Michael Burleigh

He Told Us So

The Dragons of Expectation: Reality and Delusion in the Course of History


Duckworth 256pp £18 order from our bookshop

Recently I have been reading some of the large-scale histories of the 1960s. A test of whether they are any good or not as guides to what was lasting and significant in that decade, when the ephemeral became an art form, has been seeing whether they mention the publication in 1968 of Robert Conquest’s masterly The Great Terror. One book does mention Conquest, but in the context of his friendships with Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin. Most just drone on about the sexual appetites of juveniles or enthuse over the Beatles and rioting students. 

In addition to being a poet of some stature and author of works of science fiction, Conquest is the world’s most distinguished student of the former Soviet Union. His work has a richness of classical and literary allusion which is missing in that

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