Book Review: Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman

If you have ever loved gossip prepare to embrace it now, as this biography of the enigmatic Steven Runciman delves into his world of rumour and history.

Witty, urbane, sometimes outrageous and utterly spellbinding, Sir Steven Runciman was a gossip for the connoisseur. I speak from experience. Runciman visited the University of Adelaide history department in 1965.

Characteristically, he was ‘put up’ by the Haywards at Carrick Hill. Some folk are said to be ‘on hand with history’. Runciman was ‘on hand’ with eminent people, a friend of kings, Greek Orthodox patriarchs, politicians, writers.

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His father was a staunch member of Asquith’s Liberal government in the UK and as a child Steven romped with the younger Asquith children. He grew up to be the most famous narrative historian in Britain when the trilogy History of the Crusades (1951-53) appeared. He maintains the grip of the Ancient Mariner, describing men 900 years dead as if he knew them personally.

Dying aged 97 in 2000, it needed a very brave, very gifted writer to do him justice but Minoo Dinshaw has done him proud.

Author: Minoo Dinshaw
Publisher: Penguin Books

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