Simon Heffer

Edwin Lutyens: the nation’s remembrancer-in-chief

In unduly modest remarks at the opening of this immaculate book, Clive Aslet, one of our most distinguished architectural historians, notes that there have been substantial biographies of Sir Edwin Lutyens, and he does not pretend to emulate them. His achievement, however, is considerable. Aslet has spent more than 45 years in intense and enthusiastic

After Queen Victoria, the flood

Alwyn Turner writes early on that Little Englanders is ‘an attempt to take the temperature of the nation as it emerged from a century that had dominated the world and was beginning – whether it knew it or not – a long process of decline’. Perhaps for that reason, or perhaps because the high (and

Get Rishi: the plot against the PM

35 min listen

This week: For her cover piece, The Spectator’s political editor Katy Balls writes that Boris Johnson could be attempting to spearhead an insurgency against the prime minister. She joins the podcast alongside historian and author Sir Anthony Seldon, to discuss whether – in light of the Privileges Committee’s findings – Boris is going to seriously up the

What do we think of when we think of Essex?

Apparently much of the notoriety – or perhaps by now it has become allure – of Essex is my fault. In 1990, weeks before Mrs Thatcher was defenestrated, I wrote an article in the Sunday Telegraph called ‘Essex Man’, in circumstances that Tim Burrows describes entirely accurately in this exceptionally well-written and intelligent book. Although

The Edwardian era was not such a golden summer

This is a rather odd book and, I regret to say (given the reading that seems to have gone into it), not a very good one. If one had little knowledge of the reign of King Edward VII, or of the jokes, anecdotes and scandals of that period, then it might serve as a useful

John Major has taken a pounding (1992)

It’s three decades ago this month since the UK government was forced to withdraw the pound from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on ‘Black Wednesday’. As the pound sinks this week, we revisit Simon Heffer’s cover story from 1992 on how John Major dealt with the debacle. You can read more on our fully-digitised archive. Like

Vaughan Williams’s genius is now beyond dispute

Classical music plays hell with people’s posthumous reputations, as any admirer of the works of Ralph Vaughan Williams will tell you. In 1972, on the centenary of his birth, ample respects were shown. Not only were there special concerts of his music but the Post Office, which is now more focused on commemorating gay pride,

How Britain was misled over Europe for 60 years

Just as one is inclined to believe Carlyle’s point that the history of the world is but the biography of great men, so Christopher Tugendhat, in this level-headed account, is right to conclude that the history of the Conservative party in the past 60 or 70 years has been deeply affected by the biography of

What does it really mean to feel English?

Referring to the precarious future of the Union of England and Scotland, the authors of Englishness: The Political Force Transforming Britain conclude their book with the observation that ‘it is hard to imagine that any break-up would not be the source of regret and recrimination’. I imagine our present prime minister, even though he has

Rishi’s nightmare: Will inflation crush the recovery?

41 min listen

Could a blip in inflation ruin the UK’s economic recovery? (00:50) Why is support for the IRA becoming normalised? (12:20) What makes a great diarist? (31:15) With The Spectator’s economics correspondent Kate Andrews; economist Julian Jessop; writer Jenny McCartney; politician Mairia Cahill; satirist Craig Brown; and historian, journalist and author Simon Heffer. Presented by Cindy

R.B. Haldane: a great public servant, much maligned

This is a strange but valuable book. The author is a private equity magnate, whose fascination for Richard Burdon Haldane dates back to his childhood. In his acknowledgments he admits he lacked the expertise to write a proper book about his hero, and so enlisted the help of a young scholar, Richard McLauchlan, credited on

Political biographies to enjoy in lockdown

Here are ten political biographies, with a leavening of the classics, for those with time to kill in the present house arrest. The danger with such lists is that what has recently entered the memory becomes most prominent; so this one consists entirely of works published in the 20th century. Charles Moore’sThatcher, Leo McKinstry’s Rosebery

It’s easy to forget how undemocratic Europe was 50 years ago

The subtitle of Simon Reid-Henry’s substantial work indicates its thesis: ‘The remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971–2017.’ The Cold War had started in 1945, and the author takes us through the upheavals of the 1960s before the advertised start of his narrative. He describes a western world that, by 1971, had undergone

There’s no place quite like Excellent Essex

Those who think Essex is boring, or a human waste bin into which only the most meretricious people find themselves tipped, would require only one or two chapters of Gillian Darley’s widely researched book to tell them how wrong they are. Essex has experienced various types and degrees of civilisation since before the Romans arrived

The might of the far right

‘Why would anyone write a historical study of it?’ asks Gavriel Rosenfeld about the Fourth Reich at the start of this rather confusing, but at times entertaining, book. His answer is that the phrase has been used as a metaphor since the earliest days of the Third Reich to mean a wide variety of things.

The pursuit of money

Jesse Norman is one of only three or four genuine intellectuals on the Tory benches in the House of Commons. It must vex him, as it does most of us with A-levels, to witness the distressingly ignorant, chaotic and unprincipled way in which the government, run by the party of which he is a member,

The Great War, viewed from all sides

The historiography of the Great War is stupendous, the effects of the conflict being so far-reaching that even today historians are finding angles hitherto unexplored that they can make books out of; or, at the lower end of the scale, they are content to retell the old story in a different way. What we have

Full steam ahead

To write, and indeed to read, a history of considerable range, both in terms of chronology and of subject matter, is a profound challenge. The fourth volume in Peter Ackroyd’s History of England starts with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and ends with Waterloo in 1815. It was a period that laid the foundations of