Featured articles


When revenge is sweet

The Elizabethans must have had a completely different attitude to physical violence. For a start, it was an inherent part of their system of justice. Even when we had the death penalty, killing someone in the name of justice was expected to be as quick and painless as possible. The hangman’s craft was to assess

Information superhighwaymen

I occasionally worry that future scholars will be unable to write my biography because of my failure to keep a diary. But it seems I need not be too bothered. There came a moment last week when I realised there will be more than enough information for them to piece together my life in all

Tinker, tailor, soldier, stooge

THE conventions of secrecy were maintained. Only Richard Dearlove’s disembodied voice appeared in front of the Hutton inquiry. But, irrespective of the effect on individuals’ reputations, there are fears that recent events have compromised the Secret Intelligence Service. Its operating procedures have been subjected to too much daylight, and it has been used for purposes

The truth about meaning

There is a certain tradition in American philosophy that combines logical rigour and systematic thinking in a style so concise and self-contained as to offer little or no purchase to the critic. The tradition began with C.S. Peirce, found triumphant expression in Quine and Goodman, and lived again – just at the moment when everybody

Boys and girls go out to work

So how many did you get this summer?’ I ask. ‘Six hundred and fifty,’ answers Lucy Townsend at Cazenove, the stockbroker. ‘More than 400,’ says Caroline Dawnay, a literary agent at PFD. ‘About two dozen a week,’ moans Ann Sindall at The Spectator. And one of them, who was only 14, should have been at

Go straight to Heaven

Tourists in downtown Calcutta (or Kolkata, as we all must now learn to say) cannot fail to be struck by a 50-foot mosaic of the city’s most famous immigrant, Mother Teresa. The Skopje-born nun is smiling benignly on the snarled-up traffic chaos that belches and honks beneath her. To one side of this giant piece

Nasty, brutish and on credit

Who says the leisure class is no more? On the contrary, as a recent weekday visit to the new spiritual heart of Britain revealed to me, it is very large indeed. Of course, the modern leisure class is not necessarily very high on the registrar-general’s scale of social classes from I to V, but that

Reform the BBC, don’t kill it

Why do I now find that I, one of the BBC’s most persistent critics, feel the need to defend the organisation that I have attacked so many times in the past? Because for all its faults I would rather that Britain had a public-service broadcaster than that the airwaves were sold to the fattest cheque