Book review – History

Shock and awe in Coventry, 14 November 1940

21 November 2015 9:00 am

On 14 November 1940, at seven in the evening, the Luftwaffe began to bomb Coventry. The skyline turned red like…

Rab Butler after the defeat of the Conservatives in 1964. ‘His clothes were truly tragic,’ said Chips Channon

Rab Butler was too indecisive (and badly dressed) to be Prime Minister

21 November 2015 9:00 am

‘The best prime minister we never had’ is not an epithet exclusive to Rab Butler. Widely applied to the late…

Franz Marangolo’s advertisement , 1950 (From The Life Negroni)

A soothing Negroni for la dolce vita

14 November 2015 9:00 am

The first draft of the famous story was called ‘A Martini as Big as the Ritz’. That’s not true, but…

‘Nocturne in Grey and Gold’ by James McNeill Whistler, 1874

London fog: from the Big Smoke to the Big Choke

7 November 2015 9:00 am

‘A foggy day in London town,’ croons Fred Astaire in the 1937 musical comedy A Damsel in Distress, puffing nonchalantly…

Even the appearance of a lone wolf at Salem was enough to trigger accusations of witchcraft

Has Salem bewitched Stacy Schiff?

7 November 2015 9:00 am

There have been many books devoted to the terrible events that took place in the small rural community of Salem…

Spies in the spotlight

7 November 2015 9:00 am

Spying is a branch of philosophy, although you would never guess it from that expression on Daniel Craig’s face. Its…

Members of the Hitler Youth clear debris after an air raid on Berlin, August 1944

The swastika was always in plain sight

24 October 2015 9:00 am

Ordinary Germans under the Third Reich did have wills of their own, argues Dominic Green. Most actively embraced Nazi ideology, and were aware of the extermination of the Jews. As the war worsened for them, what did they think they were fighting for?

What does it really mean to have a tyrannical father?

24 October 2015 9:00 am

What was it like, asks Jay Nordlinger, to have Mao as your father, or Pol Pot, or Papa Doc? The…

Beatles mania! (Photo: Getty)

The best of British — from Agatha Christie to the YBAs

26 September 2015 8:00 am

Is it true that, having lost an empire, we reinvented ourselves as an island of entertainers? Do we channel the…

A soldiers best friend (Photo: Getty)

The beloved, mistreated and traumatised dogs of war

26 September 2015 8:00 am

If you love dogs and or live with one — I declare an interest on both counts — there is…

What drove Europe into two world wars?

19 September 2015 8:00 am

Sir Ian Kershaw won his knight’s spurs as a historian with his much acclaimed two-volume biography of Hitler, Hubris and…

The shape-shifting Fens, thought to be the landscape of Beowulf and the haunt of Grendel

Spirit of place: the landscape of myth and magic

19 September 2015 8:00 am

We live in disenchanted times. We barely do God, most of us don’t do magic and frenzied consumerism occupies our…

The history of modern Germany — within four walls

19 September 2015 8:00 am

This is a book about boundaries — and relationships. At its heart is the eponymous house by the lake, which…

Hans Asperger at the Children’s Clinic of the University of Vienna Hospital c.1940

Did Hans Asperger save children from the Nazis — or sell them out?

12 September 2015 9:00 am

Simon Baron-Cohen wonders whether the humane Hans Asperger may finally have betrayed the vulnerable children in his care in Nazi-occupied Vienna

How anarchy was responsible for Auschwitz

12 September 2015 9:00 am

In September 1939 Britain went to war against Germany, ostensibly in defence of Poland. One big secret that the British…

‘La Ghirlandata’ by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

The dangerous red-headed league

29 August 2015 9:00 am

‘Gentlemen prefer blondes,’ Anita Loos pronounced, ‘but gentlemen marry brunettes.’ Quite what they do with redheads she never revealed (and…

For France, the murder of John the Fearless was ‘a tragedy on an epic scale’

The drama of St Crispian’s Day: Shakespeare got it right

29 August 2015 9:00 am

Charles VI of France died on 21 October 1422. He had been intermittently mad for most of his long reign,…

Chairman Mao: monster of misrule

22 August 2015 9:00 am

Mao Zedong, once the Helmsman, Great Teacher and Red Red Sun in Our Hearts, and still the Chairman, died in…

Rediscover the venerable father of English history

15 August 2015 9:00 am

It might seem to some a bold move to base a book on any kind of journey at all when…

The refrigerator takes centre stage at a 1920s luncheon party

Cooling is as important to civilisation as making fire — only much harder

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Modern civilisation depends on refrigeration — but we have been trying to manufacture cold for at least 4,000 years, says Michael Bywater

Rabdentse, near Pelling, the ruined former capital of Sikkim, with Mount Kanchenjunga in the distance

The story of Sikkim’s last king and queen reads like a fairy tale gone wrong

1 August 2015 9:00 am

Sikkim was a Himalayan kingdom a third of the size of Wales squeezed between China, India, Nepal and Bhutan. I…

Bletchley Park was decades ahead of Silicon Valley. So what happened?

25 July 2015 9:00 am

Gordon Corera, best known as the security correspondent for BBC News, somehow finds time to write authoritative, well-researched and readable…

Harriet Howard, Duchess of Sutherland, by William Corden the Younger, after Franz Xavier Winterhalter. ‘What a hold the place has on one,’ she observed of Cliveden

Love nest or den of iniquity? Cliveden has always been shrouded in mystery and scandal

18 July 2015 9:00 am

Well, you can’t say he wasn’t warned. Swimming pools, Nancy Astor told her son, Bill, were ‘disgustin’. I don’t trust…

Hirohito, MacArthur and other villains

4 July 2015 9:00 am

The history of ‘great events’, Voltaire wrote, is ‘hardly more than the history of crimes’. Physically, the war in Asia…

Portrait generally thought to be of Ghenghis Khan

Was Genghis Khan the cruellest man who ever lived?

27 June 2015 9:00 am

From the unpromising and desperately unforgiving background that forged his iron will and boundless ambition, Temujin (as Genghis Khan was…