A. J. P. Taylor

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Alan John Percival Taylor, FBA (25 March 1906 – 7 September 1990) was a British historian of the 20th century and academic.


Early life and career

Taylor was born in Birkdale, near Southport, of Scottish descent and was brought up in Lancashire. He was educated at various Quaker schools including Bootham School in York. As a student he was described by his headmasters to be brilliant and rebellious.[citation needed] Initially he had an interest in archaeology, and as a young man he was an amateur expert[clarification needed] in the history and archaeology of churches in northern England. His interest in archaeology led to a strong interest in history. In 1924, he went to Oriel College, Oxford to study modern history. His wealthy parents held strongly left-wing views, which he inherited. His parents were both pacifists who vocally opposed the First World War, and sent their son to Quaker schools as a way of protesting against the war.

In the 1920s, Taylor's mother, Constance, was a member of the Comintern and one of his uncles a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Constance was a suffragette, feminist, and advocate of free love who practised her teachings via a string of extramarital affairs, most notably with Henry Sara, a communist who in many ways became Taylor's surrogate father. Taylor himself was recruited into the Communist Party of Great Britain by a friend of the family, military historian Tom Wintringham, while at Oriel; a member from 1924 to 1926, he broke with the Party over what he considered to be its ineffective stand during the 1926 General Strike. After leaving, he was an ardent supporter of the Labour Party for the rest of his life. Despite his break with the Communist Party, he visited the Soviet Union in 1925 and again in 1934, and was much impressed on both visits. For a time in the 1930s, he and his wife shared a home with the writer Malcolm Muggeridge and his wife. During this period, Muggeridge and Taylor began a life-long disagreement over the Soviet Union, though this dispute did not seriously affect their friendship.

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