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Angus Calder

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Occupation  Academic
Name  Angus Calder

Role  Writer
Spouse  Jenni Calder (m. 1963)
Angus Calder itelegraphcoukmultimediaarchive00678angusc

Full Name  Angus Lindsay Ritchie Calder
Alma mater  King's College, Cambridge University of Sussex
Relatives  Nigel Calder (brother) Simon Calder (nephew)
Died  June 5, 2008, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Parents  Peter Ritchie Calder, Mabel Jane Forbes McKail
Siblings  Nigel Calder, Allan Calder, Fiona Rudd, Isla Calder
Books  The People's War, The myth of the Blitz, Revolutionary empire, Gods - mongrels - and dem, Disasters and Heroes
Similar People  Peter Ritchie Calder, Nigel Calder, Simon Calder, Alan Riach, Hugh MacDiarmid

Of Poor B. B. by Bertolt Brecht (Read by Angus Calder, music by Dmytro Morykit)

Angus Lindsay Ritchie Calder (5 February 1942 – 5 June 2008) was a Scottish academic, writer, historian, educator and literary editor with a background in English literature, politics and cultural studies. He was a man of the Left, and in his highly influential book on the home front in the Second World War he complained bitterly that the postwar reforms of the Labour government, such as universal health care and nationalization of some industries, were an inadequate reward for the wartime sacrifices, and a cynical betrayal of the people's hope for a more just postwar society.


Angus Calder Revolving Culture Notes from the Scottish Republic by Angus Calder

Early life

Angus Calder was born on 5 February 1942. His father, Lord Ritchie Calder (1906–1982), was a noted science writer, humanist and pacifist. His siblings are Nigel Calder, mathematician Allan Calder and educationist Isla Calder (1946–2000). His nephew is travel writer and journalist Simon Calder.

Calder read English literature at King's College, Cambridge, and wrote a doctorate at the University of Sussex, on politics in the United Kingdom during World War II. His book, The People's War: Britain 1939–1945, was published in 1969.


Calder became a ubiquitous figure on the Scottish literary scene, writing essays and articles, books on Byron and Eliot, and working as editor of collections of poetry and prose. He also wrote introductions to new publications of such diverse works as Great Expectations, Walter Scott's Old Mortality, T. E. Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy and Boswell's The Life of Samuel Johnson.

In 1981 he published Revolutionary Empire (1981), a study of three centuries of imperial development by English speakers to the end of the 18th century. Revolving Culture: Notes from the Scottish Republic is a collection of essays on Scottish topics which expressed itself through the writings of such figures as Burns and Scott and in gestures of realpolitik such as the repression of "Jacobins" during the French Revolution. In 1984 Calder helped to set up the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and served as its first convener. He also worked as an editor of Hugh MacDiarmid's prose.

The Myth of The Blitz (1991) argued that received ideas of the civilian population's reaction to the bombing of London still reflected wartime propaganda. Calder examined how the German bombings generated ideas and images of plucky and stoical suffering and resistance that defined post-war Britain's sense of itself; but showed that the "chirpy Cockney", "all pull together" stereotypes were partly propaganda which hid the reality of an inequality of suffering due to deep social divisions, and concealed unheroic stories of opportunistic looting and rape.

A nationalist and socialist, he moved from the Scottish National Party (SNP) to the Scottish Socialist Party, and though he cherished the Scottish republican spirit, he sought to challenge some of the popular myths surrounding the country's sense of national identity. In Revolving Culture: Notes from a Scottish republic (1992) he described the development, during the early stages of the Union with England, of an "intellectual republic" forged by a combination of insularity and lack of English interest in Scottish affairs. In 1997 he edited Time to Kill — the Soldier's Experience of War in the West 1939–1945 with Paul Addison; Scotlands of the Mind (2002); Disasters and Heroes: On War, Memory and Representation (2004); and Gods, Mongrels and Demons: 101 Brief but Essential Lives (2004), a collection of potted biographies of "creatures who have extended my sense of the potentialities, both comic and tragic, of human nature". He had always published verse and won a Gregory Award for his poetry in 1967. Questions of Scottish national identity assumed growing importance in the 1980s, and Calder became active in the debate. A distinctive "Scottish social ethos" informed the activities of prominent Scots in the years of Empire, when they had invested heavily in the concept of Britishness, although he reportedly felt that the Scots had meddled much more overweeningly with the English sense of identity than the English ever did with the Scots. He was delighted to discover that the game of cricket had been introduced to Sri Lanka by a Scot.

Calder spent much of his career in Edinburgh, where he became a conspicuous figure on the Scottish literary scene as a published poet and commentator on Scottish culture and politics. Calder taught all over the world, lecturing in literature at several African universities and serving from 1981 to 1987 as co-editor of the Journal of Commonwealth Literature.

Calder won the Eric Gregory Award for his poetry and the 1970 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in 1967. In 1971, after the publication of The People's War, the Calders moved to Edinburgh, where he published Russia Discovered, a survey of 19th-century Russian fiction in 1976, and, three years later, became staff tutor in Arts with the Open University.

Personal life

His first wife was Jennifer Daiches, daughter of Scottish literary critic David Daiches, with whom Calder collaborated on a book about Sir Walter Scott in 1969. The Calders had two daughters, Rachel and Gowan, and a son, Gideon. His first marriage ended in 1982; he married Kate Kyle in 1986, with whom he had a son, Douglas, born in 1989. He took early retirement from the Open University in 1995.


Calder died from lung cancer on 5 June 2008, aged 66.


  • (Contributor) Pax Edina: The One O' Clock Gun Anthology (Edinburgh, 2010)
  • Recorded readings and performances
  • (Collaboration) From Dungeons to the Sky – Commissioned by Amnesty International (Scotland) for performance of 12 poems with music for Commonwealth Head of States visit to Edinburgh, 1996, at the Queen's Hall, Edinburgh. Readings by Angus and Gowan Calder, piano compositions and performance by Dmytro Morykit.
  • References

    Angus Calder Wikipedia