AJP Taylor, born in Lancashire on 25 March 1906, was undoubtedly one of the finest historians of all time, and should be treated by the modern day undergraduate as a godlike being on par with the Horrible History series.
Perhaps the most admirable trait of Taylor’s was his abstinence from the almost perverse delight that most historians appear to derive from making their essays as incomprehensible as possible (a sad fact which often leads many bemused students to seek the comfort of the bottle); Taylor’s clear and narrative driven historical analyses and articles were renowned for conveying complicated and often controversial ideas easily.
The Marxist influenced scholar enjoyed his status as being “The People’s Historian”, a title gained from his extensive television interviews and documentaries on the BBC as well as legendary lectures delivered at Manchester University and Magdalen College, Oxford in 1936 and 1938 respectively, where students would actually arrive an hour early so that they could get a seat in the packed auditorium.
He received virtually every honour that the academic world could bestow upon him, and yet maintained an infamous independence that rankled all of his peers and government (with actions like espousing, at the height of the Cold War, an Anglo-Soviet alliance).
His works were both informative and amusing, with Taylor drawing upon his journalistic experience as a foreign affairs correspondent for the Manchester Guardian to combine historical analysis with humour and wit; a winning combination. In short, he was undoubtedly the most influential and important British historian of the 20th Century.