English tea-chests are thrown into Boston harbour, 16 December 1773

A Labour MP defends the Empire – and only quotes Lenin twice


A review of Ten Cities that Made an Empire, by Tristram Hunt. A well-written and cleverly constructed new history of the urban engine rooms of the British Empire

A sculpted head of Stalin, knocked off its statue during an anti-Russian demonstration, 1956 Photo:  Getty

A Pole’s view of the Czechs. Who cares? You will


A review of Gottland, by Mariusz Szczygiel, a profoundly funny book about how one copes with tyranny

Colonel James Tod, travelling by elephant through Rajasthan with his cavalry and sepoys (Indian school, 18th century)

From Scylax to the Beatles: the West's lust for India

Books feature

From the Greek seafarer Scylax in 500 BC to the Beatles in 1968, there is a long history of foreign visitors being drawn to India. Many have come in search of the ‘exotic’ or the ‘other’, an idea of India… Read more


P.J. Kavanagh: ‘I assert my triumphant uselessness, and sing’


A review of New Selected Poems by P.J. Kavanagh, with a foreword by Derek Mahon. The poet who imagined heaven as ‘big rooms filled with laughing’

The death of  the Kingmaker, or Nevill, Earl of Warwick (1428-1471), English soldier and statesman was killed at the Battle of Barnet, during the Wars of the Roses Photo: Print Collector/Getty

The repression, anger and bloodshed of our own Game of Thrones


A review of Kingmaker: Winter Pilgrims, by Toby Clements. The author’s pages are aflutter with the emotions of the Wars of the Roses


The best new children's books


A Dutch cracker, a second-rate Harry Potter, a wonderful story of a problem horse and a gripping tale (promise) of the making of a French motor car

Edward VII, portrayed in the French press hurrying across the Channel to the delights of Paris

The Paris of Napoleon III was one big brothel – which is why the future Edward VII loved it


A review of Dirty Bertie, by Stephen Clarke. The rebuilding of Paris was partly about making it a capital for sexual tourism

Jeff Bridges stars in the 2010 film, True Grit Photo: Kobal/Skydance Productions

There's so much mystery around Charles Portis that we're not even clear whether he’s alive


A review of Escape Velocity: A Charles Portis Miscellany, edited by Jay Jennings. Despite critical acclaim and a devoted fan base, the American author seems destined to remain on the sidelines


If you prefer banal symbols freighted with meaning to plot, Nicola Barker is your woman


A review of In the Approaches, by Nicola Barker, a blurb-writer’s nightmare

C.B. Fry of England Photo: Allsport/Hulton Archive

When the English cricket team toured Nazi Germany – and got smashed


A review of Field of Shadows: The English Cricket Tour of Nazi Germany, 1937, by Dan Waddell. This entertaining history includes some great myth-busting

Meadow pipit

Read this book and you’ll see why our meadows are so precious


A review of Meadowland: The Private Life of an English Meadow, by John Lewis-Stempel. An extended essay that mixes science, observation and history with a lot of love.


How to survive the rain-sodden Welsh Marches


A review of Darkling, by Laura Beatty. This novel about two Marcher women separated by three centuries is masterly in its understatement

Appalling retributions and atrocities marked the end of the Free Republic of the Vercors. A French Resistance fighter is hanged in 1944

Reliving the most famous last stand of the French Resistance


A review of The Cruel Victory, by Paddy Ashdown. The last days of the Free Republic of the Vercors sounded with ‘the screaming of unmilked cows and the rattle of the machine guns’

Romans At Bar

What made Romans LOL?


A review of Laughter in Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard. Roman humour may not have aged well but it’s still fascinating knowing what made them laugh

Saris in 'Little India', Southall

Narcotically-induced mischief in an urban wasteland


A review of Music Night at the Apollo: A Memoir of Drifting, by Lilian Pizzichini. The Southall underworld explored

View of Baghdad in 1918

Baghdad's rise, fall – and rise again

Books feature

The history of Baghdad more than any other city mirrors the ebb and flow that has marked Islamic history and civilisation. The rise and fall of empires and dynasties, the splendours of Islam’s high culture and its decline, the periodic… Read more

Patrick Leigh Fermor as a major in the parachute regiment, October 1945

Patrick Leigh Fermor and the long, daft tradition of Brits trying to save Greece


A review of The Ariadne Objective, by Wes Davis. Leigh Fermor's adventures in Crete make for a romantic story – but that doesn't mean he's remembered fondly there

"The only time anyone ever uses the word, in the phrase ‘legs akimbo’, it’s wrong."

Why is 'loo' slang? Because Simon Heffer says so!


Simon Heffer's Simply English could be THE pedant's loo book of the year – as long as you agree with his prejudices


A Colder War, by Charles Cumming - review


The title of Charles Cumming’s seventh novel is both a nod to the comfortable polarities of Cold War and also a reminder that our modern world is in some ways even chillier and less stable than the one it replaced.… Read more

The lone demonstrator who stood down a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square on 5 June 1989 was dubbed ‘Tank Man’ or the ‘Unknown Rebel’. Though the image achieved worldwide fame, neither the man’s name nor his fate has ever come to light

Talking to the ghosts of Tiananmen Square


A review of Tiananmen Exiles: Voices of the Struggle for Democracy in China, by Rowena Xiaoqing He. A masterly narrative that keeps the memory of 1989 alive

Akhil Sharma Photo: Getty

A truth too tender for memoir


Akhil Sharma's Family Life tells a story of immigration and disability with exhilarating clarity, economy and wit

Fun at the theme park

Looking for the meaning of life? Come to Constantine Phipps' poetic theme park


What You Want, by Constantine Phipps, is a didactic verse epic that takes Dante as its model – and, against all expectation, it works

Roger Bannister winning the AAA Championships Mile race, 1954 Photo: Getty

For Roger Bannister, the four-minute mile was just the start


A review of Twin Tracks, by Roger Bannister. Bannister's two brilliant careers, medical and athletic, both show the power of mind over matter

Avoiding 'Frank' at the Lido Photo: Heritage/Getty

Rod Liddle reminds me of old women moaning on the bus


Richard Littlejohn, on the other had, has a great story about a guy called Frank the Bummer. A review of Selfish, Whining Monkeys, by Rod Liddle and Littlejohn’s Lost World, by Richard Littlejohn

Carol White in Jeremy Sandford’s BBC play Cathy Come Home. Watched by 12 million, the drama’s hard-hitting depiction of homelessness and unemployment made a huge impact on its shocked audience in 1966

From Anthony Trollope to Meryl Streep: the theatre of politics on stage and screen


A review of A State of Play, by Steven Fielding. A well researched, judiciously selective and fastidiously politically correct history of political productions

Raspberry and quince by Sarah Simblet

Warning: the beautiful trees in this book may very soon be extinct


A review of The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-first Century, by Gabriel Hemery and Sarah Simblet. John Evelyn, the father of modern forestry, provides the starting point for a silvological exploration - but it could all be gone by 2100

President Bush Tours CIA Headquarters

The American who dreamed of peace for the Arabs – but was murdered in their midst


A review of The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, by Kai Bird. One of the best nonfiction books ever written about the West’s involvement in the Arab world

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle


A review of Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks, a conversation diary with Fiona Maddocks. In search of a composer