Biography

Portrait of Dante in Giotto’s fresco in the Podestà Chapel, the Bargello, Florence

The secrets of Dante’s marriage

21 May 2016 9:00 am

Unlike Shakespeare, who kept himself out of all his works, except the Sonnets, Dante was endlessly reworking his autobiography, even…

Emil Zátopek at the height of his powers

Emil Zátopek: a legend from athletics’ golden age of innocence

7 May 2016 9:00 am

The story of the Czechoslovak runner Emil Zátopek is a tale from athletics’ age of innocence. Without the aid of…

A portrait by Edward Savage of the Washingtons at home, with two of Martha’s grandchildren, adopted by her after the death of their parents

George and Martha Washington were an odd first First Couple

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Frances Wilson on America’s likeable, if unlikely, first First Couple

Guy Burgess

James Klugmann and Guy Burgess: the wasted lives of spies

5 December 2015 9:00 am

Geoff Andrews’s ‘Shadow Man’, James Klugmann, was the talent-spotter, recruiter and mentor of the Cambridge spy ring. From 1962, aged…

Ferdinand Porsche, the inventor of the Doodlebug and the Panzer tank, was treated with rare deference by Hitler, bordering on idolatry

Ferninand Porsche: from the Beetle to the Panzer tank

7 November 2015 9:00 am

The aggressive character of the famous German sports car, in a sort of sympathetic magic, often transfers itself to owner-drivers.…

Hugh Trevor-Roper (Photo: Getty)

Spies in the spotlight

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Spying is a branch of philosophy, although you would never guess it from that expression on Daniel Craig’s face. Its…

floral

Rory McEwen: man of many talents — and among the greatest of all flower painters

25 July 2015 9:00 am

It seems odd that a singer, musician, television performer and sculptor who typified the 1960s as vividly as Rory McEwen…

David Cameron Meets With Angela Merkel In Berlin

Charles Moore’s notes: The anti-EU camp need to be sure what No means

20 June 2015 9:00 am

It is natural to assume that, if a majority votes No in the referendum on Britain’s EU membership, we shall…

'The Cuckoo Crying before Dawn’ (1943) is Edward’s largest known watercolour.

The world of Thessyros: an icky erotic fantasy

2 May 2015 9:00 am

Lore has it that those viewing naughty books in the British Museum could once do so only with the Archbishop…

King John at Runnymede: at odds with his barons, he came to rely on mercenaries whom he couldn’t afford

King John was not a good man: two distinguished historians echo A.A. Milne

11 April 2015 9:00 am

This being the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta, it is not surprising that there should be two…

'Warning! Someone is listening' Photo: Getty

Baiting the trap with CHEESE: how we fooled the Germans in the second world war

28 March 2015 9:00 am

Second world war deception operations are now widely known, particularly those which misled the Germans into thinking that the D-Day…

(Photo: Getty)

The lost words of John Aubrey, from apricate to scobberlotcher

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling found a certain blunting of the irregularities of John Aubrey’s language in Ruth Scurr’s vicarious autobiography of the…

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

7 February 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

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

William Marshal: kingmaker — or just king of the joust?

17 January 2015 9:00 am

In February 1861 a 21-year-old French medievalist called Paul Meyer walked into Sotheby’s auction house near Covent Garden. He had…

Composer Franz Schubert Photo: Getty

This Winter Journey goes far beyond expectation

10 January 2015 9:00 am

You can tell a lot about a book from its bibliography. It’s the non-fiction equivalent of skipping to the final…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

Sunday roasts and beaded bubbles: dining with the poets

3 January 2015 9:00 am

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events —…

Deng Xiaoping Photo: Getty

Deng Xiaoping: following in Mao’s footsteps

6 December 2014 9:00 am

Much has been written about Deng Xiao-ping (1904–1997), most recently by Ezra Vogel in Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of…

‘Exquisitely dressed and groomed, Stefan Zweig looks simply terrified’

Stefan Zweig: the tragedy of a great bad writer

22 November 2014 9:00 am

Stefan Zweig wasn’t, to be honest, a very good writer. This delicious fact was hugged to themselves by most of…

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

25 October 2014 9:00 am

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of

Scenes from a long life. Left to right: the vulnerable young queen, in thrall to Prince Albert; overcoming her demons with the help of John Brown — depicted in a popular souvenir cut-out; and the matriarch as Empress of India

Is there anything left to say about Queen Victoria? A.N. Wilson has found plenty

6 September 2014 9:00 am

A new, revisionist biography argues that it was only after her husband’s death that Queen Victoria found her true self. Jane Ridley is impressed

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014 9:00 am

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…

‘While some observers were impressed, others felt the depiction of a doddery Churchill propped up on a walking stick unbecoming’

The lost Victorian who sculpted Churchill

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Ivor Roberts-Jones was in many ways the right artist at the wrong time. Had the sculptor been born a few…

Chris Barber Photo: Redferns/Getty

Chris Barber should let someone meaner tell his story

16 August 2014 9:00 am

Chris Barber, still going strong with his big band, was born in 1930. He heard jazz as a schoolboy on…

Composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle Photo: Redferns

The yes-no-maybe world of Harrison Birtwistle

31 May 2014 9:00 am

For better or worse, we live in the age of the talking composer. Some talk well, some badly, a few…

Edgar Degas - Dancer slipping on her shoe (1874)

Ladies' hats were his waterlillies - the obsessive brilliance of Edgar Degas

19 April 2014 9:00 am

Lucian Freud once said that ‘being able to draw well is the hardest thing — far harder than painting, as…