Lead book review

He who must be obeyed: portrait of the Kaiser by Ferdinand Keller, 1893

Kaiser Wilhelm's guide to ruining a country

2 August 2014 9:00 am

The life of Kaiser Wilhelm II is also a guide to how to ruin a country, says Philip Mansel

Who’s in, who’s out: George Bernard O’Neill’s ‘Public Opinion’ depicts a private view of the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy

The age of the starving artist

26 July 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the precarious fortunes of even the most gifted 19th-century artists

‘There is nothin’ like a dame’ — nice songs, shame about the lighting: Mitzi Gaynor in ‘South Pacific’, 1958

Why movie musicals matter – to this author anyway

19 July 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds much to like in a companion to musical films, and concludes that they matter very much – to the author anyway

An anti-Soviet rally in Moscow, February 1991: Gorbachev’s reforms resulted in the rise of his nemesis, Yeltsin

It's not just Putin who misses the Soviet empire. President Bush did, too

12 July 2014 9:00 am

In the latest – and best – of the books on the end of the USSR, Victor Sebestyen finds that the only good thing about the Soviet empire was the manner of its passing

Doctor Zhivago's long, dark shadow

5 July 2014 9:00 am

The banning of Dr Zhivago in the Soviet Union had unfortunate consequences for other fine 20th-century Russian novels, says Robert Chandler

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the scandalous 17th-century courtier whose hellfire reputation has overshadowed his fine satirical poetry

‘The Final Advance of the Guard’ by Nicolas Toussaint Charlet

An old soldier sees through the smoke of Waterloo

21 June 2014 8:00 am

David Crane on an old soldier’s account of a 200-year-old battle that will never fade away

Aimé Tschiffely with Mancha and Gato. The strongest emotional bonds he formed on his epic journey were with his horses

A horse ride from Buenos Aires to New York? No problem!

14 June 2014 8:00 am

Sam Leith marvels at a lone horseman’s 10,000-mile ride, braving bandits, quicksands, vampire bats and revolution in search of ‘variety’

Colonel James Tod, travelling by elephant through Rajasthan with his cavalry and sepoys (Indian school, 18th century)

From Scylax to the Beatles: the West's lust for India

7 June 2014 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the age-old allure of the Indian subcontinent

View of Baghdad in 1918

Baghdad's rise, fall – and rise again

31 May 2014 9:00 am

Ali A. Allawi on the fluctuating fortunes of Iraq’s fabled capital

Constant Lambert at the piano

The wit, wisdom and womanising of Constant Lambert

24 May 2014 9:00 am

Philip Hensher on the tragically short life of the ebullient and multi-talented musician, Constant Lambert

Odysseus and the Sirens

If you ever wanted a Homeric jump-start, this is your book

17 May 2014 9:00 am

Adam Nicolson plunges into Homer’s epic poetry and finds it inexhaustible. Sam Leith feels a touch of envy

Three of the best: Edward Thomas (left), Wilfred Owen (above right) and Edmund Blunden

Look again – the first world war poets weren't pacifists

10 May 2014 9:00 am

The patriotism of the Great War’s finest poets was neither narrow nor triumphalist but reflected an intense devotion to an endangered country and to a way of life worth dying for, says David Crane

Jorge Luis Borges and his ‘bitch’

3 May 2014 9:00 am

Ian Thomson on a miserable mismatch that became the talk of Buenos Aires in the Sixties

No worries: John Updike in his late fifties, on the beach at Swampscott, Mass

Up close and personal

26 April 2014 9:00 am

In recycling his most intimate encounters as fiction – including amazing feats of promiscuity in small-town New England – John Updike drew unashamedly on his own experiences for inspiration, says Philip Hensher

Churchill reading in his library at Chartwell

Churchill was as mad as a badger. We should all be thankful

19 April 2014 9:00 am

The egotistical Churchill may have viewed the second world war as pure theatre, but that was exactly what was needed at the time, says Sam Leith

Our leaders have betrayed the noble worker. Oh really?

12 April 2014 9:00 am

Alan Johnson cannot accept that the best days  of the British working class are over

‘There was no better way’: Ancient Celts or Gauls go into battle against the massed ranks of Rome, and are slaughtered for the good of posterity

War is good for us

5 April 2014 9:00 am

The argument that mankind’s innate violence can only be contained by force of arms may make for a neat paradox, but it fails to convince David Crane

Was Roy Jenkins the greatest prime minister we never had?

29 March 2014 9:00 am

Roy Jenkins may have been snobbish and self-indulgent, but he was also a visionary and man of principle who would have made a good prime minister, says Philip Ziegler

Management consultancy! Sculpture park! Sports stadium! The many faces of the Delphic Oracle

22 March 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith finds the most sacred site of Ancient Greece still a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma

A dreadful warning: a fisherman paddles through a tide of toxic waste on the Yamuna river, against a backdrop of smog and high-rise construction

Lawlessness, corruption, poverty and pollution: the city where we're all headed

15 March 2014 9:00 am

India’s vast polluted capital, where brutality, corruption and ruthless self-seeking are endemic, could be the blueprint of the future, says Peter Parker

Kim Philby at the press conference he called in 1955 to deny being the ‘Third Man’

Kim Philby got away with it because he was posh

8 March 2014 9:00 am

Kim Philby’s treachery escaped detection for so long through the stupidity and snobbery of the old-boy network surrounding him, says Philip Hensher

Secrets of Candleford: the real Flora Thompson

1 March 2014 9:00 am

Melanie McDonagh on Flora Thompson, whose revealing account of rural Oxfordshire life at the turn of the 19th century became a literary classic

The Artist Formerly Known As Whistler

22 February 2014 9:00 am

Sam Leith on the exasperating, charismatic painter who floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee

Faisal’s dark, liquid eyes and distinguished bearing caused a sensation at the Paris Peace Conference

The enlightened king of Iraq

15 February 2014 9:00 am

Alan Rush admires the humane, enlightened Faisal I, who fought with T.E. Lawrence and devoted his life to Arab rights, independence and unity