Introduction: E.H. Carr — a Critical Appraisal

  • Michael Cox


When Edward Hallett Carr died in 1982 at the age of 90 there was a definite sense in Britain at least that somebody rather special had passed from the scene, for Carr had — in his own, idiosyncratic and very English way — become part of the intellectual furniture, a monument to scholarship recognized and admired even by those many people he had annoyed and upset over the years. Naturally, not everybody was his fan. Some indeed disliked his work enormously. But the overwhelming majority of commentators seemed to stand in awe of the great man. The distinguished historian James Joll was one such, and in a review written only a few months after Carr’s death described Carr’s work, and in particular his several volumes on the Soviet Union, as ‘one of the great historiographical achievements of our time’.1 This point was taken up by others, including his old ally in many a Cold War battle, A.J.P. Taylor. Taylor agreed: Carr was without peer. Though, in a typically impish article, Taylor went on to point out that while Carr was ‘a very great historian’ he sometimes took silly things — notably the Communist International — much too seriously. But there was no doubting his standing.2 Even his old newspaper, The Times, conceded that Carr was a most ‘eminent historian’. There was, it was true, something deeply ‘enigmatic’ about his character; and it hinted, darkly, that he seemed to be ‘happier with documents than he was with people’. Yet he had achieved a great deal and left a ‘strong mark on successive generations of historians and social thinkers’. He certainly appeared to have left a strong mark on the paper itself, who paid him the very great compliment of devoting not one, but three full columns to describing the life and times of their former employee!3


International Relation Soviet System Strong Mark Fellow Traveller Russian Revolution 


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  1. 1.
    See James Joll, ‘Towards the Seventh World Congress’, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 28 January 1983.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    A. J.P. Taylor, ‘The Comedy of Errors’, The Sunday Times, 23 January 1983.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    ‘E.H. Carr is an Olympian among historians, a Goethe in range and spirit,’ wrote his ally and friend, the British historian A.J.P. Taylor in ‘Cold-blooded Historian’, The Observer Review, 26 January 1969.Google Scholar
  4. See also his ‘View from Olympus’, The Observer Review, 1 February 1981.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    Moshe Lewin, ‘The Making of Stalinism’, The Guardian, 2 December 1971.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    See, for example, Leopold Labedz, ‘E.H. Carr: Overtaken by history’, Survey, March 1988, Volume 30, pp. 94–111.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    See Norman Stone, ‘Building Time’, The Guardian, 9 December 1976.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See Alec Nove, ‘Executing the Marxist Testament’, Times Literary Supplement, 11 January 1980.Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    Isaac Deutscher, ‘Mr E.H. Carr as an historian of Soviet Russia’, Soviet Studies, Vol. VI, No. 4, April 1955, p. 339.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    Figure quoted in Jonathan Haslam, The Vices of Integrity: E.H. Carr 1892–1982 (London, Verso, 1999), p. 217.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    See Geoffrey Elton, The Practice of History (1967; Glasgow: Collins Fontana, 1975).Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Herbert Butterfield, ‘What is History?’, The Cambridge Review, 2 December 1961.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Isaiah Berlin, ‘Mr Carr’s Big Batallions’, New Statesman, 5 January 1962.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Carr later used the term to describe the Woodrow Wilson Chair in an interview with Peter Scott, ‘Revolution without the Passion’, The Times Higher Educational Supplement, 7 July 1978, p. 7.Google Scholar
  15. 23.
    Edward Acton, ‘Historical Bees Abuzz’, Sunday Times, 13 February 1983.Google Scholar
  16. 24.
    See R.W. Davies, ‘Edward Hallett Carr: 1892–1982’, Proceedings of the British Academy, 1982, p. 473.Google Scholar
  17. 25.
    Among the more recent attacks on Carr — masquerading as reviews of the Haslam biography — see Norman Stone, ‘Horrible History Man’, The Spectator, 4 September 1999, andGoogle Scholar
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  19. 26.
    These various assaults were launched, in order, by Andrew Roberts, ‘How We Met’, Independent on Sunday, 14 January 1996Google Scholar
  20. the former Trotskyist Max Eastman in the New York Times, 27 August 1950, andGoogle Scholar
  21. Hans J. Morgenthau in his polemic, The Surrender to the Immanence of Power: E.H. Carr’, in his Dilemmas of Power (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1962), pp. 350–7.Google Scholar
  22. 27.
    See E.H. Carr in The Listener, 17 January 1952.Google Scholar
  23. 28.
    See James Joll, ‘Towards the Seventh World Congress’, The Times Higher Education Supplement, 28 January 1983.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Hugh Trevor-Roper, ‘E.H. Carr’s Success Story’, Encounter, May 1962, Vol. XVIII, No. 5, pp. 69–77.Google Scholar
  25. 36.
    See his ‘In Memoriam’ to Isaac Deutscher in E.H. Carr, 1917: Before and After (London, Macmillan, 1969), pp. 177–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. 39.
    Norman Stone, ‘Grim Eminence’, The London Review of Books, 20 January 1983.Google Scholar
  27. 40.
    See the interview with Richard Gott, ‘E.H. Carr’s Russia’, The Guardian, 25 November 1978.Google Scholar
  28. 42.
    See E.H. Carr ‘The War No One Won’, The New York Review of Books, 29 April 1976.Google Scholar
  29. 43.
    See E.H. Carr, Soviet Impact on the Western World (London: Macmillan, 1946).Google Scholar
  30. 46.
    See Charles Jones, E.H. Carr and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).Google Scholar
  31. 48.
    On Carr’s relationship with Berlin, see Michael Ignatieff, Isaiah Berlin: A Life (London: Chatto & Windus, 1998)Google Scholar
  32. 51.
    Richard Evans, In Defence of History (London: Granfa Books, 1997).Google Scholar

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© Michael Cox 2000

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  • Michael Cox

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