In an extract from Prospect's new anthology featuring some of the best articles published in the last 25 years, Editor Tom Clark explores the key themes the book touches onby Tom Clark / July 22, 2020 / Leave a comment
“A new publication,” began Prospect’s opening editorial in October 1995, “requires an explanation, even a justification.” For David Goodhart, who had walked away from a good job at the Financial Times to set the magazine up, those words must have been heartfelt. Like the founding chair, Derek Coombs, he was risking a lot in the notoriously unprofitable field of highbrow publishing, in order to embark on something new—but what?
In page one of issue one, the founding editor went on to explain how curious -British minds were missing out on the sort of extended high-class polemics and canonical overviews that Americans had long lapped up from top US writers and thinkers in publications such as the Atlantic and the New Yorker. In the quarter-century since, Prospect has been true to the mission of filling that gap.
I’ll leave it to readers of this anniversary compendium of our best essays to judge for themselves whether or not the magazine has also succeeded in Goodhart’s other founding ambition to be “a home for those writers who can see further into the future than the rest of us.” Twenty-five years is a very long time in the prognostication business: few would have guessed the extent to which Prospect would go digital, with millions of readers online each year, plus a weekly podcast. It was just over a year into the magazine’s life that a rudimentary website was announced by a small notice in our pages which read “Prospect joins the nerds.” Prediction is an inherently hit and miss affair.
Celebrate 25 years of Prospect and get your copy of Think Again: The best essays from Prospect, 1995-2020
That is a point powerfully made by our opening selection of pieces on “Britain.” We start with Neal Ascherson’s state of the nation address “When was Britain?” published in May 1996. His sharp ear for the “estuary” accent coming out of public schools and his feel for the vague power of English nationalism still resonate, but other lines betray how mid-1990s Britain was another country. Structurally, we were still in a unitary state: he writes about a Scottish parliament only in a conditional future tense. Politically, we were yet to see the rise (never mind the fall) of New Labour, at a time…