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England

‘The plan was to pour the apple juice into an oak hogshead, freshly emptied of its whisky’

The birth of a barrel of cider

6 December 2014

The fabulous October weather is now just a memory but it made for a golden, old-fashioned apple day down in Somerset. The plan was to pick and convert a mound… Read more

8 November 2014

Mind games Sir: I hope that people are not unduly put off by Melanie McDonagh’s misrepresentation of mindfulness as a cop-out for navel-gazers who lack the moral fibre to engage… Read more

?Explore the Home Counties?, LNER poster, 1936.

Escape from Omnishambleshire: the case for the old county boundaries

25 October 2014

Just over 35 years ago, in August 1979, Christopher Booker wrote a cri de coeur in The Spectator calling for the return of England’s ancient counties and the repeal of… Read more

18 October 2014

Nothing to fear Sir: So long as we are not breaking any law, we have nothing to fear from the police being able to access our mobiles (‘Licence to snoop’,… Read more

BullTerrier

I’ve spent years in war zones. And the most terrifying moment of my life just happened in Norfolk

11 October 2014

It happened so quickly, as these things always do. My wife Julia and I were pootling about on Wells beach with our fluffy mongrel Maisie when suddenly two fighting dogs,… Read more

The Garden of England

Why everywhere should be more like Essex

11 October 2014

Apart from the Wye Valley, where I grew up, there are only two places in Britain I’d consider living: Kent and Essex. Since Kent grabbed the ‘Garden of England’ moniker,… Read more

Matthew-Parris

I'll never feel the same about the Scots

20 September 2014

I doubt I’m alone among English readers of this magazine in having felt uncomfortable with our last issue. ‘Please stay with us’ was a plea I found faintly offensive to… Read more

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Countries shape character (so get ready to like Scots less)

13 September 2014

As I write this, I am sitting outside a weinhaus in Kaub, a half-timbered town on the wooded slopes of the middle Rhine. If you don’t know the place, I… Read more

Where are the Betjemans de nos jours?

We need more opinionated English eccentrics making documentaries like, ahem, me...

6 September 2014

Is it just me or are almost all TV documentaries completely unwatchable these days? I remember when I first started this job I’d review one almost every fortnight. Always there’d… Read more

Poet John Clare Photo: Getty

You owe it to yourself to visit John Clare country

2 August 2014

This has been a terrible year for horseflies. It’s bad enough if you’re human: often by the time you swat them off the damage has already been wrought by their… Read more

Spain v Netherlands: Group B - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

Dan Snow

21 June 2014

Could there be a more timely advert for the Better Together campaign than on the field of sport? What the England football team manifestly need is the man who is… Read more

Shakespeare_SE

Shakespeare invented Britain. Now he can save it

12 April 2014

‘What country, friends, is this?’ We’ve been wrestling with Viola’s question almost from the moment she asked it. It was barely a year after Shakespeare had scribbled out those words,… Read more

Mitchell Johnson Photo: Getty

As England's cricketers wobble, the rugby team are finally getting it together

30 November 2013

My friend Miles was bowling in a festival of wandering cricket clubs in Oxford the other day. First wicket down and in walked an immaculately turned out Japanese gentleman. As… Read more

Strauss

Hurrah for Andrew Strauss

23 November 2013

Andrew Strauss is a serious man and Driving Ambition (Hodder, £20, Spectator Bookshop, £18) is a serious book. It looks like most other sporting autobiographies: there are heroes, jokes and… Read more

Hugo_75158360

It’s the summer of the topless man – and there’s nothing we can do to stop it

20 July 2013

Topless men. What does that mean, then? I was opposite one on the tube the other day, heading north from Finsbury Park, and I just couldn’t stop -staring. In terms of… Read more

4.2

Defending the real Downton Abbeys

9 March 2013

From a horrific Victorian murder to its role as a royal refuge from Nazi invasion, Newby Hall has known enough genuine drama to make a primetime telly series. And in… Read more

Muddling through

2 June 2012
How England Made the English Harry Mount

Viking, pp.340, £20

It so happened that in 1961 I was part of a little group — three of us — which welcomed ‘Mr Jazzman’ to London. That was the code name for… Read more

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Rotten, vicious times

14 April 2012
Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, 1974-1979 Dominic Sandbrook

Allen Lane, pp.911, 30

A.N. Wilson recalls the worst decade of  recent history and the death throes of Old England There was a distressing news story the other day about a man who did… Read more

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The bigger picture

27 August 2011
The History of England, Volume I: Foundation Peter Ackroyd

Macmillan, pp.464, 25

A Short History of England Simon Jenkins

Profile, pp.384, 25

Many among you, I know, have been fretting that thanks to a combination of political correctness, New Labour educational policy and the European Union’s usurpation of everything the free-born Englishman… Read more

England from above

6 August 2011
Visions of England Roy Strong

Bodley Head, pp.240, 17.99

It is a shame that Sir Roy Strong is subjected to the now-obligatory drivel about his being a ‘national treasure’, because this unthinking cliché diminishes his contribution, over more than… Read more

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Nostalgie de la boue

19 March 2011
Edgelands: Journeys into England’s Wilderness Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts

Cape, pp.264, 12.99

In the late 1960s I grew up in the London borough of Greenwich, which in those days had a shabby, post-industrial edge. Behind our house on Crooms Hill stood a… Read more

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Liberal England dies again

15 January 2011

The Lib Dems’ troubles are a result not only of coalition and foolish promises, but of a resurgence of the old left-right division In 1935, George Dangerfield published The Strange… Read more

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Ride on in majesty

2 October 2010
Image Wars Kevin Sharpe

Yale, pp.665, 35

Governments in early modern England, having no standing army nor a civil service to speak of, required the consent of the governed. Authority had to be ‘culturally constructed’. That is… Read more

Oh Brother, where art thou?

25 September 2010
The Buildings of England: Hampshire (Winchester and the North) Michael Bullen, John Crook, Rodney Hubbock and Nikolaus Pevsner

Yale, pp.807, 35

Benjamin Franklin had this ambition for his body: that after his death it should be reissued ‘in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the author’. Benjamin… Read more

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Capturing the last of England

25 September 2010
Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper Alexandra Harris

Thames & Hudson, pp.320, 19.95

The book is interesting because it has insights and novelty, not least in taking a period and a culture regarded by many as second best compared with what was happening… Read more