Mark Archer

Standing room only

The story of the Black Hole of Calcutta was once as familiar to schoolchildren as the battle of Hastings or the Gunpowder Plot. On 20 June 1756, after a fierce battle lasting several days, in which the British defensive force of 515 men had held out against an Indian army numbering tens of thousands, 146

A century of riding high

When banking families fell out in Renaissance Florence, disputes tended not to be settled by the financial regulator. In April 1478 in Florence cathedral, members of the Pazzi family murdered Giuliano Medici and came close to killing Lorenzo the Magnificent himself. Several of the Pazzi conspirators were hanged and left to dangle from the windows

Making the most of the obvious

James Surowiecki is a Martian. True, he doesn’t have pointy ears and he writes a financial column for the New Yorker. But only someone fallen to Earth would celebrate the obvious as much as he does. When he ventures out into a city, he marvels at the fact that fast-walking pedestrians don’t bump into each

Patent medicine for mankind

Judging from his publications, since semi-retiring from his hedge fund empire George Soros has sorted out the world’s problems at the rate of about one a year: George Soros on Globalisation, Soros on Global Capitalism, Soros on Democracy, Soros on the Soviet System. Does the man have hobbies? Can we expect Soros on Pigeon-fancying, or