James McConnachie

William Hogarth’s ‘Night’, in his series ‘Four Times of the Day’ (1736), provides a glimpse of the anarchy and squalor of London’s nocturnal streets

Dickens’s dark side: walking at night helped ease his conscience at killing off characters

21 March 2015 9:00 am

In England, walking about at night was a crime for a very long time. William the Conqueror ordained that a…

Perhaps the most formative years in our history were when ‘every second person suddenly died in agony — and no one knew why.’ Above, plague victims are blessed by a priest in the 14th-century ‘Omne Bonum’ by James le Palmer

Why the most important years in history were from 1347 to 1352

1 November 2014 9:00 am

A group of retired Somerset farmers were sitting about in the early 1960s, so Ian Mortimer’s story goes, debating which…

The dangerous allure of the unseen. Students of the occult are alarmed by their own success in conjuring up the dead

An invisibility cloak? You might just be able to see it on the horizon...

9 August 2014 9:00 am

The best books by good writers — and Philip Ball is a very good writer indeed — are sometimes the…

English tea-chests are thrown into Boston harbour, 16 December 1773

A Labour MP defends the Empire – and only quotes Lenin twice

14 June 2014 8:00 am

In a grand history of the British empire — because that is what this book really is —  you might…

Portrait of T.E. Lawrence by Augustus John

Lawrence of Arabia, meet Curt of Cairo

8 March 2014 9:00 am

How do you write a new book about T.E. Lawrence, especially when the man himself described his escapades, or a…

In the heart of darkness, the atom bomb

23 November 2013 9:00 am

At the dark heart of this dark book is a startling fact: Joseph Conrad was employed to steam up the…

Hogarth and the harlots of Covent Garden were many things, but they weren't 'bohemians'

2 November 2013 9:00 am

It was Hazlitt who said of Hogarth that his pictures ‘breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air’, and the same…

The Rocks Don’t Lie, by David R. Montgomery - review

31 August 2013 9:00 am

This is a book about the clash of faith and reason over the truth or otherwise of a catastrophic, world-shaping…

Things a conductor can do with his left hand

What do conductors actually do? Review of 'Inside Conducting' by Christopher Seaman

20 July 2013 9:00 am

Conductors love telling stories, especially stories about other conductors, and every chapter of this otherwise determinedly pragmatic book begins with…