Annal: 2004 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography

Results of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in the year 2004.

Book:John Clare

John Clare: A Biography

Jonathan Bate

John Clare (1793-1864) is the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self, but until now he has never been the subject of a comprehensive literary biography.

Here at last is his full story told by the light of his voluminous work: his birth in poverty, his work as an agricultural labourer, his burgeoning promise as a writer—cultivated under the gaze of rival patrons—then his moment of fame in the company of John Keats and the toast of literary London, and finally his decline into mental illness and his last years confined in asylums. Clare’s ringing voice—quick-witted, passionate, vulnerable, courageous—emerges in generous quotation from his letters, journals, autobiographical writings, and his poems, as Jonathan Bate, the celebrated scholar of Shakespeare, brings the complex man, his beloved work, and his ribald world vividly to life.

Book:Eichmann

Eichmann: His Life and Crimes

David Cesarani

The biography of Eichmann—the crucial untold story of the architect of the Nazi “Final Solution”—and the mass murder of six million Jews.

Book:A Life Of H. L. A. Hart

A Life Of H. L. A. Hart: The Nightmare And The Noble Dream

Nicola Lacey

Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart was born in Yorkshire in 1907 to second-generation Jewish immigrants. Having won a scholarship to Oxford University, he later became the most famous legal philosopher of the twentieth century.

From 1932-40 Hart practised as a barrister in London. He was pronounced physically unfit for military service in 1940, and recruited by MI5, where he worked until 1945. Whilst at the Bar he continued to study philosophy and at MI5 his interest was further stimulated by his philosopher colleagues in MI6, Stuart Hampshire and Gilbert Ryle. After the war, Hart returned to Oxford to take up a Philosophy Fellowship, and later the Professorship of Jurisprudence.

H.L.A. Hart single-handedly reinvented the philosophy of law and influenced the nation’s thinking on the legalization of abortion and homosexuality, and on the abolition of capital punishment. …[more]

Book:Like A Fiery Elephant

Like A Fiery Elephant: The Story Of B. S. Johnson

Jonathan Coe

The most critically acclaimed literary biography published in the UK in 2004, Like a Fiery Elephant tells the story of B.S. Johnson, one of Britain’s most innovative, passionate, and controversial writers of the 1960s and 70s. Johnson was an unflinching advocate for the avant-garde in both literature and film, and held strong (some would say extreme) views on the future of the novel. Working firmly in the tradition of Joyce and Beckett—the latter of whom became a friend and mentor of sorts to Johnson—he tormented his agents, editors, and publishers with innovations that included a book with holes cut throught the pages (Albert Angelo) and a novel published in a box so that its unbound chapters could be read in any order (The Unfortunates). Johnson committed suicide in 1973, at the age of forty.

The story of Johnson’s life is fascinating enough—but what makes this biography truly extraordinary (even for those…[more]

Book:Malinowski

Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884-1920

Michael W. Young

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) was one of the most colorful and charismatic social scientists of the twentieth century. His contributions as a founding father of social anthropology and his complex personality earned him international notoriety and near-mythical status. This landmark book presents a vivid portrait of Malinowski’s early life, from his birth in Cracow to his departure in 1920 from the Trobriand Islands of the South Pacific. At the age of 36, he had already created the innovative fieldwork methods and techniques that would secure his intellectual legacy.

Drawing on an exceptionally rich array of primary documents, including Malinowski’s letters and unpublished diaries and manuscripts, Michael Young provides significant new information about the anthropologist’s personality, private life, and career. The author describes Malinowski’s restless life of travel, connections with intellectuals and artists, Nietzschean belief…[more]

Book:Nelson

Nelson: A Dream of Glory, 1758-1797

John Sugden

Among military and naval commanders, Horatio Nelson stands as one of the finest examples of inspirational leadership. The historian John Sugden charts the period of Nelson’s career neglected by earlier writers-from childhood to his breathtaking victory against the Spanish fleet at Cape St. Vincent when he became an admiral, lost an arm, and won international fame. Like Alexander of Macedon, Nelson led from the front (not always a sensible custom). But he was a natural leader and a genuine hero, and his actions invariably raised his stock with his men, who trusted him as a commander willing to share their dangers.

Nelson combines groundbreaking scholarship with a vivid and compelling narrative style. Detailing every facet of Nelson’s crowded life, the author offers the only full account of Nelson’s early voyages and the first complete analysis of the formative incidents in his career. Throughout there are revealing and startling discoveries about Nelson’s relationships with…[more]

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