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History

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

Rogues’ gallery: 
Georgiana was ‘a liar, cheat and exploiter of her friends’; her husband, the fifth Duke, was ‘an insensitive and autocratic brute’; while her son was ‘manically self-absorbed’

The Devonshires, by Roy Hattersley - review

4 May 2013
The Devonshires: The Story of a Family and a Nation Roy Hattersley

Chatto, pp.466, £25, ISBN: 9780701186241

Recalling being taken as a teenager on repeated outings to see Chatsworth, Roy Hattersley disarmingly confesses that in those days ‘I was impressed by neither the pictures nor the furniture’.… Read more

The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

4 May 2013
How to Read a Graveyard Peter Stanford

Bloomsbury, pp.263, £16.99, ISBN: 9781441174777

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his parents set him wondering about customs of mourning and places… Read more

The armoured cars of Leclerc’s division arrive at the Rue Guynemer on 25 August

Eleven Days in August, by Matthew Cobb - review

4 May 2013
Eleven Days in August: The Liberation of Paris in 1944 Matthew Cobb

Simon and Schuster, pp.525, £25, ISBN: 9780857203175

It is fair to assume that Professor Matthew Cobb has often been asked if he is related to Professor Richard Cobb since he begins the acknowledgements of his new book… Read more

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, by Charles Moore, and Not for Turning, by Robin Harris - review

4 May 2013
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume One Not for Turning Charles Moore

Allen Lane, pp.859, £30, ISBN: 978071399282

Not for Turning: The Life of Margaret Thatcher Robin Harris

Bantam, pp.493, £20, ISBN: 9780593058916

It is a measure of Lady Thatcher’s standing that her death has been followed not only by the mealy-mouthed compliments from political opponents which are normally forthcoming on such occasions… Read more

Twigger

What it's like to escape from Colditz

27 April 2013

Colditz: Here I am, stuck in the same ventilation shaft that Pat Reid used to escape through just over 70 years ago. It’s a tiny letterbox-shaped hole, about three feet in… Read more

9 March 2013

Gove’s history lessons Sir: ‘The idea that there is a canonical body of knowledge that must be mastered,’ says Professor Jackie Eales, ‘but not questioned, is inconsistent with high standards… Read more

Fanny (left) and Stella —‘the more presentable of the two’

'Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England', by Neil McKenna - review

9 March 2013
Fanny and Stella: The Young Men Who Shocked Victorian England Neil McKenna

Faber, pp.396, £16.99, ISBN: 9780571231904

Mick Jagger, the Danny La Rue of rock, impersonates a woman on the cover of the 1978 Stones album Some Girls. Vaudeville performers in the Jagger mould love to put… Read more

A patrol of allied forces in Northern Burma in 1944. Image: Getty

Griff Rhys Jones

2 March 2013

Burma, My Father and the Forgotten Army, with Griff Rhys Jones, is on BBC2 at 9pm on Sunday, 7th July. I have spent a week with old, old men, interviewing… Read more

2 March 2013

Healing the world Sir: We most warmly commend the courage of Professor Meirion Thomas (‘The next NHS scandal’, 23 February) in lifting the lid on the appalling abuse of the… Read more

Tokens of love, loss and hope, from top left, clockwise: 
James II shilling token, 1756; copper token, 1759; mid-18th-century thimble token and child’s ring token, mid-18th century © Foundling Museum, London

Foundling Hospital tokens

2 March 2013
Fate, Hope & Charity — revealed: the hidden stories of the Foundling Hospital Tokens Foundling Museum, 40 Brunswick Square, WC1

‘Dear Sir, I am the unfortunate woman that lies under sentens of Death in Newgatt…’  So begins a letter of 1757 addressed to the powers that be at the Foundling… Read more

Love conquers all

2 June 2012
Just Send Me Word Orlando Figes

Allen Lane, pp.333, £20

Anyone who has ever written a history book will feel a twinge of envy on reading the preface to Just Send Me Word: We opened up the largest of the… Read more