Imagine that you are invited to lunch at Oxford University. Sherry, wine and port flow like the Isis, with facts, anecdotes, bons mots and sparkling insights swirling past in a bewildering but entertaining array. The conversation continues on a punt, then on a brisk walk around the university parks, then over tea, which slips into (more) sherry, and afterwards a splendiferous “high table” dinner. Late at night you wobble through the darkened streets, still talking, feeling pleasantly at one with the world. It is great fun, but no substitute for actually studying history.
That is how reading Norman Stone’s book about the cold war feels.