Right Royal Revenge

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In June 1660, John Hutchinson, one of the Parliamentary army’s ‘flinty colonels’, faced mortal danger. As his signature was on the death warrant of Charles I, he was now looking at the prospect of being hanged, drawn and quartered. Happily for him his wife, Lucy, a Latin scholar and translator of Lucretius, one of a […]

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Blood, Gold & Ivory

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Out of Africa always something new,’ wrote Pliny the Elder in Historia Naturalis. This wide-ranging survey, The Fortunes of Africa, spanning 5,000 years, offers ample proof of Pliny’s observation. Although much of the information contained in Martin Meredith’s vast and vivid panorama will be familiar to readers, such a wide-angle viewpoint gives his ambitious continental […]

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Ruling Passions

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘By foregrounding politics and political lives, this book hopes to provide a richer, more nuanced context for the contemporary understanding of the economic rise of Asia,’ writes Ramachandra Guha in the introduction to Makers of Modern Asia. For many years academic historians have apparently disparaged what he calls ‘the biographical method’. Now, in ‘rediscovering the […]

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Making Waves

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The North Sea is a harsh mistress. The peoples living along its shores have long rejoiced in its bounty of fish and, more recently, oil. Yet they have been equally fearful of its terrible storms – the worst, in 1953, killed over 2,500 people and inundated vast areas of the Netherlands – and of the […]

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Lines of Beauty

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907) was the finest and most consistent practitioner of High Victorian Gothic architecture, and as such he richly merits this scholarly, well-illustrated and beautifully produced monograph. As a nineteen-year-old he joined the highly productive offices – some would say factory – of that busy Goth, Sir George Gilbert Scott, and it was […]

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Socialists & Socialites

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When Selina Hastings and her younger sister were small, their parents, Lord and Lady Huntingdon, occupied chambers in Albany, the muted Piccadilly enclave where the leases prohibit children from living. The girls were allotted a small house in Richmond, where they were attended by a cook and nursery governess. Her first memory of her father […]

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A Composer & a Gentleman

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Throughout a long life, George Frideric Handel consistently bucked the stereotype of the 18th-century composer. Except very briefly, and even then as a mere stepping stone to greater opportunities, he never clocked in as a church organist or a court capellmeister. As nobody’s humble servant, he spent as little time as necessary dancing attendance on […]

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The Argentine Connection

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Adolf Eichmann’s notoriety waxed as his influence waned. During the Nuremberg Trials, a succession of defendants and witnesses fingered him in absentia. It became highly convenient to displace responsibility for the persecution of the Jews onto his shoulders. Contrary to what many historians (including myself) have assumed, in the immediate postwar years Eichmann was targeted […]

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A Georgian Caliban

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

All but a few crumbs of the available archive materials have been studied, every political and psychological theory has been applied, filters of every colour – whitewash, deepest red, pitch black – have been inserted into historians’ lenses: after the revelations of the last twenty years, little fundamentally new can be said about Joseph Stalin. […]

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Our Island Stories

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Have you forgotten Ethelbreth? Do you have difficulty remembering dates? Do you find television historians interesting in any way? Do you feel sluggish? Do you feel postmodernism has lost the plot? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then this book is for you. It’s the perfect pick-me-up. In fact, I could hardly […]

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Rising Stars

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

My mother was born in 1900 in a small town in County Galway, far from the voguish vegetarian restaurants and feminist covens of the Dublin intelligentsia. Yet she caught the whiff of the zeitgeist, recalling those early years of the 20th century in Ireland as the most exciting, sizzling, expectant and exhilarating period there could […]

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Chaos Theories

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘Everything has changed in our civilisation; it has made much fortunate progress, but it has also left us some new vices’, wrote Joseph Fouché, Napoleon’s former police chief, with some pessimism, after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. It was ‘no longer possible to govern men in the same manner’, he feared, and he was […]

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The Curtain Falls

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 1 July 1946, an eight-year-old boy called Henryk Blaszczyk went missing from his home in Kielce, central Poland. His panic-stricken parents went to the police, but two days later little Henryk turned up with a basket of cherries, having gone on an epic expedition to pick fruit from the family’s old house some twenty […]

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In Fear of the French

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

As the teacher of a university course on British history, I have read hundreds of essays on the question ‘How did the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars impact on Britain?’ There is almost too much for students to write about. The collapse of the Foxite Whig party led to the long parliamentary dominance of Pittite […]

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The Great Sell-Off

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Private Island is a fierce left-wing polemic against the core principles of what is easiest encapsulated as ‘Thatcherism’: the credo that the private sector can deliver most public services more cost-effectively than the state; that it’s better for families to be homeowners in command of their own circumstances than permanent tenants and clients of the […]

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Green Shoots

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

It would be easy to suggest that, the title of her book notwithstanding, nothing much has changed in Naomi Klein’s analysis of world affairs. As in her two previous books, Klein identifies neoliberalism and the restructuring of global business and finance initiated in the Thatcher and Reagan era as the forces exacerbating the problems of […]

Fifty-Year War?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This January, few experts took much notice of the Iraqi army’s difficulties in retaking Falluja from Islamist terrorists. But when Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), as these jihadis called themselves, captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, on 10 June after just three days of fighting, the world did notice and it was […]

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Nibs Drawn

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Richard Bradford’s 2011 biography of Martin Amis got a royal bollocking from reviewers. Mine, I recall, was one of the few favourable notices. The unfavourable many emptied buckets of excrement on the author’s head. David Sexton, in the Evening Standard, for example, wrote: The problem isn’t that Bradford is hostile. He’s not, he’s servile. The […]

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Knole Me Tangere

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Vita Sackville-West is considered a lesbian icon. Nigel Nicolson caused a storm in 1973 when he published Portrait of a Marriage, an account of the affair between his mother, Vita, and Violet Trefusis. Victoria Glendinning revealed the full story of Vita’s love life in her biography, published in 1983. In this astute and engaging book, […]

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‘Hammer hammer adamantine words’

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The second volume of Samuel Beckett’s Letters charted his emergence as a major French-language writer in the postwar era and the financial rewards that came with successful productions of Godot both in Europe and across the Atlantic. Volume III, covering the years 1957 to 1965, sees a tentative return to English – or a queer […]

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