Left: ‘Dream of a good witch’, c.1819–23, by Goya Right: ‘Bajan niñendo (They descend quarrelling)’, c.1819–23, by Goya

Flying witches, mad old men, cannibals: what was going on in Goya’s head?

14 March 2015
Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album Courtauld Gallery
Leon Golub: Bite Your Tongue Serpentine Gallery

It is not impossible to create good art that makes a political point, just highly unusual. Goya’s ‘Third of May’ is the supreme example of how to pull it off.… Read more


Shelling, militiamen and shattered villages: welcome to eastern Ukraine’s ceasefire

7 March 2015

  Eastern Ukraine For a moment, the sound of shelling is drowned out by a thumping beat coming from a camouflaged van. ‘Separatysty [Separatists]!’ says the rousing chorus: ‘The day… Read more

Rambo wannabe, Matthew VanDyke: ‘Everybody wants cool stuff they can show their friends on Facebook’

Arabian Motorcycle Adventures review: enthralling and constantly surprising

7 February 2015

There were great numbers of young men who had never been in a war and were consequently far from unwilling to join in this one.(Thucydides, 5th century BC) I love… Read more

Soldier, poet and author Siegfried Sassoon (1886 - 1967 Photo: Getty

Standing firm is the price of civilisation. Are we still ready to pay it?

17 January 2015

Reading Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, as I have recently, you cannot help but be struck by what a perfectly idyllic place rural England must have been (at least for… Read more

1 November 2014

What’s special about Rochester What is special about Rochester and Strood? — Rochester has the second oldest cathedral and school in Britain, after Canterbury. — Medway, the unitary authority area… Read more

11 October 2014

Faith and flexibility Sir: What a contrast in your two articles on religion last week: one liberal atheist parent (Claire Stevens) concerned about her son’s turn to conservative Islam, and… Read more

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The speech that could change your mind about Parliament and war

4 October 2014

Jesse Norman was permitted three minutes for his speech to the Commons in last Friday’s debate. But the contribution from the Conservative MP for Hereford & South Herefordshire was one… Read more


The wars that really are about the oil

30 August 2014

Is international conflict really just a fight over oil? It sometimes seems that way. In Syria and Iraq, the militants of the so-called ‘Islamic State’ sell captured oil while battling… Read more

The spokesman of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam, "Abu Ubaida," in

No, I haven’t seen that beheading video. And it’s not right to share it

16 August 2014

I am sure we’re all in agreement that watching videos of adults abusing children is wrong. At least outside the halls of BBC light entertainment (historically speaking) such a consensus… Read more


Just what we need! An Islamic State incorporating all the worst parts of the world

5 July 2014

There is something attractive about almost the whole of southern Europe being part of an immense and somewhat rigorous caliphate, as promised by the exciting Sunni Islamic movement formerly known… Read more

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace Photo: AFP/Getty

The Spectator's notes: Diana's bed, Boris's dirty trick and Prince Philip's mystery tie

21 June 2014

On Friday night, I went to Althorp, childhood home of Diana, Princess of Wales, to speak at its literary festival. My first duty was to appear on the panel of… 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

(Photo: Getty)

Soldiers aren't social workers, Mr Cameron. Remember that before taking on hopeless wars

16 November 2013

The ghost people, the letter people. The ones we hear about in court but never call by their real name; instead, Baby P and Girl A. And now Marine A.… Read more

17 August 2013

Absent friends Sir: Alec Marsh (‘Welcome to Big Venice’, 10 August) accurately observes that Londoners are priced out of central London by largely foreign buyers of second homes. Wealthy foreigners… Read more


Radio review: Damascus Diary: destruction of a city

29 June 2013

We’ve heard it all before — the misery that war wreaks on everyday lives — but Lina Sinjab’s audio diary of her experiences in Syria took us right into the… Read more

Tensions Rise Along the Israeli/ Syria Border

Why can’t we be honest about Syria?

22 June 2013

Wouldn’t it be nice just once in a while to have a war in the -Middle East that wasn’t predicated on outright duplicitous nonsense? Just occasionally? There are, after all,… Read more

Margaret H. Thatcher

The Falklands victory

13 April 2013

A little rejoicing is now in order, but only a little. We may rejoice that the Falklands war did not end in a bloodbath at Port Stanley, that the Argentinians… Read more

Some legends flourish …

26 May 2012
Dam Busters James Holland

Bantam Press, pp.437, 20

Confronted by the dead Athenian heroes of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles gave voice in his funeral oration to an idea that explains better than any other why we are so… Read more


Not quite cricket

7 April 2012
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies Ben MacIntyre

Bloomsbury, pp.417, 16.99

To the French, Albion’s expertise in perfidy will come as no surprise. But centuries of warfare have given them time to learn. With their experience only dating back to 1914,… Read more

Pawns in the game

31 March 2012
The Meadow Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark

Harper Press, pp.510, 16.99

The authors of this book have attempted a difficult thing: to ‘write about something that could never be known’. Here is a terrific and scary story about a group of… Read more

Ways of making men talk

24 March 2012
Find, Fix, Finish: Inside the Counter-terrorism Campaign that Killed bin Laden and Devastated al-Qa’eda Aki Peritz and Eric Rosenbach

Public Affairs, pp.356, 18.99

Eric Rosenbach is a former academic who is now deputy assistant secretary of defence in Washington. Aki Peritz used to work for the CIA and now advises the Third Way… Read more

The view from the top

3 March 2012
Over the Rainbow Paul Pickering

Simon & Schuster, pp.303, 16.99

Halfway through this book, the veil lifted, and I thought: ‘I see! I see what he’s trying to do!’ Pickering gets his characters, and moves them along, and then, after… Read more

Triumph of the redcoats

4 February 2012
All the King’s Men Saul David

Viking, pp.573, 25

Given the choice between philosophising in the company of Socrates or fighting in the army of the soldier-monarch Charles XII of Sweden, most men, Dr Johnson observed, would prefer arms… Read more


Stronger than fiction

21 January 2012
Warrior: The Amazing Story of a Real Warhorse General Sir Jack Seely, illustrated by Alfred Munnings

Racing Post Press, pp.176, 14.99

I think it was a Frenchman — it usually is — who observed that the English love their animals more than their children. At first glance, General Jack Seely’s Warrior:… Read more

Ugly old Europe

31 December 2011
Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945 Neill Lochery

Public Affairs, pp.306, 18.99

There are moments and places in history that one would have paid good money to avoid, and wartime Lisbon was one of them. For those rich enough to afford the… Read more