Lead book review

Portrait of Ruskin dated 1870

John Ruskin: the making of a modern prophet

16 February 2019 9:00 am

At the time of his death in 1900, John Ruskin was, according to Andrew Hill, ‘perhaps the most famous living…

The catch from the Dogger Bank is landed on the beach at Schevingen from Dutch fishing vessels — or ‘doggers’

Fishing for meaning in vanished Doggerland

9 February 2019 9:00 am

Somewhere deep in the water-thick layers of Time Song, Julia Blackburn says, funnily, that in Danish, ‘the word for book…

Eric Hobsbawm, photographed in 1996. He admitted late in life that he had developed in youth ‘a facility for deleting unpleasant or unacceptable data’

How Eric Hobsbawm remained a lifelong communist — despite the ‘unpleasant data’

2 February 2019 9:00 am

Sir Richard Evans, retired regius professor of history at Cambridge, has always been a hefty historian. The densely compacted facts…

Map of West Africa, c.1547, depicting the trading fortress of São Jorge da Mina on the African Gold Coast.

The scramble for Africa goes back many centuries

26 January 2019 9:00 am

A thought kept recurring as I read Toby Green’s fascinating and occasionally frustrating book on the development of West Africa…

Ernst Jünger in Paris in 1941

Ernst Jünger — reluctant captain of the Wehrmacht

19 January 2019 9:00 am

Ernst Jünger, who died in 1998, aged 102, is now better known for his persona than his work. A deeply…

‘Arise Hungarians, your country calls you!’ The poet Sandor Petofi declaims the famous ‘Talpra Magyar’ on 15 March 1848. Lajos Kossuth stands to the right

Hungary is being led once again down a dangerous nationalistic path

12 January 2019 9:00 am

Norman Stone has already written, with a brilliant blend of humour, understanding and scepticism, histories of the Eastern Front, Turkey,…

‘The Break-up of the Ice’ by Claude Monet

How Calouste Gulbenkian became the richest man in the world

5 January 2019 9:00 am

Whenever I find myself visiting some great historic house, I always like to break off from gawping at tapestries to…

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning in the summer of 1912

Words to rally and inspire: stirring speeches from Elizabeth I to the present

15 December 2018 9:00 am

It was a surprise, on reading Speeches of Note, to find myself laughing and chuckling at the speech of a…

‘There is so little heartless work around. So I feel I am filling a small but necessary gap.’ Edward Gorey photographed in 1977 on the set he designed for the Broadway production of Dracula

Edward Gorey: master of the macabre

8 December 2018 9:00 am

‘A is for Amy who fell down the stairs/ B is for Basil, assaulted by bears…’ The Gashlycrumb Tinies, an…

Michelle Obama listens to the National Anthem at the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner in Washington, May 2009

Michelle Obama: ‘I was happy that Barack’s career came first’

1 December 2018 9:00 am

‘To me, he was sort of like a unicorn,’ writes Mrs Obama, looking back on her courtship days with Barack.…

Books of the year – part two

17 November 2018 9:00 am

Daniel Swift I feel as though I came late to the Sarah Moss party. Nobody told me she was this…

Books of the year – part one

10 November 2018 9:00 am

Andrew Motion Short stories seem to fare better in the US than the UK, and among this year’s rich crop,…

Contradictions are the bedrock of who she is: Germaine Greer photographed in 1993

Germaine Greer continues to shock and awe

3 November 2018 9:00 am

There is an African bird called the ox-pecker with which Germaine Greer, conversant as she is with the natural world,…

Under a spell: Philip Larkin with Eva in 1965

A little of Philip Larkin’s letters goes a long way

27 October 2018 9:00 am

On 13 September 1964, at the age of 42, Philip Larkin began writing to his mother Eva (his ‘very dear…

Whatever America is searching for, Trump isn’t providing it

20 October 2018 9:00 am

Donald J. Trump has sparked some soul- searching among US historians: has this happened before? Does it mean America has…

Pamela Hansford Johnson (right) and Elizabeth Taylor at a Book Society party in Knightsbridge in 1954

Lonely hearts and guilty minds: the world of Pamela Hansford Johnson

13 October 2018 9:00 am

The revival of interest in mid-20th century novelists is one of the most positive and valuable developments of our time.…

Giving the famous V-sign at the opening of RAAF headquarters, Croydon, 1948 [Getty]

Andrew Roberts’s generous new biography of the man who saved us in our darkest hour, Churchill reviewed

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Churchill must be the most written-about figure in public life since Napoleon Bonaparte (a subject, incidentally, to which Andrew Roberts…

‘Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche’, Edvard Munch, c. 1906

Nietzsche’s intense friendship with Wagner forms the core of Sue Prideaux’s excellent new biography

29 September 2018 9:00 am

In 1945, with the second world war won bar the shouting, Bertrand Russell polished off his brief examination of Friedrich…

Mount Longdon, Falkland Islands, where members of the 3rd Parachute Regiment died in fighting on 11–12 June 1982

Helen Parr’s intimate portrait of the Parachute Regiment – Our Boys – captures the essence of modern Britain

22 September 2018 9:00 am

On the night of 13 June 1982, Dave Parr was hit by shellfire on Wireless Ridge. He was 19, a…

Handel is rowed in a gondola on the Thames, in an illustration for ‘The Water Music’

Handel’s greatest hits — the glorious London decades

15 September 2018 9:00 am

England has been home to three great composer-entrepreneurs since 1700: Benjamin Britten in the 20th century; Arthur Sullivan in the…

Engraving of John Law in 1720, at the height of his power: adviser to the king of France and controller-general of finance

John Law: the Scottish gambler who rescued France from bankruptcy

8 September 2018 9:00 am

John Law was by any standards a quite remarkable man. At the apogee of his power in 1720, he was…

Joshua Reynolds’s portrait of Tysoe Saul Hancock, his wife Philadelphia (née Austen) and daughter Eliza (rumoured to have been the child of Warren Hastings) with their Indian maid Clarinda, c. 1764–5. Eliza was Jane Austen’s cousin and later sister-in-law, and is said to have inspired several of Austen’s characters, including the playful Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park

The scourge of Christian missionaries in British-Indian history

1 September 2018 9:00 am

Objectivity seems to be difficult for historians writing about Britain’s long and complicated relationship with India, and this makes the…

A woman churns butter while her customer and children wait. Below, her husband milks a cow with a calf tied to it

How scary is dairy?

25 August 2018 9:00 am

For tens of thousands of years, humans have been domesticating other mammals — cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, camels, llamas, donkeys,…

When Graves was wounded at High Wood on the Somme he was listed as dead. The sense of being a revenant probably affected him for the rest of his life. [Mary Evans Picture Library}

Ménage à quatre with Robert Graves

18 August 2018 9:00 am

‘I have a very poor opinion of other people’s opinion of me — though I am fairly happy in my…

Portrait of Dante by Luca Signorelli

The perfect guide to a book everyone should read

11 August 2018 9:00 am

‘The Divine Comedy is a book that everyone ought to read,’ according to Jorge Luis Borges, and every Italian has…