‘New, new, new,’ Tony Blair marvelled early in his premiership; ‘everything is new.’ He personified a willing amnesia that is so much part of our age. The temptation to dwell in the present, with its bewildering newness and illusion of liberation, outweighs an interest in history as a vital part of our political life. This is an age ruled by restricted definitions of what is relevant. The decline of history and the languishing state of our democratic institutions and liberty are not unrelated.
It is perhaps a sign of the danger that democracy is facing that John Keane has been moved to write a history of it (the last such attempt on this scale was by the American Nahum Capen, whose first volume was published in 1874). It has become something