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 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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Identity politics

17 July 2010
The Unknown Nation James Curran and Stuart Ward

Melbourne University Press, pp.326, $35.99

In the past half century, much ingenuity and humdrum effort has gone into redefining Australia as a nation. Politicians, intellectuals and advertisers have joined in the game of searching or… Read more


Secrets and silences

30 June 2010
Hancox: A House and A Family Charlotte Moore

Viking, pp.484, 20

Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over a century. Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over… Read more


More than a painter of Queens

30 June 2010
Philip De Laszlo: His Life and Art Duff Hart-Davis

Yale, pp.412, 30

The last words of Hungarian-born portraitist Philip de László, spoken to his nurse, were apparently, ‘It is a pity, because there is so much still to do.’ As Duff Hart-Davis’s… Read more


The pride of the Sackvilles

23 June 2010
Inheritance Robert Sackville-West

Bloomsbury, pp.293, 20

Knole is a country house the size of a small village in the Kent countryside. For the past 400 years it has been inhabited by 13 generations of a single… Read more


Not our finest hour

12 May 2010
Edward II Seymour Phillips

Yale, pp.679, 25

Ever since Edward II’s deposition and grisly murder in the dungeons of Berkeley Castle in 1327, his reign has always been regarded as a particularly embarrassing interlude in English history.… Read more


Anything for a quiet life

14 April 2010
All That Follows Jim Crace

Picador, pp.320, 16.99

Jim, Crace’s latest novel, All That Follows, marks a deliberate change from past form. Jim, Crace’s latest novel, All That Fol lows, marks a deliberate change from past form. Gone… Read more


Strong family feelings

6 January 2010
Crown and Shamrock: Love and Hate Between Ireland and the British Monarchy Mary Kenny

New Island, pp.394, 19.99

Mary Kenny’s survey of Ireland’s relations with the British monarchy is characteristically breezy, racy and insightful, with a salty strain of anecdote. Mary Kenny’s survey of Ireland’s relations with the… Read more


Continuity under threat

6 January 2010
Unwrecked England Candida Lycett Green

Oldie Publications, pp.218, 25

This handsome and encouraging book is perhaps unfortunate in its title. The suggestion is that the author has been forced to rummage among the wreckage that is England in order… Read more