Lead book review

RAMC stretcher-bearers from the South Eastern Mounted Brigade enter the Field Ambulance dressing station at Y Ravine. Picture courtesy of Stephen Chambers

The other trenches: the Dardanelles, 100 years on

4 April 2015 9:00 am

Peter Parker discerns classical allusion amid the horror in two books commemorating the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign

Charles Dodgson

Stolen kisses and naked girls: there is much to wonder about in Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland

28 March 2015 9:00 am

A.S. Byatt explores the dark alternatives to innocence in Lewis Carroll’s deeply disturbing looking-glass world

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

James McConnachie discovers that some of the greatest English writers — Chaucer, Blake, Dickens, Wordsworth, Dr Johnson — drew inspiration and even comfort from walking around London late at night

Lieutenant William Alexander Kerr earns the Victoria Cross in the Great Uprising of 1857

British India — the scene of repeated war crimes throughout the 19th century

14 March 2015 9:00 am

William Dalrymple is uncomfortably reminded of the astonishing savagery by which the East India Company maintained the Raj throughout the 19th century

‘Orange, Red, Yellow’, 1956, by Mark Rothko

A strain of mysticism is discernible in the floating colour fields of Mark Rothko’s glowing canvases

7 March 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the perverse, tormented Mark Rothko, whose anger and depression — often painfully apparent in his art — only increased with his success

A ‘nurse log’ — a tree stump in which a seed has germinated, thereby avoiding browsing herbivores and the overshading of undergrowth. From Uncommon Ground by Dominick Tyler

Fizmer, feetings, flosh, blinter - enjoy these words and forget them immediately, advises Adam Nicolson

28 February 2015 9:00 am

It is not only archaic or dialect terms in natural history we’re now missing in everyday speech, says Adam Nicolson. Soon children won’t even know what a dandelion is

When the money ran out, so did the idealism in post-Revolutionary France

21 February 2015 9:00 am

Why did the French Revolution go so wrong, descending into a frenzied bloodbath in just five years? Because by 1794 all trust had vanished, and the country had literally run out of cash, explains Ruth Scurr

Roman mosaic from Pompeii depicting Darius III at the Battle of Issus (333 BC), in which he was defeated by Alexander the Great

Darius III: Alexander’s stooge

14 February 2015 9:00 am

The ‘Great Kings’ of Persia were renowned for their good looks and imposing stature, but they will always, throughout history, be eclipsed by the Greeks, says Tom Holland

John Galliano at Paris Fashion Week 2010

Drink, drugs and dressing-up: behind the scenes of the fashion industry

7 February 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher explores a dangerously intoxicating world, and discovers just how quickly famous designers can become an irrelevance

Tom Eliot — a very practical cat. Did T.S. Eliot simply recycle every personal experience into poetry?

31 January 2015 9:00 am

T.S. Eliot may have put much of his early life into his poetry, says Daniel Swift, but The Waste Land remains a marvellous mystery that defies explanation

King Louis IX embarks for the Crusades

The forgotten flowering of the medieval mind

24 January 2015 9:00 am

Sean McGlynn is delighted by a cultural journey through the Middle Ages, replete with philosophy, heresy and mysticism

The Merchant (left) and the Physician from the Ellesmere manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

A window on Chaucer’s cramped, scary, smelly world

17 January 2015 9:00 am

Sam Leith describes the frequently lonely, squalid and hapless life of the father of English poetry

Edith Pearlman in 2012

The short story in Britain today: enough to make Conan Doyle weep

10 January 2015 9:00 am

Philip Hensher bewails the current neglect of the short story, especially in the British literary press

Henry VIII, Edward VI, Charles I, George VI and George V

Game of thrones: five kings spanning five centuries launch a new series on royalty

3 January 2015 9:00 am

Nigel Jones reviews the first five titles to appear in a new series on British monarchs

‘The Lion Queen’

Roll up, roll up! A history of the circus from Ancient Egypt to the present

13 December 2014 9:00 am

Nell Gifford joins a colourful troupe of acrobats, contortionists, lion-tamers, freaks and funambulists

An unholy cross between Big Ben and Las Vegas, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower stands on an estimated 400 sites of cultural and historical importance

Mecca: from shrine to shopping mall

6 December 2014 9:00 am

The Saudis, official custodians of Islam’s holiest place, have bulldozed its historical sites, perverted its religion and turned Mecca into one vast shopping mall, says Justin Marozzi

Eugene O’Neill with his last wife, the actress Carlotta Monterey, who safeguarded him, and enabled him to write his later plays, though friends and family considered her his jailer

Eugene O’Neill: the dark genius of American theatre

29 November 2014 9:00 am

Sarah Churchwell on how Eugene O’Neill virtually single-handedly revolutionised American theatre in the first half of the 20th century

Matthew Parris on Owen Jones, Alan Johnson on hawks, David Crane on Noah’s Flood: Spectator books of the year

22 November 2014 9:00 am

A further selection of the best and most overrated books of 2014, chosen by some of our regular reviewers

Paul Johnson on Henry Kissinger, Susan Hill on David Walliams, Julie Burchill on Julie Burchill: Spectator books of the year

15 November 2014 9:00 am

Plus choices from Mark Amory, A.N. Wilson, Thomas W. Hodgkinson, Roger Lewis, Jonathan Mirsky, Jeremy Clarke, Stephen Walsh, Ferdinand Mount, Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Wynn Wheldon, Stephen Bayley, Jonathan Rugman, Alan Judd, Patrick Marnham, Richard Davenport-Hines, Michela Wrong, Byron Rogers, Sofka Zinovieff and Andrew Taylor

Iceland, depicted in a World Atlas of 1553

The Edge of the World: deep subject, shallow history

8 November 2014 9:00 am

Michael Pye appears out of his depth in a cold, grey sea in the mists of time, says Adam Nicolson

‘There was great danger of being kidnapped by licensed thugs and turned into a not-so-jolly Jack Tar’ George Morland’s ‘The Press Gang’ (1790s)

Terror plots, threats to liberties, banks in crisis: welcome to Britain during the Napoleonic Wars

1 November 2014 9:00 am

At the end of the 18th century, Britain shuddered in Boney’s shadow, living in constant expectation of invasion and occupation, says Nigel Jones

Outside Downing Street in June 1943. Ten years earlier, no one would have thought it remotely likely that Winston Churchill would be regarded as his country’s saviour

Does Boris Johnson really expect us to think he's Churchill?

25 October 2014 9:00 am

An eccentric, thoroughgoing genius, surfing every wave with a death-defying self-belief — Philip Hensher wonders who Boris Johnson can be thinking of

Cat among the pigeons: Jennifer Fry, the exotic beauty who so disrupted life at Farringdon House in the 1940s

My mad gay grandfather and me

18 October 2014 9:00 am

Mirabel Cecil on Lord Berners’s volatile ménage — as surprising and colourful as his famous dyed doves

Two small children dying together in the gutter in the Chinese famine of 1946

How Hitler's dreams came true in 1946

11 October 2014 9:00 am

In 1946, in the aftermath of a devastating war, the world seemed a very dark place indeed, says Sam Leith

What, in the end, was it all for? In a French caricature of 1814, Napoleon precariously spans Madrid and Moscow and begins to topple. Fontainebleau — scene of his abdication — is depicted centre-stage

If you want to admire Napoleon, it helps not to have met Gaddafi

4 October 2014 9:00 am

Napoleon’s exploits may have captured the world’s imagination, but the great European drama, played out over 20 years, was ultimately tawdry and pointless, says David Crane