Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.

JANUARY 15th  

On this day in history in 1914, was born Hugh Trevor-Roper.

Trevor-Roper was a historian of the Third Reich and of the English Civil War, whose career survived a forged diary hoax.   

Trevor-Roper was born at Glanton, Northumberland. He was educated at Charterhouse and Christ Church, Oxford, where he read Classics. His early career as a lecturer was interrupted by the Second World War, in which he served in Military Intelligence.  

In 1945, Trevor-Roper was assigned the task of investigating the circumstances of Hitlerís death, in order to rebuff rumours that Hitler was alive and ready to lead a Nazi resurgence. His examine of the facts was so thorough that Trevor-Roper was able to publish The Last Days of Hitler, a full account of the conditions in which Hitler and his entourage lived in the closing stages of the war.  

In 1957, Trevor-Roper was appointed Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, a position that he held until 1981 when he was elected Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge. Despite the fact that Trevor-Roperís historical forte was concerned with the English Civil War, he earned a reputation as an authority on the Third Reich with the publication of Hitlerís Table Talk, Hitlerís War Directives and The Goebbells Diaries. He became a controversial figure when he argued that Hitler was an astute political and military leader and not the buffoon that some historians had suggested. Trevor-Roper appeared on television regularly to promote his case and became recognised as the foremost authority on the subject.  

Trevor-Roper was given an opportunity to enhance his reputation when, in 1983, a cache of diaries purporting to be the personal diaries of Adolph Hitler was discovered in mysterious circumstances in a forest in Germany. The 60 volumes were purchased by the German magazine Stern whose experts declared them authentic. Publishing rights were offered to the Sunday Times whose frugal nature insisted on authentication before expenditure of royalties. Trevor-Roper, being acknowledged the greatest living expert on Hitler and his mores, was invited to scrutinise the journals and pronounce on them.  

Trevor-Roper examined the documents in great detail. He was impressed by the High Gothic script, exited over the systematic method of the author and delighted with personal touches such as ĎMust get tickets for the Olympic Games for Eva.í He declared that the works was indeed the genuine production of the late dictator, and mechanisms were immediately put in place for publication in serial form.

Alas, a more scrupulous analysis, by the chary German police, it was discovered that the paper was of post war origin, the ink was not available in wartime Germany and the binding glue was of American manufacture. Furthermore the text was littered with anachronisms and banal historical inaccuracies. The anticipated publication was halted. German police arrested a known fraudster who was subsequently convicted of forgery.  

For a brief while, Trevor-Roper was the subject of some ribald remarks in the press. Private Eye referred to him as Hugh Very-Ropey but despite all the criticism, he continued his professional work and continued to publish works, which were well received by the public. He died in 2003, at Oxford at the age of eighty-nine.

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