Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Former People

The Book of the Week read on Radio 4 this week has been Douglas Smith's Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy  published in the UK by Macmillan.


Image: Douglas Smith website

The book was, obviously, abridged but clearly extremely interesting and well documented from the recollections of those who lived through the events described.

Douglas Smith starts with the point that history is usually written by the victors. Here he looks at the victims as he chronicles the political and social tragedy and disaster that swept across Russia from 1917. This may not be cheerful reading, but it is revealing.

My own strongly Hobbesian and Burkeian sense responded to the depiction of the Russian revolutions and their aftermath in a way which corresponded with Norman Cohn's Pursuit of the Millennium. 

Here, once again, the revolutionaries appropriated to themselves the possessions of the displaced elite, not in a spirit of real redistribution but by simple theft and greed. Life became nasty, brutish and short for everybody, and human misery abounded.

There is an interview with the author and more about the book on his website which can be viewed here.   

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