Magazine article History Today

January 1951: The First Issue of History Today: Richard Cavendish Pays Tribute to History Today's Founders and Its Remarkable Continuity

Magazine article History Today

January 1951: The First Issue of History Today: Richard Cavendish Pays Tribute to History Today's Founders and Its Remarkable Continuity

Article excerpt

The magazine's founder was Brendan Bracken, Conservative ME resourceful publisher, charming gatecrasher and close ally of Winston Churchill. An excellent Minister of Information in 1941-45, he was detested by his civil servants, who cheered when he lost his seat in the 1945 general election, and is said to have inspired some aspects of Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984.

Another seat was soon found for Bracken while he spent time running the Economist and merging the Financial News with the Financial Times. He discussed his idea for a new history magazine with 'the Boss', as he called Churchill, and the story goes that after a fierce session in the House of Commons they both retired to the smoking room, where Bracken told Churchill, 'We have made history today' and Churchill told him that was the ideal title for the magazine.

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Bracken agreed and, though paper rationing delayed matters, when the time came he chose Peter Quennell and Alan Hodge as his co-editors. Peter Quennell was much the more prominent of the two. The son of C.H.B. and Marjorie Quennell, authors of the histories of 'everyday things' in England, he knew everybody in London literary circles and had published books on Byron, Queen Caroline, Pope and Ruskin among others. He edited the Cornhill Magazine from 1944 and he knew how to make scholarship readable.

Alan Hodge, one of Bracken's assistants at the ministry, was a researcher and co-writer who had worked with Robert Graves on The Long Weekend and apparently looked on benignly when his wife Beryl left him for Graves. After the war Hodge went to the Financial Times with Bracken and aided him with his weekly column on 'Men and Matters'. He would later help to research Churchill's histories.

History Today's first monthly issue came out at a cover price of half a crown, equivalent to getting on for 2 [pounds sterling] today. On the front cover were black and-white portraits of the Earl of Stratford, King Charles III of Naples and the philanthropist Earl of Shaftesbury. Inside were advertisements from Courtaulds, ICI, Guinness and others, slanted to be appropriate to a new history publication. The Guinness one said that for nearly 200 years 'Guinness have concentrated on doing one thing and doing it well.'

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The same might have been said about the new magazine itself. …

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