From Tory to Turkey: Maverick historian Norman Stone storms back with partisan epic of Cold War world





It isn't every day that one interviews a figure described on an official British Council website as "notorious". That badge, which this fearsome foe of drippy-liberal state culture will wear with pride, comes inadvertently via Robert Harris. In his novel Archangel, Harris created the "dissolute historian" (© the British Council and our taxes) Fluke Kelso: an "engaging, wilful, impassioned and irreverent" maverick on the trail of Stalin's secret papers.

Just back from his academic base in Ankara (he can leave at first light and reach his Oxford house by lunchtime), Norman Stone - Fluke's alleged original - does cause a little flutter in the dovecote of the Penguin offices by asking for a whisky from our hosts. Eventually, they oblige with a bottle of Bell's. Notorious enough for you, British Council folk?

Now 69, Stone still lives up handsomely to all those other adjectives. The Glasgow-born former professor of history at Oxford has since 1997 taught international relations at Bilkent University and directed its Turkish-Russian Centre. In person, as in print, his conservative polemics belong more to the partisan age of his former patron Margaret Thatcher than to Cameron's new blue-and-yellow coalition dawn. Yet they coexist with a globe-spanning breadth of vision, an insider's relish for a dozen cultures from Hungary to Haiti, and a wit and warmth that put the fun into free-market fundamentalism. His company, need I add, proves just a trifle livelier than time spent on the average British Council committee.

Posthumously-born son of an RAF pilot killed in action, a scholarship boy at Glasgow Academy, Stone as a multi-lingual Cambridge researcher and lecturer dug deep and at first-hand into the Cold War intrigues of central Europe. His pioneering work helped tilt British perspectives on the Great War east towards Germany and Russia. He also managed, in his first marriage, to wed the niece of Haitian strongman "Papa Doc" Duvalier's finance minister. Their son is the thriller writer Nick Stone; he has two other adult sons from a second marriage....



comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe to our mailing list