J.H. Plumb (2)

I have been thinking about McKendrick’s biography of Jack Plumb. It describes, but doesn’t sufficiently explain Jack’s remarkable transmogrification from an unconfident, unsuccessful and, by his own admission, not very brilliant, solitary PhD. student of G.M. Trevelyan in 1930s Cambridge, who went back to Leicester, his home town, for friendships, affairs and weekend drinking and going for long, gloomy walks with Trevelyan in Northumberland, into, already by the late 1940s, the super-confident author of England in the Eighteenth Century. What exactly happened to him, either as the lodger of Anthony de Rothschild at Tring or as a worker at Bletchley Park on de-coding or as the Ehrman Research Fellow at King’s to give him his carapace of sometimes excessive social confidence, his autocratic demands as a teacher and mentor, and the zest and brilliance of his prose style ? He thought of these as wasted years, but they don’t seem wasted if they were an opportunity for his own re-invention.


2 thoughts on “J.H. Plumb (2)

  1. It is indeed a remarkable transformation, from academic nonentity to his position as THE leading History Scholar (at least on the Right), which he was for my generation.

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