Lead book review

Words of war: interviews with the children who survived Hitler’s invasion of Russia

20 July 2019 9:00 am

Charlotte Hobson is much moved by the harrowing testament of Russia’s last wartime survivors in Svetlana Alexievich’s extraordinary collection of interviews

The tragic story of Witold Pilecki, whose reports from Auschwitz fell on deaf ears

13 July 2019 9:00 am

Witold Pilecki risked his life to bring news of Auschwitz to the Allies, but his detailed reports fell on deaf ears. Caroline Moorehead celebrates his extraordinary persistence and courage

The glory and the misery of Louis XIV’s France

6 July 2019 9:00 am

Louis XIV raised the prestige of France above that of any other European nation – even if he did leave the country starving and bankrupt, says David Crane

A snapshot of George holding his infant daughter on Chapel Sands provides a key to the family mystery.

Solving the mystery of my mother’s kidnapping

29 June 2019 9:00 am

Andy Miller on a haunting story of love, loss and lies in a small Lincolnshire village

Polari, the secret gay argot, is making a surprising comeback

22 June 2019 9:00 am

Polari, the facetious gay argot that flourished in Britain until the 1970s, is making a surprising comeback, says Philip Hensher

Heroism in a hopeless cause: why the crusades remain fascinating

15 June 2019 9:00 am

The crusaders’ motto rings hollow today, but we can’t condemn the Middle Ages for having different values from our own, says Jonathan Sumption

Hostility to Islam has disguised a host of other prejudices

8 June 2019 9:00 am

For centuries in the West, Islam was condemned by philosophers and pamphleteers as well as by the Church. But there was often a hidden agenda, says Tom Holland

Toy theatres on the stage: the set designs of Maurice Sendak

1 June 2019 9:00 am

Maurice Sendak’s move from children’s books to set designs was full of psychoanalytical significance, says Philip Hensher

The flood-prone megacity of Wuhan on the Yangtze now has permeable pavements and artificial wetlands to soak up the water like a sponge

Towards a technological utopia

25 May 2019 9:00 am

Ingenious innovations in science and engineering could make for a healthier future for us all, says Simon Winchester

Letitia at the height of her fame in 1825. H.W. Pickersgill’s original portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy

The celebrated poet who’s been erased from English literature

18 May 2019 9:00 am

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst describes how Letitia Elizabeth Landon went from bestselling poet to the invisible woman of English literature

Richard Holbrooke as US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan in New Delhi, April 2009, a year before his death

How to lose friends and alienate people: Richard Holbrooke was a past master

11 May 2019 9:00 am

Jonathan Powell describes the bullying tactics of a remarkable, if deeply flawed, American diplomat, whose career spanned half a century

Not all British memsahibs were racist snobs

4 May 2019 9:00 am

Though often cruelly caricatured, the British memsahib became a significant face of imperial rule, says Philip Hensher

Brutus’s betrayal is a tragic inevitability. The soothsayer warns Julius Caesar to ‘Beware the Ides of March’, in a 19th-century wood engraving by Sir John Gilbert

Has Shakespeare become the mascot of Brexit Britain?

27 April 2019 9:00 am

Shakespeare often seems uncannily relevant to the times – and Brexit Britain is no exception, says Daniel Swift

A 15th-century manuscript depicting Saladin as King of Egypt

A new version of Saladin — as silver-tongued diplomat

20 April 2019 9:00 am

Saladin is often portrayed as either an evil man of blood or a noble jihadist. In fact his greatest gift was not for war but diplomacy, says Jason Burke

Michael Tippett at home at Parkside, Corsham, Wilts with the score of his second piano sonata

Time for a Tippett revival

13 April 2019 9:00 am

Michael Tippett’s music has been too rarely performed since his death. It’s time for a revival, says Philip Hensher

The English model Jean Shrimpton’s appearance at the Melbourne Races in 1965 hatless, gloveless and bare-legged in a mini-dress caused a press furore in Australia

It was pretty good for me: Joan Bakewell on the Sixties

6 April 2019 9:00 am

Joan Bakewell remembers how it was for her in the Swinging Sixties

The creation of Adam and Eve, depicted in a 12th-century Byzantine mosaic from Monreale, Sicily

How much of the Bible are Christians expected to believe?

30 March 2019 9:00 am

Christians could learn much from Judaism’s imaginative interpretations of its own sacred texts, says the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway

The outcome of Diderot’s discussions with Catherine was that she largely ignored his advice. Engraving from François Guizot’s Histoire de la France

How Diderot’s pleas to end despotism fell on deaf ears in Russia

23 March 2019 9:00 am

When Diderot was invited to the Russian court he expected to discuss more than literature with Catherine the Great, says Ruth Scurr

The seducer and the spy: left, a reproduction of Anatoly Gorpenko’s portrait of the ‘master spy’;above, a Soviet commemorative stamp to mark Sorge’s ‘rehabilitation’ in 1961

Richard Sorge: the Soviet Union’s master spy

14 March 2019 9:00 am

Owen Matthews unveils the Soviet super spy who used ostentation as the ultimate camouflage. Nicholas Shakespeare takes a look

‘Mother and Child’, c.1901, Pablo Picasso

Two big books on motherhood and childlessness – Catherine Mayer gets emotional

9 March 2019 9:00 am

Two intellectually hefty books explore the complementary subjects of motherhood  and childlessness. Catherine Mayer gets emotional

A clear vision of Walter Gropius the man is hard to come by

2 March 2019 9:00 am

Walter Gropius was a great architect and a public figure of awe-inspiring efficiency. But what was he like in private, wonders Philip Hensher

Discover your inner wolf: love your family, value your home, respect your elders, be altruistic, and have fun, says Elli Radinger

Discover your inner wolf and lead a better life

23 February 2019 9:00 am

When it comes to showing emotion, are animals like humans or humans like animals? The difference is subtle but significant, says Kate Womersley

Portrait of Ruskin dated 1870

John Ruskin: the making of a modern prophet

16 February 2019 9:00 am

Will John Ruskin’s concerns about the environment and his belief in a holistic approach to living make him fashionable again, wonders Sam Leith

The catch from the Dogger Bank is landed on the beach at Schevingen from Dutch fishing vessels — or ‘doggers’

Fishing for meaning in vanished Doggerland

9 February 2019 9:00 am

Adam Nicolson is entranced by a meditation on vanished Doggerland ­– the area that once connected England to the Continent

Eric Hobsbawm, photographed in 1996. He admitted late in life that he had developed in youth ‘a facility for deleting unpleasant or unacceptable data’

How Eric Hobsbawm remained a lifelong communist — despite the ‘unpleasant data’

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Left orphaned and impoverished at 14, Eric Hobsbawm was ripe for conversion to communism, says Richard Davenport-Hines