James Buchan rss

Lord Tweedsmuir and President Franklin D. Roosevelt Photo: Time & Life/Getty

The Scot who became more Canadian than the Canadians

15 February 2014
John Buchan: Model Governor General J. William Galbraith

Dundurn, pp.533, £26.99, ISBN: 9781459709379

When John Buchan was appointed Governor General of Canada in 1935, the country was deep in depression, the western provinces a dustbowl and a quarter of a million people on… Read more

‘On Glasgow and Edinburgh', by Robert Crawford - review

9 March 2013
On Glasgow and Edinburgh Robert Crawford

Belknap Press, Harvard University, pp.344, $35, ISBN: 9780674048881

Glasgow and Edinburgh are so nearby that even in the 18th-century Adam Smith could breakfast in one city and be in the other for early-afternoon dinner. For all that, these… Read more

Troops Fly Home From Kuwait To Fort Hood, Texas After U.S. Forces Leave Iraq

A bloody waste

15 December 2012
The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor

Atlantic Books, pp.779, £30, ISBN: 97814843547808

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an act of frivolity without parallel in United States history. The destruction of the Baathist state caused Iraqis to flee into their… Read more

A certain tragic allure

23 April 2011
The Shah Abbas Milani

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.496, 14.99

Towards Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1919–1980), the last or most recent Shah of Iran, there are two principal attitudes. Towards Mohammed Reza Pahlavi (1919–1980), the last or most recent Shah of… Read more


A foot in both camps

7 August 2010
Crossing Mandelbaum Gate Kai Bird

Simon & Schuster, pp.424, 17.99

As a five-year-old in the Arab quarter of Jerusalem in the 1950s, Kai Bird overheard an elderly American heiress offering $1 million to anyone who could solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.… Read more


Dangerous liaisons

28 April 2010
Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World Jeffrey Herf

Yale University Press, pp.335, 20

For the impartial reader, this book is doubly disagreeable. An account of National Socialist short-wave radio broadcasts to the Arab world in the second world war, it prints pages of… Read more

Tensions that disrupt the world

2 December 2009
Inside the Kingdom: Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists Robert Lacey

Hutchinson, pp.404, 20

In 1981, two books on Saudi Arabia were published within days of each other: The House of Saud by David Holden and Richard Johns and The Kingdom by Robert Lacey.… Read more


The man for the hour

25 March 2009
The Gamble: General Petraeus and the Untold Story of the American Surge in Iraq, 2006-2008 Thomas E. Ricks

Allen Lane, pp.394, 25

At the turn of 2007, the United States was facing defeat in Baghdad. Shia and Sunni were on killing sprees, the supply line from Kuwait was under constant attack, and… Read more

Great expectations dashed

15 October 2008
Origins: A Memoir Amin Maalouf, translated by Catherine Temerson

Picador, pp.404, 16.99

Origins: A Memoir, by Amin Maalouf, translated by Catherine Temerson The Lebanese Amin Maalouf is best known as a writer of historical novels in French, such as Le Rocher de… Read more

Worldly and otherworldly

27 August 2008
Stories John Buchan, selected and introduced by Giles Foden

The Folio Society, pp.384, 22.50

In ‘The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel’, John Betjeman has Wilde whimper to Robert Ross: ‘So you’ve brought me the latest Yellow Book:/ And Buchan has got… Read more

The great negotiator

6 June 2007
The Prince William Simpson

Harper Collins, pp.480, 19.99

Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the Talleyrand of our age, was for over 20 years the dominant personality in Arab relations with the English-speaking countries. Born into the… Read more

How the catastrophe happened

2 May 2007
The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace Ali A. Allawi

Yale, pp.518, 18.99

Ali A. Allawi has spent much of his life in exile from his native Iraq. Born into a family that had served the royal family that came to grief in… Read more

Geography is destiny

25 May 2006
The Tribes Triumphant: Return Journey to the Middle East Charles Glass

HarperCollins, pp.472, 25

Listing page content here Charles Glass, an American reporter for many years based in Lebanon, in 1987 set off to portray what used to be called the Levant, starting in… Read more

The holy terror himself

5 November 2005
Osama: The Making of a Terrorist Jonathan Randal

I. B. Tauris,, pp.346, 15

Osama: The Making of a Terrorist is not so much another biography of old beardie as a worldly and suave example of a once thriving subclass of literature, the newspaper… Read more

Before and after Babel

25 June 2005
The Unfolding of Language Guy Deutscher

Heinemann, pp.360, 20

The origin of language is one of the riddles of mankind. History begins with languages already formed, the intricate relics of vanished civilisations. As history progresses, so languages deteriorate. Latin… Read more

Tom Tiddler’s ground

2 April 2005
The Middle East in International Relations Fred Halliday

CUP, pp.392, 16.99

For many people in the West, the Middle East is a source of perplexity and foreboding. Home to morose despotisms, political violence and a thoroughly ruined natural environment, the Middle… Read more

Different heavens, same hells

22 May 2004
From Babel to Dragomans Bernard Lewis

Weidenfeld, pp.438, 20

Now in his late eighties, Bernard Lewis is one of the last representatives of a once venerable scholarly type, the Orientalist. Born and brought up in a Jewish family in… Read more