Hywel Williams

The Huguenots, by Geoffrey Treasure – review

France’s early 21st-century Protestants are eco-friendly, gender-sensitised and respectful of the Fifth Republic’s laïcité. But their ancestors were a less accommodating lot. La réforme in the France of the 16th century was well-educated, predominantly urban and organised as part of a pan-European Protestant movement which set out to subvert the territorial sovereignty of Catholic princes.

Ghosts of the Teutonic Knights

Do the trees of East Prussia still whisper in German when the wind blows in from the Baltic and across the featureless plain? The Russian poet Joseph Brodsky thought so when he visited in the 1960s. But keen ears, and a very long historical reach, are surely now needed in order to detect that particular

Pastures new

On 20 September 1949, five days after his election as Chancellor of the newly created German Federal Republic, Konrad Adenauer addressed the Bundestag: ‘Much unhappiness and much damage’, he told the deputies, ‘has been caused by denazification . On 20 September 1949, five days after his election as Chancellor of the newly created German Federal

The oldest truth in political history

Poor Derek Conway. The allegations about how he used his allowances have been an opportunity for an avalanche of homophobic gossip about his son and a tidal wave of sneering about class. I hold no particular candle for the Conways – apart from having once spent a very enjoyable week stalking with them in the

Leaders, deputies–and elections

£180,000.00 or so doesn’t seem to buy you much of a political campaign these days. Peter Hain’s attempt at being deputy leader of the Labour party certainly ended in a lot of cheques being signed rather than in ballot papers being crossed in his favour. All that rather desperate spend only reinforced the impression that

Beowulf: a digital hero from England’s lost culture

‘Beowulf! How’s your father?’ shouts Anthony Hopkins as Ray Winstone steps out of the boat which has brought the Geats’ tribal leader from Sweden to Denmark. As a way of grabbing attention it probably works better than ‘Hwaet!’ — the narrator’s initial injunction to sit up and listen in the original text. This may be

Democracy can’t compete with the history of kings

Archaeology in north-eastern Syria was once a poor relation to the great sites that lie to the south and over the Iraqi border. Southern Mesopotamia is long established as the area that shows the urban roots of advanced civilisation. Ur may or may not be Abraham’s birthplace but by the 3rd millennium bc it was

The lazy party

I must have been watching some other conference. Judging by the general view taken of David Cameron’s speech to the Tory conference yesterday this was a masterly exercise in understated urbanity. What I heard instead was a rambling and diffuse statement of aims, conspicuous only in its failure to communicate energy and ambition. Of course

Sons of the Manse

Governments recycle policies, pledges and promises. Gordon Brown has decided to recycle his rhetoric as well-with some fine-sounding phrases about what he owed his father, a minister of the Church of Scotland. Tony Blair in his time talked about the ‘giving age’ to the Labour conference. The Brown version recalled a lesson learnt at his

The Tories will need more national fear to win

Only national insecurity will swing it for the Conservatives Ten years ago this autumn I started to write a history of Conservative government in the 1990s. Guilty Men was designedly satirical and cynical — qualities which seem Tory to many. Some readers liked the jokes. Others, burdened by conviction, thought it too laconic by half

Please can we have our Enlightenment back?

It must be odd being God these days. Revealed religion generally — and the Christian God in particular — are often in the dock, screamed at by literary types with a name to make or a reputation to uphold. Christopher Hitchens, in the latest of a series of pamphlets presented in book form, thunders in

Welsh Tory Revival

It wil be a while before Welsh Tories officially rename themselves  ‘Ceidwadwyr Cymru’ . But their renaissance on the political map shows them coming home with last night’s results representing the party’s best result since the general election of 1983 when they got 13 seats. Preseli Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen west with Pembrokeshire south are both part of

A Tory–Plaid Cymru pact?

Liam Byrne says the English must be less apathetic about  the United Kingdom, and about the threat of Scottish independence that looms in next week’s elections One party rule sums up the history of Welsh politics from 1945 onwards. Labour’s hegemony here has been both cultural and political with its tribal elders portraying any alternative