More from Books

Coming from the wars of words

It was 1971, at the Dudley Hotel, Hove, late at night during a Tory conference, and Sir (as he then wasn’t) Max Hastings and I were discussing editorship. He was then working for the BBC. Specifically, we were talking about the editorship of the New Statesman. There was discontent there about the tenure of R.

History from below

Professor Linda Colley is a distinguished historian. In her Britons, published in 1992, she proved that good, imaginative professional history could attract a wide public. Captives is a more complex book that demands close reading, as she unravels the ambiguities that challenge customary certainties of imperial history. The empire celebrated at Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee

Nasty questions that need asking

Prominent in any contemporary dictionary of received opinion should be the assumption that all terrorism has ‘root causes’ that render violence ‘understandable’ because the aggrieved have ‘no alternative’. It comes with all the shock and invigoration of a cold bath to find someone arguing against this contemporary shibboleth. Alan Dershowitz believes that the assumption of

Light from eastern windows

If the popular idea of the men who founded the British Raj as a lot of brutish pig-stickers and greedy nabobs who despised the Indians they exploited and thought their civilisation of no account still persists, this fascinating, well-researched book should be enough to dispel it. At the end of the 18th century, when the

The spider spied ‘er

Sarah Waters is a rarity – an up and coming writer in this age of hype who actually deserves the prizes and plaudits bestowed on her, and then some more. She is not a literary but a true novelist, with strengths that are fundamental to the form rather than traditional, although all kinds of

Master and mistress of ambiguity

Charlotte Bach was unusual even in those who stood by her: Don Smith, a gay sado-masochist with whom she was collaborating on a book called Sex, Sin and Evolution; Bob Mellors, a founder of the Gay Liberation Front, who had custody of her papers until he was murdered in his Warsaw flat; a man whose

Justice changing gear to keep up

Fifty-one years ago no one would have written this book, and, if someone had, no one would have read it. The constitution was not changing; and the judges’ role as the third arm of government would have been of interest, if at all, to lawyers only. It was minimal and marginal. Judges still proclaimed themselves

Great helmsman or mad wrecker

KOBA THE DREAD: LAUGHTER AND TWENTY MILLIONby Martin AmisCape, £16.99, pp. 306, ISBN 0224063030 Eric Hobsbawm is arguably our greatest living historian – not only Britain’s, but the world’s (as the torrential translation of his oeuvre tends to confirm). The global reach of his knowledge and culture, his formidable linguistic armoury, his love of jazz

Lord of loony laughter

Of all my heroes whom I have been fortunate enough to encounter in the flesh, none was more friendly and relaxed than Peter Cook. Unlike some previously worshipped from afar, he was completely lacking in self-importance and had an almost puppyish desire to amuse – as well as a generous readiness to be amused. As