The Current Issue

November 2023, Issue 524 John Adamson on pre-Revolutionary France * Suleika Dawson on John Le Carré * Chris Renwick on the Labour Party * Norma Clarke on Hilary Mantel * Peter Marshall on Britain’s islands * Stewart Wood on inequality * Simon Nixon on the Barclay Brothers * Charles Foster on road ecology * Georgina Adam on art fraud * Caroline Moorhead on Palestine * Florence Hazrat on slang * Joan Smith on the Noughties * John Self on Paul Harding * Guy Stevenson on Benjamín Labatut *  and much, much more…

John Adamson

The Revolutionary Temper: Paris, 1748–1789

By Robert Darnton

Louis XV had a problem with Paris. Until the late 1740s, he had regularly visited the capital on his way from Versailles to his favourite hunting grounds in the forest of Compiègne. But over the winter of 1749–50 there was a series of kidnappings of street urchins in Paris. By the spring of 1750, rumours were circulating that the capital’s police were complicit in the abductions. By May, lurid stories were doing the rounds that the abducted children were being bled to death so that a member of the royal family with leprosy could bathe in their blood, which was supposedly therapeutic. Riots ensued – one involving a crowd ten thousand strong. Order was restored by the deployment of soldiers... read more

More Articles from this Issue

Peter Marshall

The Britannias: An Island Quest

By Alice Albinia

In July 2023 Orkney Islands Council voted to explore alternative governmental arrangements for the archipelago. One option proposed by the council leader was for it to become a self-governing territory of Norway, the kingdom which lost control of Orkney to Scotland in 1468. The episode – in reality, a smart political stunt in a row over the Scottish government’s transport policy – attracted extraordinary international attention. In the UK press, it was treated with an uneven... read more

Suleika Dawson

The Secret Life of John le Carré

By Adam Sisman

Adam Sisman presents this new book on John le Carré as a ‘secret annexe’ to his earlier biography of the author. Its subject is the women in le Carré’s life – the ones the novelist didn’t marry, that is, but to whom he repeatedly offered the secret parts of himself, which the ones he did marry almost never got to see. It’s only a slim volume, but, as we are so often told, size doesn’t matter if a fellow knows what he is doing. As one of le Carré’s women myself, I feel in a position to take a... read more

Chris Renwick

The Men of 1924: Britain’s First Labour Government

By Peter Clark

Age of Hope: Labour, 1945, and the Birth of Modern Britain

By Richard Toye

At the time of writing, Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party has a lead of more than twenty points over the Conservatives. All the available evidence points towards a Labour victory, potentially one of the most convincing in British history, at the general election that is likely to be held in the next twelve months. Labour and its supporters should... read more

Charles Foster

Crossings: How Road Ecology Is Shaping the Future of Our Planet

By Ben Goldfarb

When Hazel, the rabbit at the centre of Watership Down, meets his first road, he thinks it is a river. It’s not surprising. Seabirds sometimes crash-land on shiny roads, mistaking them for the ocean. Hazel, when he investigates further, is scared. ‘Now that I’ve learnt about it’, he says, ‘I want to get away from it as soon as I can.’ Ben Goldfarb shares this sentiment. ‘Roads are, you might say, the routes of all evil,’ he declares in this masterly, readable and troubling survey of what... read more

Simon Nixon

You May Never See Us Again: The Barclay Dynasty – A Story of Survival, Secrecy and Succession

By Jane Martinson

David and Frederick Barclay were two of the most consequential British business figures of their times. Yet until recently, surprisingly little was known about them, which was exactly how the obsessively secretive and highly litigious twins liked it. That began to change when the family turned their legal guns on themselves. The brothers had fallen out by the time David died in 2021, while later that... read more

Florence Hazrat

Like, Literally, Dude: Arguing for the Good in Bad English

By Valerie Fridland

Does the misuse of the word ‘literally’ make your toes curl? Do the vocal tics of young ’uns set you worrying about the decline of the noble English language? You are not alone. But your fears are misplaced – at least according to the linguist Valerie Fridland. Fridland’s Like, Literally, Dude does an excellent job of vindicating words and ways of speaking we love to hate. Tracing your ‘verys’ and your singular ‘theys’ across centuries and continents, Fridland offers a... read more

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