David Horspool

Stop calling rugby ‘child abuse’

The look on the doctor’s face as he showed my parents the X-ray of my skull was quizzical but reassuring. ‘We were a bit worried by this line on the left,’ he indicated a very thin line from the top of the cranium, straight down. ‘But we saw that there is a line exactly similar

A five-ring fiasco

The ambitions of the founding father of the modern Olympic Games, the Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin — that they should be ‘the free trade of the future’ and provide ‘the cause of peace’ with a ‘new and mighty stay’ — were at once wildly optimistic and strangely prescient. Considering that they were first conceived

Those fearless men, but few

While reading this book in a London café, I was politely buttonholed by an Irishman: ‘Sorry to disturb you, but I saw what you were reading and wondered how far back it went.’ I answered that, as it was a group biography of the men who led the Dublin Easter Rising of 1916, it began

Was Josiah Wedgwood really a radical?

No wonder Josiah Wedgwood, the 18th-century master potter, was a darling of the Victorians. From W.E. Gladstone to Samuel Smiles of Self-Help fame, they admired this industrious, inventive, uxorious and religious man as a harbinger of their own age. It surely helped that his story, if not exactly one of rags to riches, was certainly

The great agitator

John Lilburne was only 43 when he died in 1657, an early death even for the time. But in many ways it was remarkable that he lived so long. He not only dodged Royalist bullets when fighting for Parliament in the civil war as Lieutenant Colonel Lilburne, but managed to avoid the noose or firing

Power to the people | 5 January 2017

Jeremy Corbyn will probably enjoy this book — which doesn’t mean you won’t. Asked to name the historical figure he most admired when first standing for the Labour leadership, Corbyn answered that in English history a very interesting character is John Lilburne.Very interesting character, because of the way he managed to develop the whole debate

A lively, rebellious boy

It is one of the great set-pieces of high drama in English history. The king, shamed by his part in the murder of his one-time friend turned implacable enemy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, agrees to come as a penitent to the holy site of the archbishop’s death to seek forgiveness and, in a conspicuously unkingly

Who was then the gentleman?

Considering that it was, as Melvyn Bragg rightly puts it, ‘the biggest popular uprising ever experienced in England’, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 hasn’t proved particularly attractive to writers of historical fiction. Pierce Egan, better known for his essays on boxing, wrote an interminable novel called Wat Tyler in 1841, and Robert Southey produced a

Best shot

I have learnt to be wary of proselytising about football. The last time I tried was the final of the World Cup in South Africa, Spain versus the Netherlands, two teams with a reputation for skilful, attacking play and thoughtful rather than hopeful passing. These two sides, I explained to people whom football fans like

Ready to rebel? You are part of a glorious tradition

Angry disenchantment with the political and financial establishment has rarely been deeper. David Horspool says that the English rebel — culturally affronted rather than ideologically left-wing — is an honourable archetype of our nation’s history G.K. Chesterton’s famous line in The Secret People, ‘We are the people of England, that never have spoken yet’, still