The Current Issue

December 2017, Issue 460 Laura Freeman on Vermeer's chemistry * Jonathan Meades on architecture * Richard Carwardine on President Grant * Philip Hensher on Thom Gunn * Tim Stanley on President Nixon * Rose George on the human body market * Michael Burleigh on China's rise * Owen Matthews on Putin's Russia * David Gelber on black Tudors * Jan Morris on forgotten lands * Charles Clarke on Gordon Brown * Samanth Subramanian on the Ganges * Sara Wheeler on Mary Wesley * Robin Oakley on Churchill on horseback * James Womack on Franz Kafka * Helen Tyson on Sarah Hall * Keshava Guha on Preti Taneja * 2017's Bad Sex Report *  and much, much more…

Richard Carwardine

Warrior in the White House

The ranking of American presidents by historians and political scientists is a much-loved exercise. Part of the fun is watching reputations rise and fall over time. Currently, even those who have long occupied the lowest places are on the move, since the 45th president, Donald J Trump, lifts all boats: the lamentable Civil War-era presidents James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson are each likely to rise a place, and so too the egregious Warren G Harding, who presided over a notoriously corrupt administration in the early 1920s. In recent years, no case of advance has been more striking than that of Ulysses S Grant, a two-term president who served from 1869 to 1877. After a century... read more

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Dmitri Levitin

Da Vinci's Difficult Genius

If writing a biography is difficult, writing a biography of someone deemed a ‘genius’ is positively perilous. The danger of producing hagiography is all too real, and all too familiar in the history of the genre. The locus classicus for such hagiography is the treatment of Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo in Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists (1550). It is not difficult to draw a direct line from Vasari’s celebration of such ‘divine’ artists ... read more

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