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Jeremy Black, the Professor of History at the University of Exeter, ought to be a National Treasure, but instead is hardly known outside a few cognoscenti of history-writing. A Stakhanovite who has just published his 85th book, he deserves far more public recognition. The sheer quality of his output, especially in the field of 18th-century studies, ought to have marked him out as one of our great historians, yet he is curiously neglected, possibly because of his quiet Toryism, innate modesty and horror of providing TV-friendly soundbites.

Black is a natural didact, a word hardly ever used except pejoratively nowadays, but a noble calling nonetheless. He wants us to share his enthusiasms. He writes non-Marxist history with emphasis on narrative, readability and trying to understand the great actors of the past in their own terms and contexts, rather than in ours. He rebels against the tyranny of the contemporary, whereby our mores are assumed, simply through chronology, to be superior to those of earlier times.

In refreshing contrast to the increasing specialisation of British history-writing - featuring micro-theses in subjects with ever-smaller time-frames and geographical scope - Black is equally at ease with post-1500 military history, 18th-century UK and European history, international relations, cartographic history and newspaper history. He can also do pointilliste monographs when required, as The Collapse of the Anglo-French Alliance 1727-31 [1987] proves. Black's sense of humour might count against him in some po-faced history circles. The Politics of James Bond [2000] might indicate a lightheartedness not considered appropriate in a profession that all too often takes itself extremely seriously.

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Stephen Bowd
April 20th, 2018
2:04 PM
As a 'po-faced' historian I would like to point out that the author of this article throws around a lot of 'mights' and 'quite possiblys' to explain Prof. Black's supposed neglect (news to me) without producing one shred of evidence. I'd give an undergraduate a pretty low mark for this.

Tom Langdon-Davies
October 13th, 2014
8:10 AM
Jeremy's admirable refusal to bow to the winds of fashion endear him to his loyal readers, but in this soundbite age, he will remain largely unrecognised for some time to come.

October 28th, 2009
1:10 PM
Yep Black is indeed a most talented and prolific author. think his next book is out in Nov 09, "London: a history" - found some sample pages at

August 18th, 2009
1:08 AM
Talented? Yes. Brilliant? absolutely. Modest? Perhaps you know a different person than I.

elías durán
June 22nd, 2009
3:06 PM
Totally agree too. His researches about the history of press in the 18th century is stunning and very useful. I have study the connections beetween the sapnish and british press during the peninsular war and Black´s books heleped me a lot in order to get a view of the Press in England.

Ben Fryer
January 2nd, 2009
2:01 PM
I totally agree with your comments and now order every book he publishes, his latest, "Crisis of Empire: Britain and America in the Eighteenth Century" is on the way now. Years ago I picked up his one on Culloden and then on the American War of Independence soon after and thought that it would be fun to start collecting them, not knowing how many he would write from then on. I can think of all sorts of subjects from 18th Century military history that I would love him to write. And knowing him, he'll probably write them!

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