Lead book review

The great Ascension Day pageant of the Doge performing the marriage of the sea — already a tourist attraction in 17th-century Venice.

What Englishmen learnt from Europe

1 February 2014 9:00 am

The pattern of foreign travel by wealthy young Englishmen that became known as the Grand Tour began in the Renaissance…

Reviewing reviews of reviews — where will it all end? 

25 January 2014 9:00 am

About halfway through reading this collection of essays I had one of those hall-of-mirrors moments. These are mostly book reviews,…

My family's better days

18 January 2014 9:00 am

The Sargent painting reproduced opposite suggests the wealth and comfort that these three sisters, Mary, Madeline and Pamela, were born…

'She's the most important Jewish writer since Kafka!'

11 January 2014 9:00 am

The Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector was a riddlesome and strange personality. Strikingly beautiful, with catlike green eyes, she died in…

How we lost the seasons

4 January 2014 9:00 am

So, what are you doing with your Christmas decorations? Still up? Did the tree get put out on 2 January?…

How honest was Bernard Berenson?

14 December 2013 9:00 am

When the great Jewish-American art expert Bernard Berenson died in 1959, he had acquired the status of a sort of…

If only Craig Raine subjected his own work to the same critical scrutiny he applies to others' 

7 December 2013 9:00 am

It’s important not to be too immediately dismissive of poor Craig Raine. Book reviewers and editors like him, who invent…

In the steppes of a warlord

30 November 2013 9:00 am

I suspect travel writing was once a fairly simple business: the author travelled somewhere, the reader did not; the author…

Spectator writers' Christmas book choices

23 November 2013 9:00 am

Byron Rogers Rhys Davies by Meic Stephens (Parthian, £20). This is the first full-length biography of the grocer’s son from…

Spectator writers pick their books of the year

16 November 2013 9:00 am

Mark Mason JFK’s Last Hundred Days by Thurston Clarke (Allen Lane, £20) brilliantly captures Kennedy’s entire life through the prism…

Why do we pounce on Wagner's anti-Semitism, and ignore that of the Russian composers?

9 November 2013 9:00 am

Before ‘nationalism’ became a dirty word, it was the inspiration for all sorts of idealistic and reform-minded people. This was…

How we beat Napoleon

2 November 2013 9:00 am

It feels the height of ingratitude to blame Jane Austen for anything, but it probably is her fault that most…

George Orwell's doublethink

26 October 2013 9:00 am

This is the most sensible and systematic interpretation of George Orwell’s books that I have ever read. It generously acknowledges…

How to avoid bankers in your nativity scene

19 October 2013 9:00 am

In the vast Benedictine monastery of Monte Oliveto Maggiore between Siena and Rome, the cycle of frescoes depicting the life…

Cat fight: tension mounts between the Great Powers in 1905 as Edward VII, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the French foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, squabble over Morocco

What caused the first world war?

12 October 2013 9:00 am

The centenary of August 1914 is still almost a year away, but the tsunami of first-world-war books has already begun.…

England’s 100 best Views, by Simon Jenkins - review

5 October 2013 9:00 am

I couldn’t decide on starting England’s 100 Best Views whether it was a batty idea for a book or a…

Colette’s France, by Jane Gilmour - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Monstrous innocence’ was the ruling quality that Colette claimed in both her life and books. Protesting her artless authenticity, she…

To 'Flufftail' from 'Pinkpaws': The Animals is only good for celebrity-spotting

21 September 2013 9:00 am

There is a fine old tradition of distinguished literary men addressing their loved ones by animal-world pet names. Evelyn Waugh…

Why does Max Hastings have such a hatred for the British military?

14 September 2013 9:00 am

One of the great problems for any historian writing of 1914 and the slide into conflict is that everyone knows…

Danubia, by Simon Winder - review

7 September 2013 9:00 am

Why do we know so little about the Habsburg empire, given that it is the prime formative influence on modern…

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…

The Huguenots, by Geoffrey Treasure - review

24 August 2013 9:00 am

France’s early 21st-century Protestants are eco-friendly, gender-sensitised and respectful of the Fifth Republic’s laïcité. But their ancestors were a less…

The Selected Letters of Willa Cather, edited by Andrew Jewell - review

17 August 2013 9:00 am

Willa Cather is an American novelist without name-recognition in Europe, yet she had a wider range of subject and deeper…

Tudor, by Leanda de Lisle - review

10 August 2013 9:00 am

As parvenus, the Tudors were unsurpassed. In the early 15th century no one would have predicted that within a couple…

Glorious Misadventures, by Owen Mathews - review

3 August 2013 9:00 am

So: Russia’s imperial possessions on the Pacific North West of America. Remember those? No. Me neither. Something vague about the…