Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Historian by Blair Worden (ed) - review by Adam Sisman

Adam Sisman

Enlightening Words

Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Historian


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‘When a learned man dies, a great deal of learning dies with him,’ reflected Blair Worden after Hugh Trevor-Roper’s death in 2003. It is a melancholy thought. Trevor-Roper was a learned man nonpareil. His erudition was profound, he was interested in a great many things and he presented his ideas and insights with unrivalled style and panache. One of the contributors to this collection of essays expresses the fear that we shall not see his like again.

For some, Trevor-Roper’s name will forever be tainted by his over-hasty decision in 1983 to authenticate documents purporting to be Hitler’s diaries. He endured a drubbing from the world’s media when these were shown to be forgeries. But the memory of this unfortunate episode is now fading; there can be few people under the age of fifty who remember it. In any case, what is one error set against a lifetime of scholarship? Piffle before the wind.

Historians have a tendency to specialise in narrower and narrower fields and ever more limited periods, so that some end up knowing everything about almost nothing. Trevor-Roper was not like that. He traversed professional boundaries without hesitation. His mind ranged across the centuries; he made bold historical analogies; he had

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