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History

The Ghosts of Happy Valley, by Juliet Barnes - review

3 August 2013
The Ghosts of Happy Valley Juliet Barnes

Aurum Press, pp.320, £16.99, ISBN: 9781781310854

Rift Valley, Kenya The other day when I told the headmaster of a top British public school that I came from Kenya, he quipped, ‘Ah, still living in Happy Valley?’… Read more

A poster for the American mind-reader Alexander, 1915 (reputedly printed by ‘Av Yaga’, Bombay)

Magic, by Ricky Jay - review

3 August 2013
Magic Ricky Jay, Mike Caveny and Jim Steinmeyer

Taschen, pp.527, £44.99, ISBN: 9783836528078

People, they say, want different things from a book over the summer than they do the rest of the year. If, by chance, you are looking for a book that… Read more

‘Portrait of a Lady (Mrs Lionel Phillips)’, detail, 1903, by Giovanni Boldoni, Dublin 
City Gallery

Edwardian Opulence, edited by Angus Trumble - review

27 July 2013
Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the Twentieth Century Angus Trumble

Yale, pp.417, £50, ISBN: 9780300190250

She sits there on the cover exuding sex and wealth and a certain knowingness. Mrs Lionel Phillips, who came from a modest background in South Africa, had the good sense… Read more

Macchiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli, by Corrado Vivanti; The Garments of Court and Palace, by Philip Bobbitt

27 July 2013
Niccolò Machiavelli: An Intellectual Biography Corrado Vivanti

Princeton University Press, pp.261, £19.95, ISBN: 9780691151014

The Garments of Court and Palace: Machiavelli and the World That He Made Philip Bobbitt

Atlantic Books, pp.238, £22, ISBN: 9781843546849

One more anniversary, one more cache of commemorative books. This time we are celebrating the half-millennium since Niccolò Machiavelli produced his notorious work, The Prince. He wrote it after a… Read more

The Annals of Unsolved Crime, by Edward Jay Epstein - review

27 July 2013
The Annals of Unsolved Crime Edward Jay Epstein

Melville House, pp.333, £12.99, ISBN: 978140883766

Edward Jay Epstein is an American investigative journalist, now in his late seventies, who has spent at least half a century trying to find answers to the troubling theories and… Read more

Queen Elizabeth I  playing the lute by Nicholas Hilliard

Music & Monarchy, by David Starkey - review

6 July 2013
Music & Monarchy: A History of Britain in Four Movements David Starkey and Katie Greening

BBC Books, pp.378, £20, ISBN: 9781849905862

British royalty, considered from a purely mechanistic angle, cannot function adequately without music. Deprived of marching bands, trumpeters and choristers or even of those ever so well-mannered regimental ensembles which… Read more

‘Madonna of the Future’, 1967, 
made from a 
headless mannequin, 
electric cord, 
a Belling’s heater and the Henry James novel of the same name

Adhocism, by Charles Jencks - review

6 July 2013
Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver

MIT, pp.256, £17.95, ISBN: 9780262518444

Here, for time travellers, is the whack-job spirit of ’68 in distillate form, paperbound and reissued in facsimile (with some exculpatory, older and wiser material fore and aft). Adhocism (re)captures… Read more

Against Their Will, by Allen M. Hornblum - review

6 July 2013
Against Their Will Allen M. Hornblum, Judith Lynn Newman and Gregory J. Dober

Palgrave Macmillan, pp.259, £16.99, ISBN: 9780230341715

After the Morecambe Bay Hospital scandal a new era opens of compassion, -whistle-blowing, naming names and possible prosecutions. But what about 70-odd years of harming children in ‘care’ homes, and… Read more

Dark Actors, by Robert Lewis - review

6 July 2013
Dark Actors: The Life and Death of David Kelly Robert Lewis

Simon & Schuster, pp.416, £18.99, ISBN: 9780857209177

No book about Dr David Kelly could start anywhere other than at the end. Kelly is found, dead, in a wood near his Oxfordshire home. A public inquiry, headed by… Read more

The end of the road for the British: Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington at Yorktown, October 1781

The Men Who Lost America, by Andrew O’Shaughnessy - review

29 June 2013
The Men Who Lost America: British Command During the Revolutionary War and the Preservation of Empire Andrew O’Shaughnessy

Oneworld, pp.466, £30, ISBN: 9781780742465

On Christmas Day 1776, the ambitious, well-connected war hero, General John Burgoyne, soon to be appointed commander of British forces in Canada, agreed a wager of 50 guineas with Charles… Read more

Edward-Grey---downloaded

Edwardian Requiem, by Michael Waterhouse - review

29 June 2013
Edwardian Requiem: A Life of Sir Edward Grey Michael Waterhouse

Biteback, pp.430, £25, ISBN: 9781849544436

The photograph on the jacket, reproduced above, says it all — or at least all of what most of us think we know about Sir Edward Grey. Patrician, reflective, dignified,… Read more

Portrait of Bolívar by Pedro José de Figueroa. ‘It was a time of heroes, 
when generals wore perfect uniforms and whole countries were named after them.’

Boliver, by Marie Arana - review

29 June 2013
Bolívar Marie Arana

Weidenfeld, pp.603, £25, ISBN: 9780297870265

So here we go again into a heart of darkness:  the humbug and horror which is the history of Spanish South America ever since Columbus landed on the island of… Read more

Chinese refugees stream through the wrecked streets of Chungking after heavy bombing by the Japanese in 1937

China’s War with Japan, by Rana Mitter - review

22 June 2013
China’s War with Japan 1937–1945: The Struggle for Survival Rana Mitter

Allen Lane, pp.450, £25, ISBN: 9781846140105

The Sino-Japanese struggle that began in 1937, two years before the rest of the world plunged into war, is not as unknown as Rana Mitter, a professor of Chinese history… Read more

Inside The Victorian Graveyard Of The Glasgow Necropolis

Recycled graves – coming soon to a cemetery near you

15 June 2013

Two marble graves are side by side. One is grey and encrusted, with moss growing over the top. The other is smooth and shiny white. It looks new but, in… Read more

‘Well, gentlemen, I think we all fought a good fight’(The Spectator, 16 October 1959)

The birth of modern Britain

15 June 2013
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 David Kynaston

Bloomsbury, pp.424, £25, ISBN: 9780747568931

‘Does history repeat itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce?’ asked Julian Barnes in A History of the World in 10½ Chapters. ‘No, that’s too grand,… Read more

Talluluh Bankhead, the only convincing flapper in the book, photographed c.1930

Flappers, by Judith Mackrell - review

15 June 2013
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation Judith Mackrell

Macmillan, pp.488, £20, ISBN: 97802130752337

I’m never quite sure what the term ‘flappers’ means. How did these creatures flap, and why? Where did they flap? Did they flap all day, or only at night? Were… Read more

Nijinski by Georges Barbier in ‘Le Festin /L’Oiseau d’or’ (1912)

Nijinsky, by Lucy Moore - review

15 June 2013
Nijinsky Lucy Moore

Profile, pp.320, £25, ISBN: 9781846686184

The first biography of Vaslav Nijinsky, which appeared in 1934, was written by his wife Romola with the help of two ghosts — the young Lincoln Kirstein and Little Blue… Read more

Liverpool, Merseyside, 1951

How do you define a 'northerner'?

8 June 2013
The North (And Almost Everything In It) Paul Morley

Bloomsbury, pp.582, £20, ISBN: 9780747578161

Obviously, now that every high street in England looks identical, and everyone under 30 uses exactly the same Australian rising inflection in speech, books of this sort are based on… Read more

To-Move-the-World

To Move the World, by Jeffrey Sachs - review

8 June 2013
To Move the World Jeffrey Sachs

Bodley Head, pp.230, £14.99, ISBN: 9780812994926

Jeffrey Sachs is the world’s best-connected development economist. An academic with highly developed communication skills, he has always managed to secure access to policy makers and to offer them advice.… Read more

Plus ça change.... Hair by Indira Schauwecker for Toni & Guy, Covent Garden, 2000,
and ‘Coiffure à la Belle Poule’ during the period of American Independence

Hairstyles Ancient and Present, by Charlotte Fiell - review

8 June 2013
Hairstyles Ancient to Present Charlotte Fiell

Goodman Fiell, pp.512, £30, ISBN: 9781847960405

The key thing in 18th-century France was to get the hair extremely high. Perching on a small ladder behind his client, a Parisian hairdresser could pull off all sorts of… Read more

BRITAIN-TRADITION-VIKING

Taste Ranald Macdonald’s wines, and you can forgive his ancestors for allying with the Vikings

8 June 2013

The Macdonalds of Clanranald are one of the oldest families in the world. Their lineage comfortably predates the Scotland of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Descended from the Macdonald Lords of the Isles… Read more

The frozen town of Leiden in the Netherlands c.1665 by Anthony Beerstraten

Global Crisis, by Geoffrey Parker - review

1 June 2013
Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century Geoffrey Parker

Yale, pp.672, £29.99, ISBN: 9780300153231

Just before I was sent this huge tour de force of a book to review, I happened to be reading those 17th-century diary accounts by Pepys and John Evelyn which… Read more

Miniature of Edmund Burke in middle age (English School)

"The right hero" - Douglas Murray reviews Jesse Norman's Burke biography.

18 May 2013
Edmund Burke: Philosopher, Politician, Prophet Jesse Norman

William Collins, pp.325, £20, ISBN: 9780007489626

Edmund Burke is one of the most difficult thinkers to write about. His philosophy defies easy summary. His career, while noble, was not glittering. Many details that he exhausted himself… Read more

A triumph of strategy: Lord Grey (left) checks the King 
during the Reform 
Bill controversy (from Doyle’s Political Sketches, 1832)

Perilous Question, by Antonia Fraser— review

11 May 2013
Perilous Question: The Drama of the Great Reform Bill 1832 Antonia Fraser

Weidenfeld, pp.318, £20

There are times when a major drama in the House of Commons really does change the course of British history. The period 1974–79, dramatised in the play This House, was… Read more

The Young Titan, by Michael Shelden; Churchill’s First War, by Con Coughlin - review

11 May 2013
Young Titan Michael Shelden

Simon & Schuster, pp.383, £25, ISBN: 9781471113222

Churchill’s First War Con Coughlin

Macmillan, pp.298, £25, ISBN: 9780230758513

One evening in 1906, shortly after the election that brought Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberals into power, an understandably nervous Eddie Marsh, a middle-ranking civil servant in the Colonial Office, paid a social… Read more