Our Age. English Intellectuals Between The World Wars: A Group Portrait

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Our Age. English Intellectuals Between The World Wars: A Group Portrait

By Noel Annan
Random House, 1991
479 pp. $30.00

Lord Annan, a formidable presence in English intellectual and public life, has written a kind of collective autobiography, a record of the beliefs and careers of the men and women-"the educated classes"-who were formed by the great British institutions, most notably Oxford and Cambridge, from the end of the Great War to the end of World War II. The book is indeed a group portrait, with incisive sketches of individuals and splendid summaries of attitudes on matters such as morality and homosexuality, philosophy, science and politics, placed against the background of the great historical upheavals of Britain's postwar years in decline, ending with Thatcherism as the negation of the earlier ethos of "Our Age." Only a writer with a lifetime of reading and listening could have produced a book so full of information, so forcefully erudite, with so many apt quotations, telling quips and perfect examples. It is part gossip, part history and a great mastery of so many facets of our time; altogether impressive, indispensable for a view of Britain since 1945, critical in substance-especially of the British political leadership-and assured yet measured in tone. A retrospective of the greats, written with a sense of their passing from the scene.

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