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Geography is destiny

Listing page content here Charles Glass, an American reporter for many years based in Lebanon, in 1987 set off to portray what used to be called the Levant, starting in Iskenderun in what is now Turkey and ending in Aqaba in what is now Jordan. This project, which sought to tell the political story of

The sunlight on the garden parties

Listing page content here As a social and economic phase of English life the ‘Edwardian age’ had a longer span than the ten years of Edward VII’s reign. It began, roughly speaking, with Queen Victoria’s silver jubilee in 1887 and ended with the outbreak of the first world war in August 1914. Although a far

Flocking to the standard

Listing page content here Only in the last few years  have major memorials to  the wartime sacrifices of  the British Dominions and Colonies taken their place in the ceremonial plots of central London. They are a welcome if belated tribute. Yet, following the second world war’s end, the government made a more practical gesture. The

Send her victorious

Listing page content here The Iraq war has shed a whole new light on the wars fought by the British during the reign of Queen Victoria. War was more or less continuous during the first half of Victoria’s reign, and very few of these imperial wars were actually provoked. The UN would not have approved

Master of the picturesque

Listing page content here William Kent (1685-1748) was a Bridlington boy whose training as an artist in Italy was sponsored by squires from both sides of the River Humber including my kinsman Burrell Massingberd of Ormsby, Lincs. Kent’s correspondence with Massingberd is a significant source for any study of ‘the Signior’ and Timothy Mowl has


Listing page content here Our needs are really very mild,so please don’t be too critical,if we just crave a little seal,to decorate our winter coat.Don’t show those bloody, mashed- up cubs,it spoils our pleasure, gives us guiltto see the virgin snow stained red,and quite distressing for the kids.We love our s.u.v. so much,it’s big and

Those rich little Greeks

Listing page content here Plutarch, in his Life of Alcibiades, captures the fascination of the Greek warrior, politician and glamour boy by quoting a line from a contemporary comedy: ‘They long for him, they hate him, they cannot do without him.’ The same words sum up our ambivalent relationship with the cultural world inhabited by

The murder of Bamber Gascoigne

Listing page content here This book, about real people, was intended to be about quite different ones. In her postscript, Helena Drysdale, the travel writer, says that her initial purpose had been to write a biography of her great-great-grandfather Sir George Bowen, who was a serial governor of colonies — Queensland, New Zealand, Victoria, Mauritius,

Tales of the unexpected

Listing page content here As the large publishers get fatter, richer and duller, the little ones get nippier, sharper and more vigorous. Roy Kerridge is the author of many books, but none of the grand publishing houses wanted this eccentric and highly personal guide to Britain, presumably because it lacks the amenable and forgettable polish

The Drang nach Osten

Listing page content here Two good books both cover the fighting between Germany and Russia in 1941, a brief historian’s summary of the strategic issues involved and a much longer ex-diplomat’s account of the tactics of the greatest land battle ever fought. Each author is used to explaining himself clearly, one in lectures, the other

Sons and discoveries

Listing page content here ‘Who are we? Where are we going? Has public provision been a success?’ These are the kind of ‘weighty, unanswerable’ questions, Jeremy Harding asks himself as he mooches around west London housing estates in search of the mother who gave him up for adoption 50-odd years ago. The questions in Jonathan

Grand Guignol grotesquery

Listing page content here Alan Warner’s first novel, Morvern Callar, was macabre, bizarre and brilliant. This, his fifth, is equally macabre and bizarre, but less brilliant. So I first thought. Then I realised that it doesn’t lack heart, but only hides it. That in itself, I suppose, is rather brilliant. The first pages hook us

Under the shadow of the Minster

Listing page content here This heavy, clanking, finely wrought adventure story is set mainly on or around York station in the winter of 1906 and washed down with handfuls of soot, clinker, ‘bacon and eggs and related matters’ and, I would estimate,  some 90 pints of Smith’s ale. The Lost Luggage Porter is Andrew Martin’s

Working into the night

Listing page content here The influence of an intellectual is not necessarily proportional to his merit. The late Edward Said was a prime example of this dissociation between influence and merit. His most famous book, Orientalism, has had a profound and lasting effect on writing about the Middle East, yet it is badly written, worse

Why didn’t we give peace a chance?

Listing page content here Now comes a war and shows that we still haven’t crawled out on all fours from the barbaric stage of our history. We have learned to wear suspenders, to write clever editorials and to make chocolate milk, but when we have to decide seriously a question of the coexistence of a