The Current Issue

August 2022, Issue 510 Barnaby Crowcroft on oil * Gillian Tindall on British tourism through the ages * Robert Colls on Blake and Parry's 'Jerusalem' * David Wheatley on Basil Bunting's letters * Claudia FitzHerbert on Roald Dahl * Lucy Hughes-Hallett on Henrietta Maria * James Gow on the Chagos Islands * David Anderson on digital freedom * Jonathan Sumption on the Black Death * Thomas Shippey on the middle ages on screen * Oliver Balch on anthropology * David Gelber on the history of British Rail * Theo Zenou on immortality * Suzi Feay on Jim Crace * Jude Cook on Irvine Welsh *  and much, much more…

Gillian Tindall

Tourists: How the British Went Abroad to Find Themselves

By Lucy Lethbridge

‘Tourism’ is a slippery word. For at least 250 years it has been applied without stigma to travelling away from home territory for pleasure, interest and cultural exploration rather than work or duty. The grand tour, centred on Italy, that the wealthy British began to undertake in the 17th century provided a pattern that is still in essence followed by many today – think specialised cruises. Yet surprisingly early, another image began to intrude on this high-minded scene. In the summer of 1815, when Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo was making continental Europe once again accessible to the British, Lady Caroline Lamb reported that ‘the great amusement … is to make... read more

More Articles from this Issue

Barnaby Crowcroft

A Pipeline Runs Through It: The Story of Oil from Ancient Times to the First World War

By Keith Fisher

The phrase of the last US president that is least missed today – and there are many candidates – may be the one celebrating ‘clean, beautiful coal’. Keith Fisher will probably not forgive me for saying that his new book brings to mind a similarly oxymoronic statement about oil. In his survey of every appearance of the stuff in world history and literature from the time of the Babylonians to the early 20th century – which reads like a grand Google... read more

Don Paterson

Portal Agony

Covid finally caught up with us in Venice, though I reckon we caught it on the Eurostar. Mostly the week was spent cancelling the restaurants we’d booked as a reward for three years of missed holidays. The only reservation we managed to keep was the first and priciest, at a bleakly cool stunt-food outlet which had just won its first star and wasn’t going to let you forget it. There was a lot of swallowing hard and pretending to be rich. Isn’t it clever the way the snail chutney cuts the rabbit lung parfait? No, you’re right, it’s horrible. There was no foam or aerosolised soup, but at one... read more

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

Henrietta Maria: Conspirator, Warrior, Phoenix Queen

By Leanda de Lisle

She was daughter, sister, wife or mother to five kings and two queens. On her wedding day, her pale blue velvet train was ostensibly held by three princesses of the blood, but so heavily encrusted was it with golden embroidery that a man had to walk concealed beneath it to carry the weight. Such a start in life might seem to presage a pleasant existence of leisure and luxury, but the career of Henrietta Maria, a Bourbon princess by birth and a Stuart queen by... read more

James Gow

The Last Colony: A Tale of Exile, Justice and Britain’s Colonial Legacy

By Philippe Sands

Many will enjoy The Last Colony and it will undoubtedly sell well. It might also be nominated for prizes, as was Philippe Sands’s East West Street. That earlier book blended the author’s personal exploration of family history with a study of two of the most impactful contributors to the history of international law, Hersch Lauterpacht and Raphael Lemkin, and the concepts that they... read more

David Wheatley

Letters of Basil Bunting

By Alex Niven (ed)

Basil Cheesman Bunting was one of literature’s great dodgers. A Northumbrian Quaker, he was born in 1900 and enjoyed a largely undocumented childhood before registering as a conscientious objector in 1918, earning himself a year in prison. Gravitating to Paris, he fell under the spell of Ezra Pound and dabbled in reviewing before a drunken assault on some gendarmes landed him in prison again. As he read François Villon in his cell, having... read more

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