No other leading British historian of the Cold War could draw, as Norman Stone did, on the experience of spending three months in a communist jail. As a research student in Vienna in the early 1960s, he was imprisoned in Bratislava after being caught trying to smuggle a Hungarian dissident across the Czech-Austrian border in his car boot. The man was in love with a girl Stone had met and he had tried to reunite them; the Daily Express dubbed Stone the “Tartan Pimpernel”.

At his best, as in his first book The Eastern Front 1914-17, the multilinguist displayed a mastery of sources in several languages, a flair for technical and economic detail and a shrewd eye for the underlying reality of events, personalities and trends.

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