Geoffrey Wheatcroft

The way we were

‘The Spectator, having quite recently been a very bad magazine, is at present a very good one.’ Those gratifying words began a full-dress leading article in the Times on 22 September 1978, headed ‘On the Side of Liberty’. Its occasion was this magazine’s sesquicentenary, which we celebrated with a grand ball at the Lyceum Theatre,

Not-so-special relationship

‘Three things of my own are about to burst on the world,’ Dean Acheson wrote to his friend Lady Pamela Berry, the London hostess and wife of Michael Berry, later Lord Hartwell, owner of the Daily Telegraph. They were ‘a leader in the December issue of Foreign Affairs… a speech at West Point… and a

Cricket, unlovely cricket

In 2005 I published a book called The Strange Death of Tory England, and a long article called ‘Cricket’s final over’, lamenting the decline of the game. The book appeared shortly before an election in which, although Labour easily kept its majority, the Tories gained seats, presaging a great revival, or so Charles Moore later

Do we give a hoot?

‘There is room for a very interesting work,’ Gibbon observed in a footnote, ‘which should lay open the connection between the languages and manners of nations.’ The manners of the peoples of the United Kingdom and of the United States are very different, although not always in the way that received prejudices have it: any

Obituary: Eric Christiansen

Over the past year, we have lost two names cherished by Spectator readers. Rodney Milnes, our opera critic for 20 years before he moved to the Times, as well as editing the monthly magazine Opera, died last December, and Eric Christiansen, the Oxford medieval historian, who was a regular book reviewer here for many years,

Local heroes | 8 September 2016

In one village after another across the country, pubs are closing, as many as 25 a week by some counts, and this is accepted with English fatalism. But the people of South Stoke, near Bath, chose not to accept the loss of the Packhorse mutely; the locals decided to save their local. And in the

Junk Bond

You now need to be in your mid-sixties or older — a chilling thought — not to have lived your whole life in the shadow of James Bond. In 1953, the year of the Queen’s coronation and the conquest of Everest, Bond announced his arrival with the words, ‘The scent and smoke and sweat of

How to save the monarchy

On 21 April Queen Elizabeth II marks her 90th birthday, the first of our reigning monarchs ever to do so, and it will be a very happy occasion, just as her Diamond Jubilee was in 2012. Five years ago there had been a more sombre milestone for the queen’s eldest son, Charles, Prince of Wales.

When Israel was but a dream

‘On the night of 15 April 1897, a small, elegant steamer is en route from Egypt’s Port Said to Jaffa.’ ‘At the end of October 1898 the small steamer Rossiya made its way from Alexandria in Egypt, via Port Said, to Jaffa.’ It is unusual, or maybe even unique, for the first chapters of two

Diary – 28 July 2012

Looking back, there was a moment right at the start when the coalition government could have asserted its authority, and changed the political weather. As soon as they took office, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and George Osborne should have said, quite truly, that they were dealing with the catastrophic economic inheritance of the previous government,

The truest man of letters

In 1969 an author in his early thirties published his first book. The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters won the Duff Cooper prize, delighted the reading public, introduced them to the name of John Gross, and marked the beginning of what would be an illustrious and fascinating literary career. It ended with

Portrait of a singular man

The posthumous publication of Hugh Trevor-Roper’s wartime diaries continues the restoration of his reputation, says Geoffrey Wheatcroft Nothing is more elusive than reputation. A writer’s standing goes up and down like a share price, during his life and after, for no obvious or objective reason, as D. J. Taylor observed in a recent perceptive essay

Parliament shouldn’t pay

This year has seen a sombre centenary, which passed almost unnoticed. It was in August 1911 that Members of Parliament voted to pay themselves for the first time — an annual stipend of £400 a year. What was meant to open parliament to all ranks of society and allow men of low birth but high

Immortalised in print

When the great new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was published nearly five years ago — and a truly great achievement it was, despite a few carping critics — the printed version seemed almost a luxury item. Many larger public libraries still have the old DNB, with its decennial supplements published throughout the past century,

Diary – 26 July 2008

From London to Bath to Manhattan, ten funerals or memorial services since October makes more than one a month, and attending them can seem a full-time occupation, as well as a sorrowful one. John Biffen, Bill Deedes and Ian Gilmour were full of years and had done the state some service. James Michie and Euan

The solitary New York Jew

In a recent review of They Knew They Were Right, Jacob Heilbrunn’s book about the neo-conservatives, Mark Lilla began by asking: How many of you are sick to death of hearing about City College in the 1930s, Alcove One and Alcove Two, the prima donnas at Partisan Review, who stopped speaking to whom at which

Best or worst?

After his famous ‘Age of . . .’ trilogy on the 19th century, E. J. Hobsbawm published a coda (best-selling but in my view much less satisfactory) on the history of the 20th century After his famous ‘Age of . . .’ trilogy on the 19th century, E. J. Hobsbawm published a coda (best-selling but