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History

Unity Mitford proudly displays a swastika badge Photo: Getty

Hitler's party girl: the strange, shameful life of Unity Mitford

9 August 2014

On 8 August 1914, four days after the declaration of war, Unity Valkyrie Mitford was born, the fifth child and fourth daughter of David and Sydney Freeman-Mitford, who admired the… Read more

Photo: Alex Kouprianoff

How Napoleon won at Waterloo

5 July 2014

In a one-horse town called Hestrud, on the Franco-Belgian border, there’s a monument which encapsulates Europe’s enduring fascination with Napoleon. The story carved upon this plinth is more like poetry… Read more

gin-lane

The delicious return of Gin Lane

In 1751, William Hogarth was asked to create two prints: one depicting the evils of gin, the other the virtues of beer. Hogarth must have received a pat on the… Read more

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014
Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester Alexander Larman

Head of Zeus, pp.352, £25, ISBN: 9781781851098

Despite being an earl, Rochester is very nearly a major poet. His poems and letters were torn up by a zealous mother after his death, bent on destroying anything obscene… Read more

21 June 2014

The not-so-great charter David Cameron wants every child to be taught about Magna Carta. Some bits he might want to leave out: — ‘If one who has borrowed from the… Read more

Granville Sharp

The conservative anti-slavery hero who Belle leaves out

14 June 2014

Americans make movies about slavery and its abolition. In the past two years we’ve seen the Oscar-winning Twelve Years a Slave, based on a 19th-century slave narrative, and Django Unchained,… Read more

Shangri-La Hotel Opens In The Shard

Paul Johnson

10 May 2014

I feel an intense antipathy for Vladimir Putin. No one on the international scene has aroused in me such dislike since Stalin died. Though not a mass killer on the… Read more

Decisive moment: ‘Closing the Gates of Hougoumont’, by Robert Gibb     Photo: National Museums Scotland

Meeting George Osborne at Waterloo

10 May 2014

The defence of Hougoumont is one of the great British feats of arms. If the farmhouse had fallen to Bonaparte’s forces during the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon’s 100 days would… Read more

antisuffrage-poster

Did most women want the vote?

10 May 2014

One way or another, we’re going to be seeing quite a lot of Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan in ankle-length coats with pale faces this season. They’re in the… Read more

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014
The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor Jonathan Rose

Yale, pp.516, £25, ISBN: 9780300204070

Land sakes! Another book about Winston Churchill? Really? Give us a break, the average reader may think. Actually though, as title and subtitle suggest, this isn’t just another biographical study.… Read more

English explorers on expedition in the Sudan, 1860-63

Sudan was always an invented country. Maybe we should invent it again

19 April 2014
A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts James Copnall

Hurst and Co, pp.315, £19.99, ISBN: 9781849043304

Sudan — a country that ceased to exist in 2011 — is or was one of the last untouristed wildernesses on earth. And for good reason: while it still existed… Read more

Tony Benn Joins Remebrance Ceremony For 204 Dead Soldiers

We have to tell the truth about Tony Benn now. Who will hear it later?

22 March 2014

I could start by remarking that we should not speak ill of the dead, quoting the pertinent Latin phrase: de mortuis nil nisi bonum (‘of the dead, only good’). But… Read more

15 March 2014

Years of war Imaginative souls have tried to compared the situation in Ukraine with that which preceded the first world war 100 years ago. Are years ending in 14 especially… Read more

Children At Auschwitz

When a survivor of Auschwitz asks for your story, what do you say?

8 March 2014

My aim as a hospital visitor is to cheer, befriend, have a chat, do something to disrupt the bleak monotony of the modern hospital day. Some patients talk amiably while… Read more

Kim Philby at the press conference he called in 1955 to deny being the ‘Third Man’

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

8 March 2014
A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal Ben Macintyre

Bloomsbury, pp.368, £20, ISBN: 9781408851722

The story of Kim Philby is, of course, like so many English stories, really one of social class. He was one of the most scandalous traitors in history, and from… Read more

FBL-WC2014-CONFED-PROTEST

Niall Ferguson

1 March 2014

 São Paolo It was back in 2001 that my good friend Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs coined the acronym ‘Bric’, short for Brazil, Russia, India, China. These were the emerging… Read more

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A secret from my African childhood has become a deeper mystery

22 February 2014

About 55 years ago, when I was about ten, my younger brother Roger and I discovered a slave pit in Africa. Actually it probably wasn’t a slave pit and we… Read more

When Scotland goes, will England return?

22 February 2014

Who, my husband asked, expects every man will do his duty? He was responding to the interesting and important question that Charles Moore raised last week about the name of… Read more

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How the first world war inspired the EU

8 February 2014

Among the millions of words which will be expended over the next four years on the first world war, very few will be devoted to explaining one of its greatest… Read more

1 February 2014

The battle over aid Sir: Why Nations Fail, the book rightly lauded in The Spectator (‘Why aid fails’, 25 January), is one of the inspirations for many of the changes… Read more

Taken lying down: Thomas Edison demonstrates the cat-nap, Virginia, July 1921

America's war on sleep

25 January 2014

 Fredericksburg, Virginia Ask an American to name the author of the line ‘Sleep, that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care’, and he will promptly reply ‘Shakespeare’. It’s pure guesswork… Read more

O.Z. Whitehead, Dorris Bowdon, John Carradine and Henry Fonda in the 1940 film, The Grapes of Wrath

The two people who brought us The Grapes of Wrath

25 January 2014
Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage Susan Shillinglaw

University of Nevada Press, pp.312, £29.50, ISBN: 9780874179309

John Steinbeck (1902–1968), an ardent propagandist for the exploited underdogs of the Great Depression, had barely enough money for subsistence during the years he spent preparing and writing The Grapes… Read more

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The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government

18 January 2014

Fifty years ago this week, a cover story in The Spectator helped to bring down a Conservative government. It was called ‘The Tory Leadership’ and was written by the editor,… Read more

Nixon-shearer

Harry Shearer on bringing out Richard Nixon’s feminine side

18 January 2014

Hollywood tends to treat Richard Nixon as an oafish B-movie villain, so it is ambitious and original of Harry Shearer to try to convince a British audience of the very… Read more

Stephen Ward and friends, 1963. Christine Keeler is on the right

William Astor: My father, his swimming pool and the Profumo scandal

11 January 2014

Christine Keeler and Jack Profumo might never have met in the swimming pool at Cliveden if it had not been for a filly called Ambiguity. As children, growing up at… Read more