The Great Educator
THE academic loose in the world of publishing today can be forgiven for having a. certain hunted feeling. Once a week he gets news of yet another series of popular-university-style books; once a fortnight he is besought to write yet another book for the general educated public. Popular education seems about to replace mili- tary history as the future field in which pub- lishers see most profit; but books of popular edu- cation must be published in series, with a high-sounding title and a distinguished editorial board. Among publishers, no one is more assiduous in his launching of new series, or his courtship of academics, than Mr. George Weiden- feld. With butterfly net and elephant trap, with flattery, cajolement and cheque book he pursues them through the common rooms and dining- rooms of academe; with remarkable success, too, to judge by this latest series. The venue this time is the lavishly illustrated, 'original' paperback. For a very modest price one may purchase 250 pages of education, complete with more than fifty illustrations, ten of them coloured; no reprints, but books specially written for the new educated products of the eighteen-plus evolution in British education. To judge by these first five books, Mt. Weidenfeld has not only got himself a bomb, _but is pet forming a genuine public service. For he has found authors capable of writing to this formula and capable of writing clear, literate, intelli- gent, readable works. If he, or rather his authors, can maintain this standard, then the 'World Uni- versity' series will become a 'must' for everyone who has not given up the battle to keep himself above the ignorance line.
Any reviewer of a series like this must be hampered by his own lack of expertise. This reviewer can only report that he read both Pro- fessor Bhagwati's and Dr. Gregory's books with a good deal of interest, finding them well up to the standard set by the other three of this quintet. But he has no pretensions to being able or com- petent to comment on their expertise. Would that his economic tutors and lecturers had been one- half as lucid as Professor Bhagwati.
The most striking of the remaining works is Professor North's survey of the historical growth of Chinese Communism. At once lucid and com- pressed, it provides a totally intelligible account of Chinese history and of the role of the Chinese Communist movement in that history since the first overwhelming impact of Western European civilisation in the 1840s and the Taiping rebellion, from which Chinese Communist historians claim descent. It recapitulates clearly much that was only unclear or vaguely remembered from Edgar Snow; and it deals as much with the course of the Kuomintang's failure as with Mao Tse-tung's success. Its illustrations are in many cases new, and convey admirably the agony of the thirty- year-long Chinese civil war, from which Mao emerged victorious in 1949.
Mr. Caute's work is characteristically conten- tious and fails precisely where Professor North's
sucsscau tbat is, in depicting fairly and accur- ately what it was against which the left in Europe was in revolt. It is therefore much more of a tract for the times than a work of history. Mr. Caute has no sympathy for what in France would be called the party of order; he is all for the party of movement; and his work is informed, for all its brilliance, with a Marxist categorisation of the enemies of the left and a kind of neo- Tennysonian assumption that movement is inevit- ably desirable and towards his ideal. His book is a work primarily of political education; not history. Nevertheless, given one shares or can understand his frames of reference, his book shares the virtues of lucidity and readability mani- fested by Professor North.
These are high standards; but they are sur- passed by Mr. Peter Hall in his study of the major metropolitan areas of the modern world. This is a popularisation of the work on the growth of cities done by a generation of demographers, economists, sociologists and town-planners. It draws on the sociological history of men like Lewis Mumford and the pioneering ideas of the great and, outside a limited circle, entirely unknown Patrick Geddes. It is contemporary social history of the first importance, and should be compulsory reading for every educated urban dweller who has not resigned himself to a kind of internal emigration from his surroundings. Mr. Hall's original work has already given him a justly high reputation among the cognoscenti. This should make him known to a much wider audience. If this is the calibre of the remaining writers in Mr. Weidenfeld's stable, this is one series which must be given a prominent place on the bookshelves of all readers of the SPECTATOR.
D. C. WATT