A.J.P. Taylor, in full Alan John Percivale Taylor, (born March 25, 1906, Birkdale, Lancashire, Eng.—died Sept. 7, 1990, London), British historian and journalist noted for his lectures on history and for his prose style.
Taylor attended Oriel College, Oxford, graduating with first-class honours in 1927. In 1931 he began writing reviews and essays for the Manchester Guardian (later The Guardian). He continued his studies in history, and in 1934 his first book, The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy 1847–1849, was published. A second book on diplomacy, Germany’s First Bid for Colonies 1884–1885: A Move in Bismarck’s European Policy, appeared in 1938. Taylor was a tutor in modern history at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 1938 to 1963 and a research fellow there until 1976. He became a panel member of a BBC-TV news analysis program in 1950 and made regular television appearances thereafter. He was also popular as a journalist and lecturer.
Though often sparking controversy with his unorthodox views, Taylor nonetheless maintained high standards of scholarship. Among his more than 30 publications are The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848–1918 (1954; published as volume 1 of The Oxford History of Modern Europe) and English History 1914–1945 (1965). His most widely read and controversial book was The Origins of the Second World War (1961), in which he maintained that the war erupted because Great Britain and France vacillated between policies of appeasement and resistance toward Adolf Hitler. Taylor’s autobiography, A Personal History, was published in 1983.
A. J. P. Taylor Quotes
Nothing is inevitable until it happens.
No matter what political reasons are given for war, the underlying reason is always economic.
No war is inevitable until it breaks out.
The great armies, accumulated to provide security and preserve the peace, carried the nations to war by their own weight.
Human blunders usually do more to shape history than human wickedness.
A master of improvised speech and improvised policies.
The crusade against Communism was even more imaginary than the specter of Communism.
In my opinion, most of the great men of the past were only there for the beer – the wealth, prestige and grandeur that went with the power.
The greatest problem about old age is the fear that it may go on too long.
A racing tipster who only reached Hitler’s level of accuracy would not do well for his clients.
Psychoanalysts believe that the only ‘normal’ people are those who cause no trouble either to themselves or anyone else.
There is nothing more agreeable in life than to make peace with the Establishment – and nothing more corrupting.
Like most of those who study history, he (Napoleon III) learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.
He was what I often think is a dangerous thing for a statesman to be – a student of history; and like most of those who study history, he learned from the mistakes of the past how to make new ones.
Lenin was the first to discover that capitalism ‘inevitably’ caused war; and he discovered this only when the First World War was already being fought. Of course he was right. Since every great state was capitalist in 1914.
If there had been a strong democratic sentiment in Germany, Hitler would never have come to power . [Germans] deserved what they got when they went round crying for a hero.
Conformity may give you a quiet life; it may even bring you to a University Chair. But all change in history, all advance, comes from the nonconformists. If there had been no trouble-makers, no Dissenters, we should still be living in caves.
If men are to respect each other for what they are, they must cease to respect each other for what they own.
Bismarck fought ‘necessary’ wars and killed thousands, the idealists of the twentieth century fight ‘just’ wars and kill millions.
History is not another name for the past, as many people imply. It is the name for stories about the past.
Though the object of being a Great Power is to be able to fight a Great War, the only way of remaining a Great Power is not to fight one.
Knowledge breeds doubt, not certainty,And the more we know the more uncertain we become.
History is not a catalogue but…a convincing version of events.
The present enables us to understand the past, not the other way round.
Manchester has everything but good looks…, the only place in England which escapes our characteristic vice of snobbery.
Freedom does not always win. This is one of the bitterest lessons of history.
If there had been no troublemakers, no Dissenters, we should still be living in caves.
We are apt to say that a foreign policy is successful only when the country, or at any rate the governing class, is united behind it. In reality, every line of policy is repudiated by a section, often by an influential section, of the country concerned. A foreign minister who waited until everyone agreed with him would have no foreign policy at all.
When I write I have no loyalty except to historical truth as I see it and care no more about British achievements and mistakes than any other.
Every historian loves the past or should do. If not, he has mistaken his vocation; but it is a short step from loving the past to regretting that it has ever changed. Conservatism is our greatest trade-risk; and we run psychoanalysts close in the belief that the only “normal” people are those who cause no trouble either to themselves or anybody else.
Fascism was little more than terrorist rule by corrupt gangsters. Mussolini was not corrupt himself but he did nothing except to rage impotently.
History gets thicker as it approaches recent times: more people, more events, and more books written about them. More evidence is preserved, often, one is tempted to say, too much. Decay and destruction have hardly begun their beneficent work.
The male clerk with his quill pen and copper-plate handwriting had gone for good. The female short-hand typist took his place. It was a decisive moment in women’s emancipation.
In my opinion we learn nothing from history except the infinite variety of men’s behaviour. We study it, as we listen to music or read poetry, for pleasure, not for instruction.
I was a narrative historian, believing more and more as I matured that the first function of the historian was to answer the child’s question, “What happened next?
All other forms of history – economic history, social history, psychological history, above all sociology – seem to me history with the history left out.
Psychoanalysts believe that the only “normal” people are those who cause not trouble to either themselves or anyone else.
American statesmen might like some Europeans more than others and even detect quaint resemblances to their own outlook; but they no more committed themselves to a particular group or country than a nineteenth-century missionary committed himself to the African tribe in which he happened to find himself.
Rather an end in horror, than horror without end. He could not condemn principles he might need to invoke and apply later. The wolf cannot help having been created by God as he is, but we shoot him all the same if we have to. The great player in diplomacy, as in chess, asks the question,Does this improve me?, not look at the possible fringe benefits If you can’t have what you like, you must like what you have.
History is the great propagator of doubt.
George VI in the conventional parlance was a Good King who sacrificed his life to his sense of duty. If we are to have monarchs it would be hard to find a better one.
Perfect soldier, perfect gentleman never gave offence to anyone not even the enemy.
We learn nothing from history except the infinite variety of men’s behaviour.
The God of Battles will throw the dice that decide.
One of the penalties of being president of the United States is that you must subsist for four years without drinking anything except Californian wine.
There is nothing nicer than nodding off while reading. Going fast asleep and then being woken by the crash of the book on the floor, then saying to yourself, well it doesn’t matter much. An admirable feeling.
The Foreign Office knows no secrets.