Who was Alan John Percival Taylor?
Eloquent, fiercely argumentative and extremely cognizant, these are the traits that describe, A.J.P. Taylor, one of the greatest historians and popular journalists of the past century. Known for his excellent oratory skills, he was a media favorite at one point and was one of the early scholars to be seen on television. His debates, though controversial, were marked by humor and sarcasm which made contributed to his popularity. A historian at heart, he wanted the world to know about the past, especially the history of Europe, in order to understand the present in a better way. As a journalist, he used to write columns for a number of leading newspapers, before venturing into radio and television. Soon, he became a panelist and was often seen in all the major debates. He spent his entire life, speaking for and against the strategies and policies of the government(s). Also, in the meantime, he used to write and teach, as a historian. Despite his busy life, he was able to find time to write which he did with a great deal of passion. Most of his books were best-sellers, as his style of writing, like his speech, was absorbing. To learn more about this great scholar, read the biography below.
Childhood & Early Life
Alan John Percivale Taylor was born to Percy Lees Taylor, and Constance Sumner Thompson, both of whom favored the Labor Party in England and were therefore, ardent left-wing supporters.
He attended the Bootham School in York, a Quaker school initially before going to the Oriel College, Oxford, in 1924, where studied modern history.
He graduated in 1927, after which he worked as a legal clerk for some time, before he travelled to Vienna to study the influence of the Chartist movement on the Revolution of 1848. Later, he turned his attention towards Italian unification, which he studied for two years.
The completion of the study gave way to his publication ‘The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847–49’ in 1934.
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From 1930 to 1938, he lectured at the University of Manchester, as teacher of history.
In 1938, he was elected as a Fellow at the Magdalen College, Oxford.
He also started lecturing at Oxford on modern history from 1938 onwards, where due to his excellent oratory skills, he became very popular. He served in World War II as a Home Guard and around the same time, he lent his services to Political Warfare Executive, an underground British body, as an expert on Central Europe.
While continuing his teaching job, he also kept himself busy writing and publishing. He published ‘The Habsburg Monarchy’ in 1941, which was a detailed study of the Habsburg dynasty and Bismarck, a famous German statesman.
He was invited by BBC in their show ‘In The News’, as a member of the panel, in 1950. He was one of the early historians to be invited on television.
In 1957 he worked as a columnist with the ‘Observer’, after working for a long time for the ‘Manchester Guardian’ as one of the book reviewers, as a columnist in Sunday Pictorial, a tabloid, and the newspaper, ‘Daily Herald’.
He lectured once again in 1964 at the Institute of Historical Research in London, University College London and the Polytechnic of North London.
In 1972, he wrote the biography of his friend, Lord Beaverbrook, a business magnate, politician, and writer and a very influential British figure.
As a famous TV personality he made his last television appearance with ‘How Wars End’ in 1985.
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His book ‘The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848–1918’ is considered the work of a genius, which accounts the events in Europe after the fall of the Habsburg, Romanov, and Hohenzollern dynasties towards the end of the First World War.
In 1955, he published the biography of Otto von Bismarck, a very influential German politician, which became a best-seller.
His book ‘English History 1914–1945’, in which he glorified the history of England, was a huge success, selling more than any of Oxford’s ‘History of England’ volumes.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Margaret Adams, in 1931, with whom he had four children, before they divorced in 1951.
His second wife was Eve Crosland, whom he married in 1951 and had two children with her prior to their divorce in 1974.
Even when he was married to Eve, he would go on to live with Margaret, whom he passionately loved. He got married for a third time to �va Haraszti, a Hungarian historian.
In 1984, he was severely injured after meeting with an accident while crossing Old Compton Street in London. Following the accident, he retired from public life.
He suffered from Parkinson’s disease during his last years and in 1987 he was admitted into a nursing home where he passed away at the age of 84.
this prominent historian made a cameo appearance in the 1981 British film ‘Time Bandits'.