Berfrois

‘Catholic religion and anticlericalism were passionately bound up in the battle’

‘Catholic religion and anticlericalism were passionately bound up in the battle’

In the first few months of 1936, Spanish society was highly fragmented. There was uneasiness between factions and, as was happening all over Europe with the possible exception of the United Kingdom, the rejection of liberal democracy in favour of authoritarianism was rife.

Read More

Late Excursions Through the London Streets

Late Excursions Through the London Streets

At the end of the seventeenth century a new literary genre or subgenre emerged in England, one that might be characterized as the nocturnal picaresque.

Read More

Iron Laughs

Iron Laughs

I did survive communism and even laughed. But I've stopped laughing many times since. First of all, of course, because in the former Yugoslavia, the collapse of the old system brought wars.

Read More

Alison Kinney on the Bayeux Embroidery

Alison Kinney on the Bayeux Embroidery

The masterpiece—the war memorial, wall hanging, apologia—tells the same old story, a case of do or die: a tale of friends betrayed, cross-Channel invasion, and the passage of a comet heralding the doom of old England.

Read More

The Bird and Baby

The Bird and Baby

During the hectic middle decades of the 20th century, from the end of the Great Depression through the Second World War and into the 1950s, a small circle of intellectuals gathered weekly in and around the University of Oxford to drink, smoke, quip, cavil, read aloud their works in...

Read More

Religious practice and identity after the war was neither condoned nor condemned…

Religious practice and identity after the war was neither condoned nor condemned…

Whether oppression and resistance, Soviet domination and domestic nationalism, or Communist ideology and state practices, the collapse of Communism has forced scholars to find a middle ground among extremes.

Read More

Shut Not Your Doors

Shut Not Your Doors

In October 1865, a 22-year-old wordsmith living on Ashburton Place, behind the Massachusetts State House, filed what has to be one of the nastiest book reviews ever published.

Read More

Thoreau’s Walk

Thoreau’s Walk

Summer and winter our eyes had rested on the dim outline of the mountains in our horizon, to which distance and indistinctness lent a grandeur not their own, so that they served equally to interpret all the allusions of poets and travellers

Read More

Can benevolent autocrats be trusted with development?

Can benevolent autocrats be trusted with development?

Historians have recently begun to investigate how development became central to the global humanitarian politics of the twentieth century, and why it has never been able to deliver on its promises.

Read More

‘Freud tended to dodge political questions’

‘Freud tended to dodge political questions’

The problem with the V-2 rocket, wrote George Orwell from London, is that “unlike most other projectiles, it gives you time to think.

Read More

Society for the Confused

Society for the Confused

Drawn by caricaturist John Leech, the illustrations of Gilbert Abbott à Beckett’s The Comic History of Rome are a Victorian fever dream of ancient Rome.

Read More

John Crutchfield: Go West

John Crutchfield: Go West

Perhaps this is what finally draws me back to the Western. It is a fundamentally serious genre. It deals with serious questions, and it does so, at its best, with an admirable economy of style, wasting little time on frivolity.

Read More

As early as 1909, newspapers had reported (entirely imaginary) Zeppelin sightings…

As early as 1909, newspapers had reported (entirely imaginary) Zeppelin sightings…

When Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot point-blank in the neck on June 28, 1914, news of his assassination ricocheted from Sarajevo all the way across Europe before nightfall.

Read More

Moneybundles

Moneybundles

After the Fall, progress toward free markets and multiparty politics was slow. Todor Zhivkov, the longest-serving general secretary in the Eastern Bloc, may have been deposed the day after the Berlin Wall came down, but it wasn’t necessarily the chief cause.

Read More

Colin Dickey: Time’s Resistless Stream

Colin Dickey: Time’s Resistless Stream

By now, we are all of us more or less apocalyptic. Our calendar is itself based on the apocalyptic return of Jesus Christ, counting up from Anno Domini towards the End.

Read More

In Rome, Seneca was uniquely placed to influence those in power…

In Rome, Seneca was uniquely placed to influence those in power…

Sometime in the spring of the year 59, the emperor Nero decided to murder his mother.

Read More

Eugene Wolters on the Boston Massacre

Eugene Wolters on the Boston Massacre

To distinguish between “good riots” like in Boston and the “bad riots” in Ferguson is itself an exercise in historical amnesia practiced by the left and right.

Read More

MI5 saw fit to write to the CIA and FBI to warn them about Hobsbawm…

MI5 saw fit to write to the CIA and FBI to warn them about Hobsbawm…

Shortly before he died, Eric Hobsbawm told me of his irritation – I would put it no stronger than that – at being prevented from seeing his MI5 file. Despite some lobbying in the House of Lords on his behalf, he was told it would not be released in...

Read More

Gassy

Gassy

On Boxing Day of 1799 the twenty-year-old chemist Humphry Davy – later to become Sir Humphry, inventor of the miners’ lamp, President of the Royal Society and domineering genius of British science – stripped to the waist, placed a thermometer under his armpit and stepped into a sealed box...

Read More