Books

The 80-year-old queen is caricatured in the French satirical magazine Le Rire, greeting her nephew the Kaiser (December 1899)

Queen Victoria — burdened by grief and six-course dinners

27 May 2017 9:00 am

In 2015 a pair of linen drawers belonging to Queen Victoria sold at auction for over £12,000. In old age…

How many of us has a forebear who died of Spanish flu?

27 May 2017 9:00 am

The symptoms of the Spanish flu could be ghastly. Perhaps Laura Spinney should have chosen her title with more care…

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

Part of a Quran originally bought in Fez in 1223, and removed from the Ahmed Baba Institute in Timbuktu for safety in 2012

Whispers of scandal over the rescue of Timbuktu’s manuscripts

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Timbuktu. Can any other three syllables evoke such a thrill? For travellers, explorers and historians of Africa, the ancient desert…

The fast, gaudy world of the modern spy thriller

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Jack Higgins’s writing routine was said to start with dinner at his favourite Italian restaurant in Jersey, followed by writing…

Extended family warfare in quiet, leafy Hampstead

20 May 2017 9:00 am

I like novelists who don’t try to do everything in their novels, but just to do something well. This is…

After the abdication of the Tsar, imperial soldiers join the revolution in 1917

China Miéville’s take on the Russian Revolution is wonderfully dated

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Of the many books published this year to mark the centenary of the Russian revolution, this is perhaps the most…

The strange cases of Mr Justice McCardie

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Justice McCardie was anything but a conventional High Court judge. He left school at 15 and was called to the…

Lou Reed takes a walk on the wild side in 1972

When real rock stars roamed the world

20 May 2017 9:00 am

David Hepworth is such a clever writer — not just clever in the things he writes, but in the way…

The writing’s on the wall in Lucy Hughes-Hallett’s first novel

20 May 2017 9:00 am

This daintily dress-conscious and rewardingly heavyweight novel is set mainly in a half imaginary stately home in Oxfordshire. The story…

The Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensis) in song flight, Sussex, April 2012

The sad truth about why birds sing

20 May 2017 9:00 am

Whether it’s Coleridge’s nightingale or Petrarch’s, Ted Hughes’s wren or Shelley’s skylark, Helen Macdonald’s hawk or Max Porter’s crow, literature…

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

Teasing the French academy to death

13 May 2017 9:00 am

On 25 February 1980, Roland Barthes, the great French intellectual, was run over by a laundry van in Paris. He…

George Landseer’s portrait of Alexander Gardner — adventurer, outlaw and mercenary, who took unseemly pride in parading decapitated heads

The fantastic adventures of the tartan-turbaned colonel

13 May 2017 9:00 am

In the 1860s, when British visitors first began to explore the high altitude pleasures of Kashmir, it was not just…

Two refugee lovers take on the world

13 May 2017 9:00 am

Every nation has the right to control its borders, but we in the West are getting a bit too comfortable…

The books the Nazis didn’t burn

13 May 2017 9:00 am

For one who has, since boyhood, regarded the secondhand bookshop as a paradise of total immersion, it is quite shocking…

One that got away: a dog with his young owner after a night raid on Hendon, May 1941

Raining bombs on cats and dogs

13 May 2017 9:00 am

War Horse, by way of book and play and film, has brought the role of horses in war into the…

A piece of the Antikythera Mechanism, on display at the Archaeological Museum, Athens. (Getty Images)

What exactly did the Greek sponge-divers drag in?

13 May 2017 9:00 am

The human urge for personal hygiene has had many improbable side-effects, and I can confidently assert that through the ages,…

China is becoming hooked on the opium of the people

13 May 2017 9:00 am

One afternoon in August 1978, Geoffrey Howe and Leon Brittan were flying from Beijing to Shanghai. They were on the…

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?

Walt Whitman, aged 35, as he appeared in the first edition of Leaves of Grass

Is Walt Whitman’s health guide a hoax – written by Gwyneth Paltrow?

6 May 2017 9:00 am

In 1858, he seems to advocate a good night’s sleep, outdoor exercise, careful grooming - and clean cotton socks in summer

Will Ashon loses – and finds - himself in Epping Forest

6 May 2017 9:00 am

In his mid-forties Will Ashon realised he was adrift and confused, confronted by the situation Dante described in the Divine…

Appointment with death

6 May 2017 9:00 am

It’s reassuring that of Ed Docx’s three admirably eclectic, though sometimes uneven, previous novels, Let Go My Hand most resembles…

Novelist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo attends the Hay Festival on May 29, 2011 in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. (Photo by David Levenson/Getty Images)

Being born a girl in modern China is the worst thing in the world

6 May 2017 9:00 am

She was a foundling in her own family, shunted to adoptive parents for two years, then to the edge of…

Portrait of a lady in black, thought to be Margaret Douglas, c.1545

Burning issues in the reign of Mary Tudor

6 May 2017 9:00 am

While Protestants were martyred at the stake in Smithfield, Margaret Douglas plotted to secure a Catholic succession