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Outmoded elegance

Harold Macmillan seemed well prepared when he succeeded a sick and humiliated Anthony Eden as prime minister after the disaster of Suez in 1957. An intellectual who knew about economics, a tough debater, an advocate of closer relations with Europe, Macmillan had been a ministerial success at Housing, the Foreign Office and the Treasury. He

Rebels with a cause

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 was a singular event in English history, not merely a food riot, but an organised outbreak of pure class warfare which, leaving aside John Ball’s rabble-rousing, Biblical egalitarianism, was untrammelled by constitutional quarrels or religious disputes. It was fomented by vicious class legislation — the Statute of Labourers of 1351

The devil’s in the detail

The Angel’s Game, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón Standing behind the high altar in Prato Cathedral last week, binoculars trained on a fresco some 40 feet above, I found myself puzzling over a barely discernible detail in a scene of the nativity of St Stephen. At the foot of the new mother’s bed a winged figure,

The man who knew so much

Enlightening: Letters 1946-1960, by Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy and Jennifer Homes The Book of Isaiah: Personal Impressions of Isaiah Berlin, edited by Henry Hardy Isaiah Berlin was the most popular don of his time. While Maurice Bowra boomed, and David Cecil giggled and Trevor-Roper intrigued, Berlin talked his way into the hearts of

Light thoughts in a dark time

Ruth Maier’s Diary, edited by Jan Erik Vold, translated by Jamie Bulloch ‘Why shouldn’t we suffer when there is so much suffering?’ wrote Ruth Maier to her friend the Norwegian poet Gunvor Hofmo in a letter smuggled from the ship deporting her from Oslo to Auschwitz in the autumn of 1942. Ruth was then 21,

A kind tyrant | 10 June 2009

‘Ajuxtaposition of incompatible elements.’ So Chris Fujiwara describes one of Otto Preminger’s more obscure films in his critical biography of the Hollywood director. But the phrase so encapsulates what I had come to think about Preminger’s entire output that I underlined it, underlined it again, and made a mental note to quote it at the

Leith: Scotland’s Independent Art School

Leith: Scotland’s Independent Art School, by George Ramsden Founded in 1988 in a former church for Norwegian seamen by the inspirational teachers Mark and Lottie Cheverton, Leith Art School comes of age this year. This book tells the story of its founders and recounts how the school survived their tragic early deaths (aged 39 and