Ruling elite shares an LSE pedigree

July 14, 1995

Sometimes one wonders about the quality of our leading historians. Correlli Barnett (THES, July 7) refers to a British ruling elite which was "Overwhelmingly . . . the product of an academic humanist education at public school and Oxbridge". In supporting this unoriginal claim he several times refers to Lord Annan's work Our Age.

Yet Barnett so misrepresents Annan's argument that it is hard to believe he has actually read his book. In Our Age Annan stresses repeatedly that the ruling elite was formed by Oxbridge plus the London School of Economics. This is a vital distinction, given LSE's social-science and grammar school ethos, and contradicts Barnett's crude picture of an elite composed solely of Oxbridge humanists.

Indeed Barnett refers to Attlee, Dalton and Beveridge without mentioning the strong LSE pedigree which they shared with so many members of the ruling elite. Such sloppiness does not suggest a careful approach to basic source material. God help the Muse of History if this is how she is served by her devotees.

EDWIN SHAW The Crest, Palmers Green, London

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