Lead book review

Cross-dressing in the Met. Policemen don women’s clothes to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Charles West (far right) leads the search in Jack the Ripper, 1974

What do Robin Hood, Jack the Ripper and Winston Churchill have in common?

21 October 2017 9:00 am

Houdini, Antarctica, a maternity ward, the electric chair – they’re all subjects of failed musicals. But it’s impossible to predict what will work, says Roger Lewis

Blue and Yellow Macaw, c.1834

Edward Lear: where art and nonsense collide

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the modest, melancholy and astonishingly gifted painter and author

A wall painting in an 18th-century rural synagogue in Germany depicts the Lion of Judah and the temple of Jerusalem.The itinerant folk artist was Eliezer ben Solomon Sussman

Simon Schama’s latest history is a Technicolor blockbuster

7 October 2017 9:00 am

Simon Schama’s great, boisterous history has the Technicolor drama – and crude simplicity – of a Hollywood blockbuster, says Bernard Wasserstein

Anthony Powell, by Henry Lamb (1934)

Anthony Powell gets the superb new biography he deserves

30 September 2017 9:00 am

Hilary Spurling impressively captures the essence and the spirit of Anthony Powell, his writing and his era, says Philip Hensher

Bristol ablaze: anger at the Lords’ rejection of the Second Reform Bill sparked riots in Queen’s Square, Bristol, October 1831 (William James Muller)

Britain über alles: Victorious Century reviewed

23 September 2017 9:00 am

The 19th-century belonged to us, according to David Cannadine’s ambitious new history. Jane Ridley is mesmerised by it

‘Adam and Eve in Paradise’, by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1531)

The ‘biography’ of the creation myth: The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve reviewed

16 September 2017 9:00 am

Steven Greenblatt’s cultural road trip is a compelling story of myth, theology and belief

The Korean war was the single greatest calamity of the period. Residents of Inchon surrender to American troops in 1950

Compared to today’s political climate, the Cold War seems almost cosy

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Compared to today’s political climate, the Cold War seems almost cosy, says Alan Judd. At least you knew where you were then

The cornucopia of food advertised by the Empire Marketing Board, 1927‑1933

The glories of empire — and Britain’s taste for the exotic

2 September 2017 9:00 am

Katrina Gulliver salutes the traders and innovators of the British empire who first gave us our taste for the exotic

A pile of mud-covered satchels is all that remains of 74 children’s lives

How the 2011 killer tsunami sent shock waves through Japan

26 August 2017 9:00 am

The loss of so many children’s lives at Okawa primary school in 2011 was entirely avoidable, says Nicholas Shakespeare

They shared a love of books, beekeeping, print-collecting, alchemy, geometry, music, astronomy and the English language: John Evelyn (left) and Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn: a meeting of like minds

19 August 2017 9:00 am

For Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, two great recorders of Restoration England, life was a cabinet of curiosities, says Frances Wilson

Self-portrait, with his wife Margaret

The dazzling vision of Thomas Gainsborough

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Working in semi-darkness, Thomas Gainsborough produced some of the airiest, most poetic paintings imaginable, says Philip Hensher

The maestro could hear if a single player was doing something wrong, even in the most noisy tutti

Toscanini and the morality of conducting

5 August 2017 9:00 am

Toscanini’s simple set of values made him certain of the rights and wrongs of everything, says Michael Tanner – except regarding women

Stretcher-parties wading through the morass sometimes took six hours to bring in casualties. Left: near Boesinghe, 1 August 1917 (from Chris McNabb’s Passchendaele 1917)

Did the hideous carnage of Passchendaele gain the Allies anything?

29 July 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the carnage of Passchendaele

Timothy Leary — apostle of acid and, according to Richard Nixon, ‘the most dangerous man in America’

Whatever became of the summer of love?

22 July 2017 9:00 am

The original hippy message was innocent and pure – before the summer of love turned to the winter of exploitation, says Mick Brown

Nadar ascending aloft in his basket — in this case in his studio, recording the event for mass consumption

The first modern celebrity – Nadar’s life fêted

15 July 2017 9:00 am

Sam Leith considers the breathtaking career of Nadar – the heroic self-publicist who took 19th-century Paris by storm

Thoreau: the poet-naturalist and political radical

The two sides of Henry David Thoreau

8 July 2017 9:00 am

Dominic Green considers two new books on Henry David Thoreau examining the dual nature of his character, aesthetic and politics

Hanna Reitsch — a committed Nazi and idol of German aviation.

Hitler’s glamorous high flyers

1 July 2017 9:00 am

Keith Lowe on Nazi Germany’s two remarkable female pilots, both holders of the Iron Cross, First Class

War damage to mind and body

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Emma Williams salutes two books that examine close up the physical and psychological scars of war

Study of horses by Théodore Géricault

Man and horse - the end of a special relationship?

17 June 2017 9:00 am

Sam Leith canters through a fascinating, if eccentric, history of man’s long  partnership with the horse

In chains of gold: Minnie Stevens, the daughter of a Massachussetts chambermaid, married Arthur Paget in 1878. Portrait by Fernand Paillet

Cash for coronets: the invasion of America’s social-climbing heiresses

10 June 2017 9:00 am

The undignified ‘cash for coronets’ deal between America’s heiresses and Europe’s nobility produced some marvellous stories, says Nicholas Shakespeare

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica) in the Faroes

Will most seabirds be extinct by the end of the century?

3 June 2017 9:00 am

Wherever seabirds are at home, so too is Adam Nicolson – and his understanding of them is almost uncanny, says Maggie Fergusson

Portrait of Hans Sloane by Stephen Slaughter (1736)

Hans Sloane collected everything – from acupuncture kits to zebras

27 May 2017 9:00 am

Hans Sloane’s passion for collecting led to the foundation = of the British Museum. But missing – until now – has been the man himself, says Jonathan Keates

Whatever happens next, Havana will always be Havana

20 May 2017 9:00 am

With more than a million visitors every year, Havana is now a fabulous, half-derelict human zoo, says John Gimlette

In a notorious case of 1822, the Bishop of Clogher was discovered soliciting the soldier John Moverley in the White Lion public house, off the Haymarket. The bishop was deprived of his see, skipped bail, fled to France and ended up living incognito in Edinburgh until his death in 1843

London’s gay past will always be a mystery

13 May 2017 9:00 am

It needs guesswork and intuition to write a history of gay London – because for centuries no one was talking, says Philip Hensher

An early modern battle scene depicted in a Mughal miniature looks like a graceful pageant compared to today’s nuclear and cyber warfare

Racing to Armageddon

6 May 2017 9:00 am

An enduring solution to war becomes ever more pressing. But will it always be wishful thinking, as Milos Stankovic suspects?