Richard J. Evans, in The Guardian, really unloaded on the conservative historian Norman Stone in an obituary.
was character assassination. As a judge of the Fraenkel prize in contemporary history some years ago, he told the astonished members of the jury that they should not award the prize to a historian of Germany whose politics he disliked because she was an East German agent â€“ an allegation that was enough to rule her out of contention even though it was absolutely baseless and undoubtedly defamatory.
Shortly after the death in 1982 of his patron and mentor in Cambridge, EH Carr, the author of a multivolume History of Soviet Russia and influential works on historiography and international relations, Stone published a lengthy assault on his reputation, which included lurid details of his three marriages. When a colleague criticised this â€œoutrageousâ€ diatribe to his face, telling him that Carr â€œalways said you were amoralâ€, Stone responded: â€œAnd he always said you were a boreâ€ (probably an invention, though one cannot know for sure).
At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of, including feminists (â€œrancidâ€), Oxford dons (â€œa dreadful collection of deadbeats, dead wood and has-beensâ€), students (â€œsmelly and inattentiveâ€), David Cameron and John Major (â€œtransitional nobodiesâ€), Edward Heath (â€œa flabby-faced cowardâ€) and many more.
Stone was undoubtedly clever. He could write entertainingly and could summarise complex historical circumstances in a few pregnant sentences, gifts which brought him a flourishing career as a journalist and commentator. He was a talented linguist who read and spoke more than half a dozen languages, including Hungarian. Yet his career was also dogged by character flaws that prevented him from fulfilling his early promise as a historian. …
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