Mortimer, Edward (James) 1943-
MORTIMER, Edward (James) 1943-
Born December 22, 1943, in Burford, Oxfordshire, England; son of Robert Cecil (a bishop) and Mary Hope (a teacher; maiden name, Walker) Mortimer; married Elizabeth Zanetti (an artist and art historian), October 5, 1968; children: Horatio, Matthew, Frances, Phoebe. Education: Oxford University, B.A. (modern history; first class honors), 1965. Politics: "Social/Liberal Democrat." Religion: Church of England.
Home—Oxford, England. Office—Financial Times, 10 Cannon St., London EC4 P4BY, England. Agent—Anthony Shell, 43 Doughty St., London WC1N 2LF, England.
Author, journalist, and political consultant. All Souls College, Oxford, Oxford, England, prize fellow, 1965-67, 1970-72; Times, London, England, assistant Paris correspondent, 1967-70, foreign specialist and lead writer, 1973-85; Carnegie Endowment, New York, NY, senior associate, 1980-81; Financial Times, London, assistant foreign editor, 1987—. United Nations, New York, NY, director of communication and senior aide to secretary general Kofi Annan; Warwick University, Warwick, England, honorary professor. Also worked as a volunteer teacher in Senegal.
International Institute of Strategic Studies, Royal Institute of International Affairs (council member, 1987—).
David Watt Memorial Prize, 1988, for articles on socialism in western Europe.
France and the Africans, 1944-1960: A Political History, Walker (New York, NY), 1969.
(Editor, with Paolo Filo della Torre and Jonathan Story) Eurocommunism: Myth or Reality?, Harmondsworth (New York, NY), 1979.
Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, Random House (New York, NY), 1982.
The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, Faber & Faber (Boston, MA), 1984.
Roosevelt's Children: Tomorrow's World Leaders and Their World, H. Hamilton (London, England), 1987, published as The World That FDR Built: Vision and Reality, Scribner's (New York, NY), 1989.
(Editor, with others) Revolution and Change in Europe: Implications for the Atlantic Area Nations, Chicago Council of Foreign Relations (Chicago, IL), 1993.
(Editor, with Robert Fine) People, Nation, and State: The Meaning of Ethnicity and Nationalism, I. B. Tauris (London, England), 1999.
Also author of Iran: A Revolution Betrayed, for British Broadcasting Corporation Television, 1983.
Foreign correspondent Edward Mortimer has published several books on world affairs, including Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, a critically acclaimed account of one of the world's major religions, as well as studies of French African colonialism, French communism, and the political legacy of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt. In addition to his work as a journalist for the London-based Financial Times, Mortimer has served as a senior advisor to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Mortimer's first book, France and the Africans, 1944-1960, provides an account of French colonialism in sub-Sahara Africa during the middle of the twentieth century, from the 1944 Brazzaville conference in the Congo to French decolonization in 1960. Mortimer draws particular attention to the evolution of French political policies toward its African colonies, from an assimilationist stance to one of decentralization and withdrawal. According to a Times Literary Supplement critic, Mortimer's work represents "a straightforward and factual survey of Africa south of the Sahara." While remarking that Mortimer's account ends too hastily and fails to include analysis of Madagascar, the critic described France and the Africans, 1944-1960 as "a book which is patiently informative and which will be found useful by a great many."
In Faith and Power, a work informed by Mortimer's reporting in Iran during the tumultuous 1970s, the author presents an overview of Islam, including discussion of the religion's doctrine and history, description of its various sects and divisions, and analysis of its influence on the modern world. In addition, Mortimer documents the impact of Islam in the political affairs of six nations: Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Russia. Writing in the New York Review of Books, Bernard Lewis praised the work as "a fine example of journalism at its best." Commenting on the author's firm grasp of the subject, Lewis remarked that Mortimer had "two qualifications that are becoming increasingly rare in the literary world: he can read, and he can write. He has read the secondary scholarly literature in Western languages carefully and intelligently, and has used his reading to give greater depth to his own insights attained at first hand by travel and interviews in Muslim countries." Lewis added, "Clearly and soberly written, Mortimer's book offers what is probably the best general introduction to the subject, including some new insights even for the specialist."
Mortimer's next book, The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, is a history of the French Communist Party (PCF) from its revolutionary Bolshevik origins in the 1920s to its patriotic role in the French resistance to German rule during World War II and reconstruction afterward. Mortimer address the PCF's many changes in leadership and form during the period covered by the book, including tensions stemming from internal divisions within the party and French socialism's relationship with international Soviet communism. As New York Times Book Review contributor Robert Paxton noted, "Mortimer concludes that the Communist Party's effect on French political life has been essentially conservative—in the conformity it imposes on its members as well as its dividing of the left." Times Literary Supplement contributor Douglas Johnson concluded that Mortimer's book is "a work filled with interest which will prove eminently useful, but which fails either to make the Party come alive or to clear up in a satisfactory manner the many problems which abound in its history." London Times reviewer John Ardaugh called the work a "detailed and scholarly study," but added that it "is a book more for the specialist that the general reader, and not the equal of his excellent volumes on Islam and Africa." Times Educational Supplement critic John Frears assessed Mortimer's book more favorably, noting that the author "succeeds better than anyone I have yet read in isolating themes of consistency in [the history of the PCF] and a genuine pattern of development. The tale is carefully researched, fairly and fascinatingly told." Eugen Weber, writing in the New Republic, also approved of Mortimer's effort: "Mortimer has written an enlightening book: lucid, balanced, highly readable. He has dug up no new information, and does not pretend to do so. But in a realm where prejudice and confusion reign, a sane, well-informed guide through the thickets of the surviving past is a remarkable contribution."
In Roosevelt's Children: Tomorrow's World Leaders and Their World,—published in the United States as The World That FDR Built: Vision and Reality—Mortimer presents discussions with several dozen politicians, economists, and journalists who came of age during the post-World War II era. Mortimer's interviews, accompanied by his own commentary, initially aired as part of a British television series called Roosevelt's Children; the book is based on its transcripts. Writing in the Journal of American History, Kevin Eubank quoted Mortimer's description of the project as "a kind of collective oral self-portrait and autobiography of a generation of world leaders." The book consists of personal reflections on the internationalist political and economic perspective established by Roosevelt in which the interviewees generally lament the dissolution and abandonment of multilateral structures and cooperative policies in the new world order. Commenting on the work in the Observer, Peter Clarke wrote, "Mortimer's interviews have clearly succeeded in eliciting some thoughtful contributions, as well as some startling ones." However, London Times reviewer Jonathan Meades criticized the volume's homogenous perspective and the "smug hermeticism" and backward-looking politics of the interviewees. In Meades's view, Mortimer unwittingly succeeds in revealing "the paucity of thought of his political coevals." Times Literary Supplement contributor Alec Cairncross acknowledged that the volume's structure is "a little artificial" but concluded that "the book is admirably edited and the narrative is judicious and thoughtful." Cairncross added, "For those who like their history in snatches and mixed with the reflections of men of tomorrow and of yesterday, it makes excellent reading."
Mortimer has also coedited People, Nation, and State: The Meaning of Ethnicity and Nationalism, a volume containing thirteen essays by leading scholars and commentators on the problem of modern national identity, a concept complicated by questions of ethnicity, gender, multiculturalism, and postmodern notions of agency. The collection is divided into five sections, with essays addressing ethnicity, nation, national identity, national self-determination, and civic nationalism. "The result is an exciting intellectual exercise that will certainly force many to rethink their opinions on these issues," wrote Adeel Khan in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.
Mortimer told CA: "I think my main vocation is to discover, understand, and explain the points of view of people with different cultural backgrounds and political and religious ideologies."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Economist, May 13, 2000, review of People, Nation, and State: The Meaning of Ethnicity and Nationalism, p. 7.
Journal of American History, March, 1990, Keith Eubank, review of Roosevelt's Children: Tomorrow's World Leaders and Their World, pp. 1319-1320.
Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, April, 2001, Adeel Khan, review of People, Nation, and State, p. 363.
New Republic, November 22, 1982, Ernest Gellner, review of Faith and Power: The Politics of Islam, pp. 25-30; January 7, 1985, Eugen Weber, review of The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, pp. 36-40.
Newsweek, September 20, 1982, Jim Miller, review of Faith and Power, p. 90.
New York Review of Books, June 30, 1983, Bernard Lewis, review of Faith and Power, pp. 35-38.
New York Times Book Review, February 10, 1985, Robert Paxton, review of The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, p. 28.
Observer (London, England), June 14, 1987, Peter Clarke, review of Roosevelt's Children, p. 22.
Times (London, England), October 14, 1982, E. C. Hodgkin, review of Faith and Power; March 15, 1984, John Ardaugh, review of The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947; May 14, 1987, Jonathan Meades, review of Roosevelt's Children.
Times Educational Supplement, October 22, 1982, Peter Mansfield, review of Faith and Power, p. 27; April 20, 1984, John Frears, review of The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, p. 20.
Times Literary Supplement, August 21, 1969, review of France and the Africans, 1944-1960; March 9, 1984, Douglas Johnson, review of The Rise of the French Communist Party, 1920-1947, p. 237; July 3, 1987, Alec Cairncross, review of Roosevelt's Children, p. 707.
Washington Post Book World, October 17, 1982, John Waterbury, review of Faith and Power, p. 5.*