It Is No Yoke

Posted on by David Gelber

‘Why chuck good money after him?’ That was the reaction of my Greek barber, when we were recently discussing the possible restoration of King Constantine: ‘those kings, they just milk the people’. His words caught the gist of the anti-monarchical tradition in Britain, too, as revealed in Frank Prochaska’s crisp and cogent survey of the […]

Need for Magnificence

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Susan Bridgen is a rare creature among Tudor historians writing for a general audience. Her style is spare, her manner cool and impersonal. Not for her the luxuriant prose, the passionate engagement with the red-haired monarchs who first gave the English a sense of national pride. Yet out of this quietness she has produced a […]

United by a Common Language?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On 27 June, an extremely rare event took place in central London. The Anglosphere officially took to the stage for a morning of self-aggrandisement. The occasion was the gathering of a panel at the think-tank Policy Exchange to discuss the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, essentially the bedrock of Western defence. Present was an imposing collection […]

On the Road Again

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Elizabeth I’s second parliament, which met early in 1563, embarked on a busy legislative programme. There was an act reinforcing the royal supremacy, another regulating the navy and the famous Statute of Artificers, which set out the regulative framework for the economy and what we would now call industrial relations. There were also statutes making […]

From Great Power to PLC

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

David Edgerton is a myth-buster extraordinaire. Whether explaining how new technologies did not at once supersede old ones (steamships were slow to overtake clippers) or demonstrating that Britain was more than an industrial match for Germany in 1940 and by no means caught up in a spiral of terminal decline, he overturns long-cherished assumptions about […]

Move Over, St George

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Recovering and identifying the bones of dead kings has been much in the news recently. Richard III’s skeleton was famously rediscovered under a car park in Leicester in 2012, while in 2014 fragments of a skull found buried in front of the high altar at Hyde Abbey were identified as probably belonging to Alfred the Great, or possibly his son Edward

He Avoids Stonehenge and Rolling Stones

Posted on by Tom Fleming

The public apparition known as ‘Sir Roy Strong’ has been created partly by himself (his insistence on wearing those funny hats and drawling his exaggerated likes and dislikes on television) and partly by the satirists. Private Eye early took to calling him Dr Roy Strange, and Craig Brown, the best parodist since Max Beerbohm, has […]

Into the Fire?

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Readers aged over twenty-five will remember what it was like. The gruesome flared suits made from synthetic fibres. The Morris Marinas and Hillman Imps, cars which only started fifty per cent of the time. The fatalistic managements and the bloody-minded shop stewards. ‘Whaddawewan?’ ‘Tenpercent!’ ‘Whendawewannit?’ ‘NOW!’ Britain in the 1970s appeared to be trapped in […]

Euroscepticism Blown out of the Water

Posted on by Tom Fleming

Sooner or later, nations get the histories they need – different ones, of course, at different times. The early Victorians needed Macaulay’s brash, materialistic Whiggery; their less confident descendants a century later needed the more nuanced version offered by G M Trevelyan. By the same token, the bemused, post-imperial, post-modern citizens of the unravelling British […]

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He Names the Guilty Men

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Peter Hitchens’s book is a plangent lament for the old Britain, the land of warm beer and lengthening shadows on the village cricket pitch; but it can also be read as an obituary for the old Daily Express. When Hitchens joined the paper, in 1977, it was still the voice of grumpy suburban reactionaries. Now […]

Terms of Estrangement

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The term ‘British Asian’ is distinguished from most comparable sociological categories by the extent of its malleability and porosity. Its uses are as many as its abuses. Ziauddin Sardar, a Muslim journalist who grew up in east London and describes himself as ‘a critical polymath’, has undertaken to write a history of the term and […]

What the Sovereign Saw

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

It is six years since A N Wilson’s brilliant study of The Victorians appeared, soon followed by After the Victorians. Both books received high praise, and this third volume, bringing the story up to date, has been keenly awaited. Now that the trilogy is complete, it can be said with satisfaction that the verve, erudition […]

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Unelected & Underrated

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If Bonar Law is our unknown prime minister, Jim Callaghan is the most underrated. His years at No 10, between April 1976 and May 1979, are too often regarded as just an interlude between the Wilson and Thatcher eras, or, more broadly, between the hedonism of the Sixties and the capitalism of the Eighties. Yet […]

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