Philip Mansel rss

He who must be obeyed: portrait of the Kaiser by Ferdinand Keller, 1893

Kaiser Wilhelm's guide to ruining a country

2 August 2014
Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900–1941 John C.G. Röhl, translated by Sheila de Bellaigue and Roy Bridge

CUP, pp.1562, £45, ISBN: 9786521844314

The role of personality in politics is the theme of this awe-inspiring biography. This is the third volume, 1,562 pages long, of John Röhl’s life of the Kaiser. It has… Read more

The vieux port of Marseille

Sublime port

8 December 2012
Marseille David Crackanthorpe

Signal Books, pp.224, £9.99, ISBN: 9781908493118

Ports can challenge national stereotypes: think of the difference between St Petersburg and Russia, or Naples and Italy. Since England is so small, and London so big, few English ports… Read more

The scholar gypsy: Patrick Leigh Fermor in Ithaca, photographed by his wife, Joan

Love letters to foreign lands

13 October 2012
Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure Artemis Cooper

Penguin, pp.384, £25, ISBN: ISBN 9780140297720

Xenophilia is as English as Stilton. Despite a reputation for insularity, no other nation has produced so many writers who have  immersed themselves in other countries. From Borrow to Lawrence,… Read more

Charming, cold-eyed cosmopolitan

10 March 2012
Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918 edited and translated by Laird M. Easton

Knopf, pp.976, 30

At last a diary as penetrating on Berlin as the Goncourt brothers’ on Paris has been translated into English. The author, Count Harry Kessler, resembled a character from Sybille Bedford’s… Read more


Gunboat diplomacy

28 January 2012
Blue-Water Empire: The British in the Mediterranean since 1800 Robert Holland

Allen Lane, pp.397, 25

Britain’s links with the Continent were once  deeper and more extensive than those of any other European country. Paris, Rome and German universities played as vital a role in British… Read more


The battle for the holy city

19 February 2011
Jerusalem: The Biography Simon Sebag Montefiore

Weidenfeld, pp.638, 25

In a tour de force of 500 pages of text Simon Sebag Montefiore, historian of Stalin and Potemkin, turns to a totally different subject: the city of Jerusalem. Founded around… Read more


Under Eastern eyes

22 January 2011
An Ottoman Traveller: Selections from the Book of Travels of Evilya Celebi translated by Robert Dankoff and Sooyong Kim

Eland, pp.482, 25

The Ottoman Empire inspired great travel books as well as great architects. Travellers like George Sandys, Richard Pococke or the Chevalier d’Arvieux in the 17th and 18th centuries were curious,… Read more

Through Levantine eyes

7 May 2008
Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 Giles Milton

Sceptre, pp.426, 20

The Bridge Geert Mak

Harvill/Secker, pp.151, 10

The corniche at Izmir had a magic atmosphere. Lined with cafés and orchestras playing every kind of music — Western, Greek, Turkish, Armenian — it had the reputation for making… Read more

The king of peace

9 January 2008
Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace by Avi Shlaim

Allen Lane, pp.720, £30

Philip Mansel reviews Lion of Jordan:  The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace by Avi Shlaim On 2 May 1953 two 18-year-old cousins were enthroned as kings, in… Read more

The Viennese charades

14 June 2007
Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna Adam Zamoyski

Harper Press, pp.634, 25

Europe had a party during the Congress of Vienna in the last months of 1814. Monarchs, ministers, ambassadors and their wives and mistresses had learnt what Lord Castlereagh called ‘habits… Read more

The Prince and the F

9 August 2006
Royals and the Reich Jonathan Petropoulos

Oxford, pp.524, 20

Anyone interested in the history of Germany, of nationalism or of dynasties will be gripped by this book. Born at the start of the 20th century, heirs of an ancient… Read more

Power behind the scenes

28 August 2004
John 3rd Earl of Bute: Patron and Collector Francis Russell

Francis Russell, pp.279, 95

Parliament has so dominated the writing of English political history that the royal household has been sidelined. Moreover, the absence of a tradition of court literature as strong as the… Read more

Overbearing and undermining

20 March 2004
Lord Cromer Roger Owen

OUP, pp.436, 25

A hundred and twenty years ago, the global hyper-power invaded a strategic Middle Eastern country. It talked of self-government but imposed its own rule. Other powers were excluded. Despite repeated… Read more

Courtiers and communists

19 July 2003
Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar Simon Sebag Montefiore

Weidenfeld & Nicholson, pp.693, 25

Courts can be a tool for understanding the present as well as the past. The behaviour patterns of courts and courtiers are often a better guide to the workings of… Read more

Who wore the royal trousers?

16 November 2002

Pan Macmillan, pp.448, 20

Revolutions no longer seem so inevitable, nor the overthrown governments so hopeless, since the failure of the greatest of all European revolutionary regimes, the Soviet Union. In The Fall of… Read more