Book review – social history

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,…

Photograph of an almshouse waif by Lewis W. Hine, entitled ‘Little Orphan Annie in a Pittsburg Institution’ (1909) [Bridgeman Art Library]

‘I am not a number’: the callous treatment of orphans

4 August 2018 9:00 am

Orphans are everywhere in literature — Jane Eyre, Heathcliff, Oliver Twist, Daniel Deronda, and onwards to the present day. They…

View of a drawing room, c. 1780 by Philip Reinagle

The short step from good manners to lofty imperialism

23 June 2018 9:00 am

In the gap between what we feel ourselves to be and what we imagine we might in different circumstances become,…

Did the Grenfell Tower fire put paid to the social housing ideal?

21 April 2018 9:00 am

As a schoolboy, I used to go round to my best mate Mike’s home. It was a good place: a…

Cockney comfort food: eel, pie and mash to the sound of Bow bells

31 March 2018 9:00 am

Cockney feet mark the beat of history, sang Noël Coward, as if he had ever been east of Holborn. Yet…

Timothy Leary — apostle of acid and, according to Richard Nixon, ‘the most dangerous man in America’

A strange vibration

22 July 2017 9:00 am

Among the many curiosities revealed in this book, few are more startling than the fact that at the height of…

The dying days of the English country house

28 May 2016 9:00 am

Contrary to popular myth, the exuberant flame of life in the English country house was not extinguished by tears at…

Life gets faster — as the Earth slows down

16 April 2016 9:00 am

Modern life is too fast. Everyone is always in a hurry; people skim-read and don’t take the time to eat…

The writer Natalie Barney and painter Romaine Brooks in Paris c. 1915

From Auden to Wilde: a roll call of gay talent

9 April 2016 9:00 am

The Comintern was the name given to the international communist network in the Soviet era, advancing the cause wherever it…

What makes the white working class angry? Twits like Hsiao-Hung Pai

19 March 2016 9:00 am

This is a quite remarkable book. Badly written, devoid of anything even vaguely approaching a methodology, patronising, hideously mistaken on…

Nessie’s enduring attraction

12 December 2015 9:00 am

It wasn’t until I drove past Loch Ness a couple of years ago that I realised just how enormous it…

American teenagers in the 1940s: part of the Silent Generation — so called for conforming to the norm and focusing on careers rather than activism

Older, more angsty...and maybe wiser: the new face of growing up

2 May 2015 9:00 am

We live in an age of generational turmoil. Baby-boom parents are accused of clinging on to jobs and houses which…

The Babies Castle, a branch of Dr Barnardo’s at Hawkhurst, Kent in 1934

Love child or bastard: the lottery of being born on the wrong side of the blanket

21 March 2015 9:00 am

My father was handed over a shop counter when he was a day old. His aunt had tried to pass…

Life in the LA ghetto was nasty, brutish and short — until one brave detective took on the gangs

21 March 2015 9:00 am

Los Angeles ghetto life — thrashed, twisted and black — is not a world that most Americans care to visit.…

Another enemy within: Thatcher (and Wilson) vs the BBC

7 March 2015 9:00 am

In a ‘Dear Bill’ letter in Private Eye, an imaginary Denis Thatcher wrote off the BBC as a nest of…

Our leaders have betrayed the noble worker. Oh really?

12 April 2014 9:00 am

In his essay on the ‘Peculiarities of the English’, E.P. Thompson gave his theoretical definition of class: When we speak…

Hotel Chelsea

Where artists went to drink and die

8 February 2014 9:00 am

Once below a time (to quote the man himself) the bloated poet Dylan Thomas slouched back to New York’s Chelsea…

What nannies know

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Soon after moving to London at the age of 20, Nina Stibbe wrote to her sister Vic saying, ‘Being a…