Nigel Jones rss

John Freeman boards the plane to Washington to take up his post as Ambassador (Photo: Getty)

John Freeman: polymath or psychopath?

15 August 2015
A Very Private Celebrity: The Nine Lives of John Freeman Hugh Purcell

The Robson Press,/Biteback, pp.368, 25, ISBN: 9781849548618

They don’t make Englishmen like the aptly named John Freeman any more. When he died last Christmas just shy of his centenary, the obituaries — once they had expressed astonishment… Read more

Hitler with the Goebbels family in the late 1930s

Ménage-à-trois with Hitler: the Goebbels’ marriage was a bit crowded

9 May 2015
Goebbels Peter Longerich

Bodley Head, pp.964, £30, ISBN: 97818407920317

It is ironic that this weighty biography of Hitler’s evil genius of a propaganda minister is published on the day of a general election filled with Joseph Goebbels’s hallmarks: mendacity,… Read more

Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, Leslie Hore-Belisha , Secretary of State for War and Lord Hankey. Front Row, Lord Halifax, Foreign Secretary, Sir John Simon, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister, Sir Samuel Hoare, Home Secretary and Lord Chakfield, Co-ordination of Defence Photo: Getty

The war within: some of Churchill’s toughest challenges came from his own jealous colleagues

28 March 2015
Ministers at War: Winston Churchill and his War Cabinet Jonathan Schneer

Oneworld, pp.352, £20, ISBN: 9781780746135

Coalitions, as David Cameron has discovered, are tricky things to manage. How much more difficult, then, was it for Winston Churchill as he struggled to survive, then win, a world… Read more

‘Chelsea pensioners reading the Waterloo Dispatch’ by Sir David Wilkie

The Iron Duke with flecks of rust: Wellington emerges as a lesser soldier than Napoleon

7 February 2015
Went the Day Well? Witnessing Waterloo David Crane

Bantam Press, pp.366, £20, ISBN: 9780007358366

Of all the big battalions of books marking the bicentenary of the battle of Waterloo that have come my way, this has to be the best. David Crane has used… Read more

Henry VIII, Edward VI, Charles I, George VI and George V

The good, the bad, the false and fanatical: five centuries of British monarchs

3 January 2015

It is a strange paradox of our egalitarian age that a progressive publisher like Penguin should commission — at considerable expense, since the series editor Simon Winder has netted some… Read more

‘There was great danger of being kidnapped by licensed thugs and turned into a not-so-jolly Jack Tar’ George Morland’s ‘The Press Gang’ (1790s)

Terror plots, threats to liberties, banks in crisis: welcome to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars

1 November 2014
In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793–1815 Jenny Uglow

Faber, pp.714, £25, ISBN: 9780571269525

In our own troubled times it is useful and comforting to recollect that ’twas ever thus.  Violent threats against prominent politicians? Jenny Uglow reminds us that in 1802 Colonel Edward… Read more


From slaves' rectums to porn vids, there are few places people haven't tried to conceal secret messages

19 July 2014
Prisoners, Lovers and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qa’eda Kristie Macrakis

Yale University Press, pp.377, £18.99, ISBN: 9780300179255

John Gerard, a Jesuit priest immured in the Tower of London in 1597, and tortured by being hung from manacles until he temporarily lost the use of his arms, was… Read more

A document relating to the double-agent Garbo - whose messages helped to deceive the Germans about the location and timing of the D-Day landings Photo: PA Images

The one-man spy factory who changed history

5 April 2014
The Spy with 29 Names: The Story of the Second World War’s Most Audacious Double Agent Jason Webster

Chatto, pp.322, £16.99, ISBN: 9780701187743

With two new biographies of Kim Philby out, an espionage drama by Sir David Hare on BBC2, and the recent revelation that the aristocrat superspy John Bingham was the model… Read more

Two angry old men

1 December 2012
The Odd Couple: The Curious Friendship Between Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin Richard Bradford

The Robson Press/ Biteback, pp.373, £20, ISBN: 9781849543750

Though lasting literary friendships between natural rivals are not rare — Byron and Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth and Edward Thomas and Robert Frost spring to mind — few have been… Read more