Church Militant

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

According to the Knights Hospitallers’ own foundation legend, their origins went back to a time before the Crusades and even before Christ. They held that their original hospital in Jerusalem had been founded by the Seleucid Antiochus III in the third century BC. The real origin of this order of fighting churchmen was more recent […]

From Iris to Sofia

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Spin-off biographies are dangerously tempting. Researching a major subject always reveals rabbit holes down which the biographer could happily disappear, never to rejoin the main burrow. Often it’s a mistake to go back to the warren at all. But if the author is as accomplished as Peter Conradi, acclaimed biographer of Iris Murdoch, then it’s […]

Mon Père, ce héros

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘The Will’, ‘The Telegraph’, ‘The Suicide’, ‘Expiation’, ‘Toxicology’ – even the most cursory glance at its chapter titles suggests The Count of Monte Cristo is a novel that has everything. The tale of a hero doomed not to share in the happiness he creates for others, it deals in monumental themes – liberty, injustice, ambition, […]

Keeping the Flame Alive

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

French historians have long been interested in the Nachleben, or ‘after life’, of significant markers of national identity, arguably the greatest development in French historiography since the Annales School. Pierre Nora’s seven-volume Les Lieux de Mémoire is epic testament to that, all attractively abridged into the trilogy Realms of Memory for more casual Anglo-Saxon readers. […]

Saviour of Moscow

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

On a visit to the Lenin Museum outside Moscow last year, I bought some trinkets from the small booth selling souvenirs. I saw two miniature die-cast metal figurines, not very clearly, and asked to buy them. I assumed they would be models of Lenin. It turned out that one was Stalin and the other was […]

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RLF - March