George Chamier

The Great Irish Famine revisited

The bare statistics of the Great Irish Famine are chilling enough: in 1845-55 more than a million people died of starvation and disease and a further two million emigrated. Ireland’s population fell by more than a third. John Kelly does an excellent job of sketching the background in The Graves are Walking: massive population growth

Killing as entertainment

‘The history of our love affair with violence’ is how Michael Newton describes his new book, Age of Assassins. In fact, its scope is much narrower: assassination in Europe and the US from the murder of Lincoln in 1865 to the attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. So, no Gandhi, no Allende, none of the

Last rites | 28 August 2012

‘Village’, to most middle-Englanders, conjures up a cosy, living community. Perhaps the post office is threatened with closure or the bus timetable is to be cut, but the hanging baskets continue to be tended, the village green still hosts games of cricket, there are moneyed retirees or commuters eager to buy the houses. It is

George Washington: Gentleman warrior

It is easy to forget that the dignified eighteenth-century gentleman whose image appears on the one-dollar bill, the first President and father of his nation, owed his position entirely to his prowess as a soldier. Stephen Brumwell’s book charts the two phases of his military career, firstly fighting for King George II, then fighting against

Great British Prime Ministers

Everyone enjoys making and perusing lists of ‘greatest’ — nineteenth-century novels, Beatles LPs, generals, opening batsmen, and so on. The choices inevitably reflect the compiler’s tastes and prejudices, and are always fun to dispute. I have spent the last few months considering the claims of Britain’s Prime Ministers, a process from which four semi-finalists ultimately