Raymond Carr

A split personality

By the 1970s Ronald Fraser had established himself as an expert on modern Spain and an authority on its oral history, when that discipline was an exotic new concept. As a radical socialist, and a friend of the Marxist historian Perry Anderson, he published a series of distinguished books on popular risings and guerrilla warfare

Built for eternity

The Escorial, as a monastery and a royal palace, was the brain child of Philip II of Spain. Built in the latter half of the 16th century, about 30 miles north-west of Madrid, the huge granite complex with 4,000 rooms, 16 courtyards, a basilica, a library and picture gallery as well as the king’s private

The pride of the Sackvilles

Knole is a country house the size of a small village in the Kent countryside. For the past 400 years it has been inhabited by 13 generations of a single family, the Sackvilles. The present Lord Sackville, Robert Sackville-West who lives with his family there, has written a scholarly book on Knole’s effect on the

Faith under fire

Giles St Aubyn, in this long, scholarly book, sets out to chronicle the shifts in the Christian churches from the scientific revolution of the 17th century, and the Enlightenment of the 18th, to the apparent triumph of secularism in the 20th. H. H. Asquith, as leader of the Liberal party, was not an enthusiastic Christian.

Double vision | 30 January 2010

Thomas Babington Macaulay’s early essays in the Edinburgh Review were an immediate success, and soon made him a respected figure in Whig society. Thomas Babington Macaulay’s early essays in the Edinburgh Review were an immediate success, and soon made him a respected figure in Whig society. In 1830 Lord Lansdowne offered him a seat in

A return to the grand themes

Between 1975 and today, under the direction of Professor Wm. Roger Louis, the British Studies Seminars of the University of Texas has organized 60 seminars on the modern history of Britain and has published a selection of the lectures in five volumes of which this is the most recent. It includes personal reminiscence. Graham Greene,

Looking back in anger

Portugal has given the world two distinguished novelists. Eça de Queiros, is the Proust of Portugal. His masterpiece, The Maias, describes the decline of an aristocratic family in the late 19th century. Whereas Eça was a member of the Portuguese intellectual elite, José Saramago was born in a wretched shack in the the rural hamlet

From Russia with love

In the last couple of decades or so, a plenitude of biographers have provided us with studies of 20th-century literary celebrities, from Thomas Hardy and George Bernard Shaw to Evelyn Waugh and T. S. Eliot. Roland Chambers now treats the life and works of Arthur Ransome, a lesser mortal than these grandees. Ransome was born

Depression and dictators

For Professor Overy Britain between the two world wars was, as his title proclaims, a morbid age. There was a general view among intellectuals that civilisation — itself a creation of intellectuals — was in crisis, and society in danger of collapse. There was an ‘institutionalised pessimism’ that became ‘an overriding intellectual fashion’ that spread

Heroes and villains

This book falls into two distinct parts. The first is the author’s account of his own life until he left Oxford in disgrace. John Joll- iffe, the son of Lord Hylton, passed his childhood and youth at Mells, in Somerset, the home of the Asquith family, and at neighbouring Ammerdown, the seat of the Hyltons.

Behind the fighting lines

M. R. D. Foot confesses that he has always endeavoured to follow Whistler’s counsel, ‘Not a day without a line’. His written output is impressive and his judgments severe on those who do not come up to his standards. Heinz Koeppler, his boss at a Foreign Office study centre, with his fawning on his superiors

Horses decline, dogs advance

The Dog: 5000 Years of the Dog in Art, by Tamsin Pickeral Dogs: History, Myth, Art, by Catherine Johns The Horse: A Celebration of Horses in Art, by Rachel and Simon Barnes These three books are concerned with the representation in art of man’s most successfully domesticated wild animals,: the dog and the horse. Dogs,

Chalk and cheese

The British in France: Visitors and Residents since the Revolution, by Peter Thorold Peter Thorold has not written an orthodox history of French and British political cultural and social relations. He sees them through the eyes of Britons who settled in France or tourists who trod its soil for a brief holiday. French aristocrats who

A city frozen in time

Pompeii, by Mary Beard In the early morning of 25 August AD 79 Mount Vesuvius blew its top. First came a rain of pumice stones; the roofs of Pompeii collapsed under their weight. Worse was to come: a burning lava, flowing at great speed against which no living being could survive. Pompeii was a city

Our modest contribution

St Petersburg and the British: The City Through the Eyes of British Visitors and Residents by Anthony Cross To early English visitors St Petersburg seemed an ‘abstract’, artificial city with no roots in the past. It was the creation of one man, Peter the Great, determined to replace Moscow as the capital of his empire

The sins of the son

In the spring of 1865 Washington was celebrating victory in a bitterly fought civil war. It had begun in 1861 when six southern states had seceded from the Union, setting up the separate Confederate state with its capital in Richmond. For Southerners, the Union threatened to abolish the ‘peculiar institution’ of slavery without which, they

Sound and fury, signifying nothing

In exile on St Helena, Napoleon brooded on the cause of the failure of his bid for the mastery of Europe. He confessed that ‘accursed Spain was the primary cause of my misfortunes’. Ronald Fraser’s book of over 500 pages may be seen as a commentary on this confession. Fraser made his name as the

Pistols at dawn

Early on the morning of 21 September 1809 two ministers of the crown in the Duke of Portland’s cabinet met to fight a duel on Putney Heath: they were George Canning the Foreign Secretary and Lord Castlereagh who was what we would now call Minister of War. Castlereagh the challenger was a crack shot; Canning

Portrait of a lady

Clarissa Eden’s father was the younger brother of Winston Churchill. Her mother was the daughter of the seventh Earl of Abingdon. She was born into an upper-class society which still, as in Trollope’s novels, was organised to bring daughters into contact with eligible husbands at summer balls. A beauty, with her mother’s blue eyes, she

The teddy bares his teeth

Ever since he could read and write John Betjeman felt himself destined to become a poet. Later he wrote, ‘I have always preferred it [poetry], knowing that its composition was my vocation and that anything else I wrote has been primarily a means of earning money in order to write poetry.’ In so doing he