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

Poisonous relations

30 December 2009
England’s Last War Against France: Fighting Vichy, 1940-1942 Colin Smith

Weidenfeld, pp.490, 25

‘The Axis powers and France,’ declared Marshall Pétain and Hitler at Montoire in October 1940, ‘have a common interest in the defeat of England as soon as possible.’ Why this… Read more

The actress and the orphan

22 April 2009
Ask Alice D. J. Taylor

Chatto & Windus, pp.342, 16.99

Ask Alice combines two narratives, one beginning in 1904 in the emptiness of the American Midwest, the other in the muffled stasis of Edwardian rural England. The first follows the… Read more


Order out of chaos

18 March 2009
The English Civil Wars, 1640-1660 Blair Worden

Weidenfeld, pp.192, 12.99

What got into them? For two decades in the middle of the 17th century, English- men transformed their world, overthrowing and eventually executing their king, abolishing bishops and the House… Read more