Yoko Ono performing ‘Cut Piece’, where her outfit is cut down to her underwear by predatory snipping scissors

You could do better on Wikipedia: a facile approach to art history


A review of Art in History by Martin Kemp finds this 200-page potted outline absurdly sketchy

Nicole Minetti (with statutory sunglasses) in Milan in 2011. The bunga-bunga girl, catapulted into politics by Berlusconi, was accused of aiding and abetting prostitution and submitting fraudulent expenses

Italy on the brink: the dolce vita turns sour


A review of The Italians by John Hooper warns that unless the birthrate in Italy rises the country is doomed

USS Jeanette Photo: Getty

The greatest American Arctic disaster


A review of In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides describes the gruesome story of the USS Jeanette in 1879

Winston Churchill leaving Westminster Pier, with Harry Hopkins, John Winant, and William Bullitt Photo: Getty

Powers of persuasion: how Churchill brought America on side


A review of Sleep in Peace Tonight by James MacManus describes how Winston Churchill charmed the Americans into joining the second world war

TS Eliot

A poet’s progress: from Tom the American boy to T.S. Eliot

Books feature

The musical Cats reopened in the West End in December, with a judge from The X Factor in the lead role. The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the songs are, of course, by T.S. Eliot. Eliot died 50… Read more

English author and playwright, Edgar Wallace, 1927 Photo: Getty

The King Kong of the thriller: the phenomenal output of Edgar Wallace, once the world’s most popular author


A review of Stranger than Fiction by Neil Clark explores the  turbulent life of King Kong’s creator

German poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Photo: Getty

The Nightwatches of Bonaventura: a masterpiece of German Gothic


Tom Hodgkinson rediscovers August Klingemann’s dark classic

Virtually identical in their languorous loucheness. Clockwise from top left: Louise de Kérouaille Barbara Palmer, Moll Davis and Nell Gwyn

The merry monarch and his mistresses; was sex for Charles II a dangerous distraction?


A review of The King’s Bed by Don Jordan and Michael Walsh finds the king’s concubines disappointingly greedy and self-seeking


There’ll be no end of a bloodbath if Isis is not contained now


A review of Patrick Cockburn’s The Rise of the Islamic State suggests that the rise of IS was plain for all to see, but we chose not to look

The face of evil: Irma Grese, one of the most hated of all camp guards, trained at Ravensbrück before moving to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Survivors testified to her extreme sadism, including her use of trained, half-starved dogs to savage prisoners

The ‘rabbits’ of Ravensbrück: a horrific account of the medical experiments performed at Hitler’s only all-female concentration camp


A review of If This is a Woman by Sarah Helm offers some shreds of hope in the heroic behaviour of many of the camp inmates

Muriel Lester looks on as John Galsworthy lays a brick at the foundation ceremony for the Kingsley Hall Photo: Getty

Soup, socialism and suffragettes: radical Christianity at Kingsley Hall


A review of The Match Girl and the Heiress explores the unlikely collaboration of a factory worker and a middle-class Lady Bountiful to spread social justice in a London slum

King Louis IX embarks for the Crusades

The forgotten flowering of the medieval mind

Books feature

For those who imagine the medieval period along the lines of Monty Python and the Holy Grail — knights, castles, fair maidens, filthy peasants and buckets of blood and gore (you know, all the fun stuff) — Johannes Fried’s version… Read more

Lodge: the proof that aspiration does not mean surrendering the virtues of your class

David Lodge: confessions of a wrongly modest man


Quite a Good Time to be Born is the memoir of a good man written by a great novelist

Will Boast
Author Adam Thirwell Photo: Ulf Andersen/Getty

Lurid & Cute is too true to its title


Adam Thirlwell’s ‘tale of suburban sex and violence’ has lost whatever charm his narrative voice once possessed

Maggie Smith as Jocasta in Jean Cocteau’s ‘The Infernal Machine’, Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, 1986

Brian Aldiss unpicks the Jocasta complex


A sassy retelling of two women’s stories from Greek mythology

Blikkiesdorp, the shack settlement where Asad lived for the two years during which he and Jonny Steinberg collaborated on the book

Refugees and resilience: a story of Africa


Jonny Steinberg finds A Man of Good Hope in ‘the asshole of Cape Town’

Princess Bamba, Catherine and Sophia Duleep Singh at their debut at Buckingham Palace, 1894

Sophia Duleep Singh: from socialite to socialist


Anita Anand tells the story of an unlikely suffragette


A ghost story without the scary bits


Scott Blackwood’s ultra-clever See How Small is a novel written to be studied, not read


The best new crime novels (and a rule for enjoying them)


Jeff Noon on Peter May’s Runaway, Dan Kavanagh’s Putting The Boot In, Ferdinand von Schirach’s The Girl Who Wasn’t There, Eric Lundgren’s The Facades

Peking, c. 1290 (private collection), from ‘The Book of Ser Marco Polo’, edited by Henry Yule, 1903

The real mystery is how it got published


Benjamin B. Olshin’s The Mysteries of the Marco Polo Maps is an unconvincing speculation – but a reminder of a great story does not convince our reviewer


Making physics history


In The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time, Roberto Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin attempt to bring modesty to physics


A major-general names the guilty men


Christopher Elliott’s High Command is a study of what’s wrong at the MoD, and an excellent primer for the Chilcot report

Tolstoy with his secretary at Yasnaya Polyana, 1906

The prophet Tolstoy and his dodgy vicar


In Tolstoy’s False Disciple, Alexandra asks many questions, but doesn’t always answer them

The Merchant (left) and the Physician from the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

A window on Chaucer’s cramped, scary, smelly world

Books feature

Proust had his cork-lined bedroom; Emily Dickinson her Amherst hidey-hole; Mark Twain a gazebo with magnificent views of New York City. Where, then, did the father of English poetry do his work? From 1374 till 1386, while employed supervising the… Read more


An ill-waged war against the war on drugs


A review of Johann Hari’s Chasing the Scream finds there are still no clear answers over the benefits of prohibition or legalisation

Mary Anne Disraeli by James Godsell Middleton

Politics as costume drama: Mr and Mrs Disraeli may have been considered vulgar, but they never went unnoticed


A review of Mr and Mrs Disraeli by Daisy Hay paints a glowing picture of the marriage of two political minds

English knight and Earl of Pembroke, William Marshall Photo: Getty

William Marshal: one of England’s great magnates


A review of Thomas Asbridge’s The Greatest Knight suggests that the man considered the ‘power behind five English thrones’ remains a decidedly grey eminence