The Great War, viewed from all sides

The historiography of the Great War is stupendous, the effects of the conflict being so far-reaching that even today historians are finding angles hitherto unexplored that they can make books out of; or, at the lower end of the scale, they are content to retell the old story in a different way. What we have been short of in the English canon is a view of the war not just from the other side, but from all sides: it was, as Colonel Repington termed it, ‘the first world war’, and not simply four years of carnage between the British and the Germans. Jörn Leonhard’s epic and magnificent work — unquestionably,

A love letter to France

When John Julius Norwich was a boy, his father was British ambassador in Paris.School holidays were spent in the exceptionally beautiful embassy which had been purchased by the Duke of Wellington from Pauline Borghese. He would mix dry martinis for Jean Cocteau, and sing songs to the dinner guests which he had been taught by his father’s mistress, the poetess Louise de Vilmorin, who got on famously with his mother, Diana Cooper. It makes you long to have been there. This warm, delightful short history of France, aimed convivially at the general reader, is his love letter to the country he knew so well: and, he writes, most probably his

A meeting with Britain’s most hated man

‘Christ, I would be shot for buying this if people knew,’ says an anonymous fan in the comments below Amazon’s unlikely bestseller Enemy of the State. Which sums up how I feel before meeting the book’s author, Tommy Robinson. What if he turns out to be not nearly as bad as his reputation as ‘Britain’s most hated man’? What if, as some familiar with him have warned, I turn out to like him and want to plead his cause, and end up being tainted as a far-right thug by association? We meet in a gastropub in a pretty Georgian market town. It’s only ten minutes from the ‘shithole’ of a