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Charity hopeth all things

Should rich nations give to poor nations? Put bluntly like that, the question of international aid demands the answer ‘yes’. Anyone who tries to qualify the ‘yes’ is liable to be criticised as selfish, unfeeling and inhuman. In his The End of Poverty Jeffrey Sachs sharpens the question. Should very rich people in very rich

Lord of misrule

According to the business press, the age of the ‘imperial CEO’ is now behind us, swept away by a wave of scandals and collapsing stock prices. But for much of the 1980s and 1990s, Michael Eisner was an emperor’s emperor. Recruited from Paramount in 1984, the Walt Disney Company’s new chairman and chief executive officer

The slog of high command

Almost every day throughout the Great War of 1914 to 1918 Douglas Haig kept a diary which its editors describe as ‘an understated account of the day-to-day slog of high command’. It consists of often brief notes of operations and their outcome. Magnificently edited as it is, without maps with arrows showing the directions of

Psychic jaunts and jollities

It was always on the cards, to use a rather obvious metaphor, that Hilary Mantel would write a novel about spiritualism. Her earlier books were awash with hints of the numinous. Giving up the Ghost (2003), her recent memoir, duly connected these fragments of otherworldliness up to the circumstances of her own life. Now comes

Tricky regime change

At Queen Elizabeth’s funeral in April 1603, the predominant emotion among the spectators was relief. For the past 45 years her subjects had lived in continual terror of being engulfed in civil war when the childless queen died, leaving behind her a disputed succession. There were as many as 12 possible claimants to the throne

Love lies bleeding

A writer, John Dearborn, known as Bron, persuades a publisher to commission him to do a book about love at first sight. Bron is obsessed with Paul Marotte, a physician living in Amsterdam who one day in 1889 sees Kate Summer on a bridge and instantly falls in love, decides to paint professionally and they

Fine and mellow

Having obsessively admired Billie Holiday’s singing for 50 years or so, having seen her perform whenever possible, having listened to her recordings again and again, and having read hundreds of thousands of words about her, I received Julia Blackburn’s With Billie in a mood of blasé scepticism. It is a pleasure to report that this