The Spectator

16 December 2017

Right side of history

For a century, theorists have argued that the nation state is obsolete. Brexit suggests otherwise


Shepherds watching their flocks by night with Bethlehem in the distance, photograph, c.1928
Portrait of Ulysses Grant by Ole Peter Hansen Balling

Lead book review

It’s time to rehabilitate Ulysses S. Grant — scorned hero of the Civil War

For all his faults, he was undoubtedly one of the great men of history, according to Ron Chernow

Early 20th-century wall painting in the ‘open-air museum’ town of Mandawa, Rajasthan


The best way to see India — by train

And the best person to describe the great engineering feat connecting the country — railway enthusiast Christian Wolmar


Spot the classical music

To view the answers, please click here

‘Political Ravishment — or the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street in danger!’ by James Gillray (1797)


The history of the Bank of England would make a marvellous musical

Mervyn King sees it as a great unrolling drama – of murder, fraud, bankruptcy, riots and cannonballs

‘The Church of St Helena, Bethlehem’, by David Roberts


The hopes and fears of Bethlehem

The town has been militarised from its earliest days. Nicholas Blincoe makes a passionate plea for peace in the future

What makes this Bhutanese schoolgirl happy?


What makes a semi-police state happy?

A.J. Heath photographs a random selection of Bhutanese and discovers how the Gross National Happiness Index is faring


Anthologies to bring comfort and joy

John Julius Norwich and Linda Kelly have both produced stocking-fillers packed with memorable, heart-warming quotations


Did a vodka ban precipitate the Russian Revolution?

Mark Forsyth’s A Short History of Drunkenness is a highly entertaining collection of facts and stories relating to alcohol

Sally Muir marvellously captures the particular hang of a hound’s head


True, dogged likenesses

Sally Muir’s portraits are skilled and sympathetic, while photographers capture dogs at unusual angles


Royalist recipes for surviving the civil war

A moving insight into family life is provided by Ann Fanshawe’s remedies for melancholy, memory loss and other ailments


Why is America so inhibited about sex toys?

A country which condones binge-drinking and semi-automatic weapons has a weird hang-up about vibrators

William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, performing volte, with Bolsover Castle in the background. (Painting after Abraham Jansz. van Diepenbeeck). Bryant is particularly severe on the subject of racing and horse breeding


Bryant’s tyrants: Chris Bryant bashes the British aristocracy

Entitled portrays anyone who has ever held power in Britain as a land-grabbing, money-grubbing despot


The vibrant tradition of English folk song

Steve Roud has produced a door-stopper compendium, ranging from medieval ballads to modern popular music


A master of Norwegian wood

A skilled carpenter from Oslo, Ole Thorstensen gives a drily humorous account of a recent complicated loft conversion

A blue-and-white loggia overlooks the entrance to the Residence in Tunis


Mission statement: the importance of a fine British embassy

Our embassies are essential tools of diplomacy and soft power, and should be preserved at all costs, says Christopher Meyer


From Adonis to Prometheus: the beautiful men of myth

Stephen Fry’s description of Arion’s dreamy brown eyes, sweet voice and rotating hips reminds one of Cliff Richard


What on earth was The Prisoner all about?

It’s been the most analysed TV series in the world. Nevertheless, Alex Cox comes up with a convincing new theory