Lead book review

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

Map of West Africa, c.1547, depicting the trading fortress of São Jorge da Mina on the African Gold Coast.

The scramble for Africa goes back many centuries

26 January 2019 9:00 am

Anthony Sattin is fascinated by the rich history of West Africa – the kind not taught in schools

Ernst Jünger in Paris in 1941

Ernst Jünger — reluctant captain of the Wehrmacht

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Ernst Jünger’s journals are full of insights into the the second world war, but reading this cool, calculating captain of the Wehrmacht can be dispiriting, according to Alex Colville

‘Arise Hungarians, your country calls you!’ The poet Sandor Petofi declaims the famous ‘Talpra Magyar’ on 15 March 1848. Lajos Kossuth stands to the right

Hungary is being led once again down a dangerous nationalistic path

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Hungary’s history is full of conflict and compromise. But even among its many minorities it was a country that inspired extraordinary loyalty, says Philip Mansel

‘The Break-up of the Ice’ by Claude Monet

How Calouste Gulbenkian became the richest man in the world

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the ruthless cynicism behind Calouste Gulbenkian’s colossal fortune

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning in the summer of 1912

Words to rally and inspire: stirring speeches from Elizabeth I to the present

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Great oratory is moving, persuasive and can even be funny. But, as William Hague discovers, some of the most remarkable speeches are those that were never delivered

‘There is so little heartless work around. So I feel I am filling a small but necessary gap.’ Edward Gorey photographed in 1977 on the set he designed for the Broadway production of Dracula

Edward Gorey: master of the macabre

8 December 2018 9:00 am

Edward Gorey delighted in the macabre and contradictory, feeling at home with things not making sense. He was, says Sam Leith, an exquisite but very minor talent

Michelle Obama listens to the National Anthem at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner in Washington, May 2009

Michelle Obama: ‘I was happy that Barack’s career came first’

1 December 2018 9:00 am

Michelle Obama has always been more interested in people than votes. Her book is full of human kindness and gives politics a soul, says Hermione Eyre

Hermann Hesse in 1956 [Getty Images]

Hermann the Good German: the mystic life of Hermann Hesse

24 November 2018 9:00 am

Hermann Hesse lived through the worst of times in Germany, but remained oddly aloof. What should we make of this most unusual novelist, wonders Philip Hensher

Books of the year – part two

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Daniel Swift I feel as though I came late to the Sarah Moss party. Nobody told me she was this…