Lead book review

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?

Saint Helena and the Emperor Heraclius restore the Holy Cross to Jerusalem after its recapture from the Persians. Altarpiece by Miguel Jimenez and Martin Bernat, c.1485

From Tree of Death to Tree of Life: the history of the cross

29 April 2017 9:00 am

Among Christians, the cross is seen as an instrument of execution and an emblem of victory. Christopher Howse explores the paradox

‘An inconceivable operation of the gigantic forces of nature’: a total solar eclipse sweeps across Indonesia in March 2016

Darkness visible – the wondrous power of eclipses

22 April 2017 9:00 am

Marek Kukula was surprised to find himself moved to tears when he first witnessed a solar eclipse

Leonora Carrington’s adventures in surrealism

15 April 2017 9:00 am

The surrealists’ muse and a distinguished artist in her own right, Leonora Carrington captivated all who met her, says Jane Rye

Nicky Beard on holiday in Cornwall shortly before his death

The tragedy of a brother’s drowning

8 April 2017 9:00 am

Nicholas Shakespeare is full of admiration for Richard Beard’s painful inquest into the death of his brother

Self-portrait

David Jones – the 20th century’s great neglected genius

1 April 2017 9:00 am

When Stravinsky visited David Jones in his cold Harrow bedsit, he came away saying, ‘I have been in the presence…

Lenin centre stage — as the great self-promoter

How Lenin manipulated the Russian Revolution to his own ends

25 March 2017 9:00 am

With the old order rotten to the core, Russia was more than ripe for revolution in 1917.  But Lenin thought the revolution was all about him, says Roland Elliott Brown

The magnificent Clifden Nonpareil — or Blue Underwing — faced extinction as a breeding species in Britain. There are now at least four colonies thriving in Sussex

Who — or what — is the African, the Stranger and the One-eyed Sphinx?

18 March 2017 9:00 am

Since childhood, Caroline Moore has been captivated by the fragile, silky, shimmering beauty of moths —  and by their enchanting names

Watercolour sketch of Jane Carlyle by Karl Hartmann (1850)

How Jane Carlyle survived a miserable marriage

11 March 2017 9:00 am

Jane Carlyle found comfort in her miserable marriage by ‘splashing off’ whatever was on her mind in letters to friends – which became famous in her own lifetime, says Frances Wilson

Fantastic interpretations of the inkblots might imply either madness or high intelligence and creativity. Rorschach was convinced the tests could distinguish between the two

Could the Rorschach tests spot a Nazi?

4 March 2017 9:00 am

There may be something in the Rorschach tests, says Philip Hensher, but can it really be measured?