M. S. Anderson

Writer of history textbooks


Matthew Smith Anderson, historian: born Perth 23 May 1922; Assistant Lecturer, London School of Economics, 1949-53, Lecturer 1953-61, Reader 1951-72, Professor of International History 1972-85; married 1954 Olive Gee (two daughters); died London 8 February 2006.

M. S. Anderson, Professor of International History at the London School of Economics, 1972-85, was one of the most successful and influential historical textbook writers of his generation.

Thanks to his reading skill in Russian and several other languages, his treatment of Europe covered East as well as West, whereas previous books had often had (as he once mildly remarked) "a strong French emphasis". His own zest for facts was reflected in telling nuggets of out-of-the-way information (for example, that "coins bearing the head of Charles I were handed down from father to son in the Shetland Islands for use as a remedy against skin diseases, until at least the later 1830s"), although such nuggets were always accompanied by firm and even-handed central judgements.

Matthew Anderson was an authentic Scot. Born in Perth and educated at Perth Academy and Edinburgh University, after Second World War service in the RAF between 1942 and 1945 (as navigator, bomber crew) he returned to Edinburgh, completed his degree, began his doctoral thesis, on "British Diplomatic Relations with the Mediterranean, 1763-1778", and became an Assistant.

His departure in 1949 to an Assistant Lectureship at the London School of Economics thus marked a real uprooting, although he never ceased to feel a great debt to his Edinburgh teachers, above all Richard Pares. On Pares's advice, Anderson began learning Russian, and, after completing his thesis in 1952, embarked on his first book, Britain's Discovery of Russia, 1558-1815 (1958). Another of his Edinburgh teachers, Denys Hay, invited him to undertake the 18th-century volume in Longman's History of Europe, and thus led him to discover his métier.

Europe in the Eighteenth Century, 1713-1783 (1961) became a recognised classic, translated into French, Spanish and Italian, with new editions in 1976, 1987 and 2000, each embodying substantial alterations and additions. A briefer volume for Oxford University Press, Eighteenth-Century Europe, 1713-1789 (1966), also proved highly successful, especially in its North American and Spanish editions. By the time of his death, these two volumes together had sold not far short of 150,000 copies. Anderson had indeed "rescued the 18th century from long-undeserved neglect".

In 1972 appeared The Ascendancy of Europe: aspects of European history, 1815-1914. Two other less general books also secured wide readerships: The Eastern Question, 1774-1923 (1966) and Peter the Great (1978). Altogether he published 11 books with the needs of students in mind, and in every case his publishers (most often Longman, now Pearson Education) found themselves dealing with an academic who not only wrote superbly saleable copy, but even delivered it ahead of the date laid down in his contract.

He also published some 20 learned articles, and contributed two chapters to the New Cambridge Modern History and many more to multi-authored volumes, as well as writing in later years personal diaries and memoirs not for publication.

Important though writing always was to him, between 1972 and his retirement in 1985 his growing responsibilities at the London School of Economics took priority. Not only was he much concerned in building up the International History Department (of which he was Convenor in 1972-75), but from 1973 until 1981 he was heavily involved in the work of the school's Publications Committee, while in 1981-85 he chaired the Graduate School Committee, arguably the school's most important committee.

Anderson was never happier than when walking with his daughters in Scotland. Golf was a pleasure from boyhood. In middle age, he took up photography and collecting books concerned with Russia, while in retirement he became an accomplished bread-maker and gardener. His musical memory was as accurate, extensive and rewarding as his memory for historical facts.

Daniel Waley

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions