they find they are losing.” (quip attributed to Harold Laski according to letter in TLS, February 10, from Michael Barber)


“The evidence is piling up to suggest that any one individual’s adaptation to lifetime experiences such as parental care or food deprivation may be chemically passed down to subsequent generations.” (Patricia Fara of Clare College, Cambridge, in History Today, January)

“There once was a man of the Saar

Who said: ‘We are German, nicht wahr?

            And under dem Fűhrer

            Will feel much securer

But Gott really knows if we are.”

(limerick in March 1935 issue of World Review of Reviews, attributed to Kim Philby by Patrick Seale and Maureen McConville in Philby: The Long Road to Moscow, p 97)

“Just as we have seen U.S. Presidents wrap themselves in the American flag in efforts to stifle criticism of their policies, so do we see a foreign country wrapping itself in its state religion, so that criticism of the state or its policies is perceived as a form of racism.” (Senator James Abourezk, from his NYT obituary, February 27)

“People like me who develop an outsized sense of responsibility for others shouldn’t tend goal.” (Brazilian publisher Luis Schwarz, quoted in NYT, February 27)


“One final reflection: as soon as you identify a narc [narcissist] – if you have the resources, if you possibly can – try to let them know you are unafraid of them. Their dead-eyed overconfidence can be quickly distinguished from mere adult self-possession, because its intention and effect is to make you feel all their fear for them.” (from Don Paterson’s Toy Fights: A Boyhood, reviewed in the Spectator by Ian Sansom, February 11)

“’Humans are fascinated by stinging’, he wrote in The Conversation, a nonprofit news website, in 2016. ‘Why? Because we have a genetically innate fear of animals that attack us, be they leopards, bears, snakes, spiders or stinging insects.’ Dr. Schmidt got over that fear.”  (from NYT obituary of Dr. Justin O. Schmidt, entomologist, March 5)

“The point of libraries is not to find the books you already know, but ‘to discover books whose existence we never suspected, only to discover that they are of extreme importance to us.’” (Umberto Eco, in De Bibliotheca, according to Irina Dumitrescu in TLS, February 24)

Eh??  “We believe that we think with our minds. But a part of us – a deep and important part – thinks with the blood. Our sense of self is deeply entwined with the places we came from and the people who formed us.” (Owen Matthews, in Literary Review, March)

“As one Cabinet Minister has said: ‘The first rule of politics is that if you listen to Charles Moore and do the complete opposite of what he says, you won’t go far wrong.” (Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The New York Review of Books, March 23)

“This year will be harder than last year. On the other hand, it will be easier than next year.” (Enver Hoxha, according to Geoffrey Wheatcroft in The New York Review of Books, March 23)

News on the Epigenetic Front

“A spectrum of maternal ambivalence is hardwired into our species, she [Sarah Hrdy] concluded, with environmental and social cues such as the presence of committed others shaping attachment and so-called maternal instinct. Mothers are not passive vessels, as biblical and early Darwinian interpretations had it, but conflicted strategic players in their own lives and in the evolutionary long game.”

“We contain multitudes: epigenetic tweaks can turn us into, say, a beloved creative genius who lives to be ninety, as opposed to a homeless schizophrenic who dies at thirty; or into a resplendent, if chain-smoking, Simone de Beauvoir rather than an asthmatic shut-in who only dreams of being Simone de Beauvoir.”

“Our first 1,000 days after conception will make us profoundly “unequal” in terms of our health spans and lifespans. This bio-inequality becomes especially apparent in midlife, when some of us are still youthful and others are debilitated by chronic illness. “

“Hassett has been involved in resolving debates around our emergence as a species, and teeth ‘gave the game away’. The key evidence is in the number of growth lines on that first molar: many lines equates to the usual patterns of fast ape growth, fewer suggest an intermediary species, and fewer still are an indicator of human-like slow growth, and of everything that goes with that slow growth (helpers, hyper-sociality, neuroticism). On that basis Hassett and her colleagues estimate our species emerged 100,000–200,000 years ago.”

“All children need more equal access to the ‘things’ that matter. The US, with its emphasis on bootstrapping individualism, depends on maternal instinct as hardwired, hence its lack of social support. But, as Hrdy and Conaboy show, maternal instinct is not hardwired.”

(Michele Pridmore-Brown in the TLS, March 10)

“Grappling with the deep history of racism in Western science, the National Academies of Science on Tuesday released guidelines recommending that scientists not use race as a category in genetic studies.” (from report in NYT, March 15)

“Britain’s field marshal Lord Inge told me that he had two great military maxims by which to guide himself, namely: ‘1. Never invade Russia.’ and ’2. Never trust the RAF with your luggage.’” (Andrew Roberts in Leadership in War, p 203)

“We may have as many as fifty-three senses. The less familiar ones include equilibrioception (the sense of balance), magnetoreception (the ability to detect the Earth’s polarity) and proprioception (our sense of our body’s position in space). There is also interoception – conscious awareness of the body’s internal workings, our heartbeat and other physiological processes.” (Anna Katharina Shaffner in review of Ashley Ward’s Sensational, in TLS, March 10)

“The test for historians’ interpretations is not their consonance with any existing political or ideological views: the test is their interpretations’ consonance with known evidence, their plausibility, and their strength – their ability to withstand the criticism to which knowledge ad ideas are always subjected.” (James M. Banner, Jr. in The Ever-Changing Past: Why All History is Revisionist History, p 63)

“That is what it is. It is a protection system against the revelation of mistakes, false predictions, embarrassments of various kinds and maybe even crimes. And then the secrecy system in its application is predominantly to protect officials, administrations from embarrassment and from accountability, from the possibility that their rivals will pick these things up and beat them over the head with it. Their rivals for office, for instance.” (Daniel Ellsberg, on the classification system, from NYT, March 26)

“Freud’s writings are full of ambiguities, so anyone who wants to find either positive or despairing implication in them can do so. When propositions contradict each other, I regard that as a fatal problem. If you’re just a casual reader and you come across sentences that you like, perhaps that suffices for you.” (Professor Fredrick Crews, emeritus professor of literature at the University of California, Berkeley, from NYT, March 26)

“All it does is help the Treasury meet what are some arbitrary targets around capital spending. The move was antithetical to any sensible cost management approach  . . . Whether it’s building new hospitals or building new trainlines, we are holding back the UK if we treat capital spending the same way as we treat revenue spending, and it’s economically very damaging to the country.” (Henri Murison, chief executive of Northern Powerhouse, speaking on Radio 4 concerning the latest delay of HS2, quoted in Private Eye, 17-30 March)

“When the San Francisco Board of Supervisors replaces felon with justice-involved person, it is making an ideological claim – that there is something illegitimate about laws, courts, and prisons.” (George Packer, in The Atlantic, April)


“I am not interested in what you do with them. You can throw them in jail, throw them out of the country, you can even kill them. As an economist, it does not interest me; but I have to tell you, if you don’t eliminate them in government, in unions, in the street, forget about economic development.” (Albert Winsemius, a Dutch adviser from the United Nations, to the Singapore government on communists in 1967, quoted by Kwasi Kwarteng in review of Quinn Slobodian’s Crack-up Capitalism: Market Radicals and the Dream of a World Without Democracy, in the Spectator, April 1)

“Mrs Thatcher’s comment that she would never trust a man who spoke more than two languages  . . .” (from Douglas Boyd’s Moscow Rules, p 239)

“Learn to know what you want. After that, learn to demand it.” (advice from Inkeri’s husband, Kaarlo, from Petra Rautiainen’s Land of Snow and Ashes, p 45)

“In Jewish tradition, the foetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school.” (Her rabbi, according to letter from Mary E. Carter in London Review of Books, April 13)

“The day will come when the darkness over our country will dissipate. When black will be called black, and white will be called white; when at the official level, it will be recognized that two times two is still four; when a war will be called a war, and a usurper a usurper.” (Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza, at his trial in Moscow, according to NYT, April 18)

“One is a doughty teacher of Russian he met during his national-service training, who illustrated the language’s diverse verbs of motion with the sentence: ‘The man who used to drop in on foot, having noticed two geese sliding along the street in a sledge, will tomorrow go several times, either on foot or in an electric tram, to see his elderly aunt arrive by balloon from Saratov.” (from Michael Frayn’s Among Others, reviewed by Libby Purves in TLS, April 14)

“You can have different sorts of friend. What’s so nice about some of them is that you talk to them about your most private feelings. What’s so nice about others is that you never do. Then again, with some friends it’s a joy to have some common enterprise to work on. With others you couldn’t so much as put up a tent together without irritating each other.” (from Michael Frayn’s Among Others, reviewed by Libby Purves in TLS, April 14)

“The authors also cite ‘Amara’s Law’, named after the Stanford University computer scientist Roy Amara, which states that we habitually overestimate what a new technology can accomplish in the short run and underestimate what it can accomplish in the longer run.” (from Tyler Cowen’s review of Gradual, by Greg Berman and Aubrey Fox, in TLS, April 21)

“One can believe that humans are all the same while being virulently anti-Semitic, because according to anti-Semites, Jews, with their millennia-old insistence on being different from their neighbors, are the obstacles to all humans being the same.” (Dara Horn, in Is Holocaust Education Making Anti-Semitism Worse?, in The Atlantic, May 2023)


“It is easy to bowl against poor batting, and the German batting in the early 1910s appears to have been atrocious.” (Bernard Porter, in Plots and Paranoia, p 128)

“Speaking of the post-Civil War American South, Mr. Schivelbusch told Cabinet magazine in 2006 that ‘romanticizing of defeat can become much more powerful than any romanticizing of victory,’ in part because ‘after any victory, the victorious party does not know what to do, other than to distribute the spoils.’ ‘The South,’ he wrote, ‘transformed the distinction between failure on the battlefield and moral superiority into the central dogma of its new identity.’” (from NYT obituary of Wolfgang Schivelbusch, May 5)

“Madness is when you can’t find anyone who can stand you.” (Pyschoanalyst John Rickman, according to Huw Green in NYT, May 7)

“Both Republican and Democrat administrations have talked of small government while increasing federal spending and the number of federal employees. But since the late 1970s they have succeeded in transferring trillions of dollars from the poor to the rich.” (Tom Stevenson, in London Review of Books, May 4)

“Those brief in-person interactions can make us feel good for a long time because we are hard-wired to connect.” (Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, quoted in NYT, May 9)

“‘I met Lady Antonia once,’ he says. ‘I said to her: “I have a Harold Pinter remote control for my TV.” “Oh?”, she replied. “Yes. It has a pause button . . . and a menacing pause button.” She did not appreciate my joke.’” (Sarah Vine on Sean Macaulay, in the Spectator, April 29)

“How do we distinguish the fraudulent from the authentic euphemism, the specious moral pickpocket from the considerate and soft-spoken idealist?” (Robert M. Adams, in Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism, edited by D. J. Enright, p 55)

“To restrict myself to American novelists alone, I can think of three prominent figures who, but for the opportunity that the contemporary novel allows them to write about sex, would probably have to go into the dry-cleaning business: John Updike, Philip Roth, and Norman Mailer.”  (Joseph Epstein, in Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism, edited by D. J. Enright, p 66)

“An agreement subject to contract is no legal agreement at all. Its cousin is the gentlemen’s agreement, reported to have been defined by Vaisey J. as ‘an agreement which is not an agreement, made between two persons, neither of whom is a gentleman, whereby each expects the other to be strictly bound without himself being bound at all.” (David Pannick, in Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism, edited by D. J. Enright, p 146)

“Eco-writing has been all the rage for some time now, and it has gone through several phases, each of which has reflected the growing general trend for personalised narratives. (Leave aside for a moment the fact that filtering everything through an individual human’s perspective is the epitome of the Anthropocene in action.)” (Ben Jacob, in Literary Review, May)

Eh?  “We are each nodes in a network through which information flows and is refracted. The information that is stored in our genes comes from eons ago; the information that we call religion and civilization comes from thousands of years ago; the information that we call culture comes from distant generations; the information that we call education or family background comes from decades ago. All of it flows through us in deep rivers that are partly conscious and partly unconscious, forming our assumptions and shaping our choices in ways that we, as individuals, often can’t fathom.” (David Brooks, in the Atlantic, June)

“At the risk of sounding philistine, I have often been tempted to conclude that there are two forms of philosophy. One deals with the meaning of life, and the questions are unanswerable. The second deals with the meaning of meaning, which can descend into the aridities of Oxford philosophy in the 1950s. The clarity of Dr Johnson’s boot is worth more than the content of many philosophical libraries.” (Bruce Anderson, in the Spectator, May 6)

“Lecturing in communist Yugoslavia, Sir Peter Strawson was harangued by an audience member who accused him of expressing ‘a bourgeois outlook’. Puzzled by this observation, perhaps by its being apparently intended as a criticism, he replied in earnest: ‘But I am bourgeois, an elitist liberal bourgeois.’” (John Maier, in review of Nikhil Krishnan’s A Terribly Serious Adventure: Philosophy at Oxford 1900-1960, in the Spectator, May 13)

“For example, in the late 1980s, the 77-year-old Ayer was entertaining some models at a private party in New York when he was suddenly prevailed upon to rescue Naomi Campbell from the unwanted attention of Mike Tyson in a nearby bedroom. ‘Do you know who I am?’ asked Tyson as Ayer intervened. ‘I’m the heavyweight champion of the world.’ ‘And I,’ replied Ayer, ‘am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we settle this like rational men.’ It was, characteristically of Ayer, an extremely tendentious line of argument. Meanwhile, Naomi Campbell made her escape.” (John Maier, in review of Nikhil Krishnan’s A Terribly Serious Adventure: Philosophy at Oxford 1900-1960, in the Spectator, May 13)

“Professors were deeply invested in controlling their own curricula, which were used to train the next generation of theologians. Vose argues that this form of early modern censorship is similar to contemporary academic peer review: anyone who has been on the sharp end of peer review can appreciate that the difference between academic judgment and inquisitorial persecution is a matter of degree.” (Erin Maglaque, in review of Robin Vose’s The Index of Prohibited Books: Four Centuries of Struggle Over Word and Image for the Greater Glory of God, in New York Review of Books, June 8)

“Graham Greene, who had converted to Catholicism, was privately chastised by the Holy Office in 1953 for depicting a drunken priest in The Power and the Glory. He promised never to do it again.” (Erin Maglaque, in review of Robin Vose’s The Index of Prohibited Books: Four Centuries of Struggle Over Word and Image for the Greater Glory of God, in New York Review of Books, June 8)

“Still more important, what is the Marxist interpretation of literature? It is al Greek to me, just like the Marxist interpretation of history. Marx himself might have provided the answer if he had ever written his projected book on Balzac, a novelist who certainly thought capital important. Do verses scan differently in the Marxist interpretation? Is more attention paid to royalties than literary excellence?” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 21)

“In my disappointment over our cancelled visit I reflected on the changed nature of strikes. Once they were directed against the great and the powerful. Now they are directed against the weak and defenceless.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 22)

“Even more extraordinary, in a period when the economic system called capitalism is clearly approaching collapse, the French Communist Party is also running down so that it is a toss-up whether capitalism or Communism will collapse first.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 27)

“In 1945, a similar alliance was projected against Soviet Russia, who had liberated Eastern Europe.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 59)

“We have lived under nuclear terror for forty years and are still here. The danger increases every day. Without the abolition of nuclear weapons the fate of mankind is certain.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 60)

“I am against witch-hunts, whether against cricketers who play in South Africa or academics who once provided Soviet agents with a lot of harmless information.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 70)

‘There is a case for expelling Keynesians from the Labour Party, since Keynesianism is a device, not successful nowadays, for saving capitalism, and Labour is supposed to be a socialist party dedicated to the ending of capitalism.” (A. J. P. Taylor in An Old Man’s Diary, p 102)

Eh? “Neanderthals expanded across Europe and Asia, interbred with modern humans coming out of Africa, and then became extinct about 40,000 years ago.” (Carl Zimmer, in NYT, May 30)

“Something that’s alive today can’t be the ancestor of something alive today.” (Dr. Darrin Schulz, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Vienna, quoted in NYT, May 30)