History

A folding screen depicting views of Versailles

The splendour and squalor surrounding the Sun King

5 May 2018 9:00 am

The château at Versailles remained the grandest palace in the whole of Europe from the moment that Louis XIV established…

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North? Portrait of the prime minister by Batoni

Why are there no pubs called after Lord North?

24 March 2018 9:00 am

If you associate Lord Salisbury more with a pub than with politics, here is Andrew Gimson to the rescue, with…

For some soldiers, the VC was easier to win than to wear

24 March 2018 9:00 am

‘The Victoria Cross,’ gushed a mid-19th-century contributor to the Art Journal, ‘is thoroughly English in every particular. Given alike to…

The Marquis de Lafayette was inspired to fight in the American Revolutionary War

Why do people risk their lives to fight for a foreign cause?

17 February 2018 9:00 am

What’s the point of a cover if not to judge a book by? One look at the image on the…

Did a vodka ban precipitate the Russian Revolution?

16 December 2017 9:00 am

It’s one of the more mysterious features of human history that people of every era and in almost every place…

The vibrant tradition of English folk song

16 December 2017 9:00 am

After hundreds of densely packed pages on folk song in England — a subject for which I share Steve Roud’s…

The making of a happy home: cold milk for tea. A 1930s advertisement for General Electric

How cool is your fridge?

9 December 2017 9:00 am

Mrs Thatcher once explained that she adored cleaning the fridge because, in a complicated life, it was one of the…

Reinventing Baku: one of the three Flame Towers, comprising apartments, offices and a hotel, which dominate the old town. The project, costing an estimated US$350 million, was completed in 2012

Reading Norman Davies’s global history is like wading through porridge

2 December 2017 9:00 am

For many of us, life has become global. Areas which were previously tranquil backwaters are now hives of international activity.…

Making musical history: Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of Hamilton

Why has there never been a hit musical about the history of Britain?

11 November 2017 9:00 am

Americans may be able to draw on only 250 years of history, but they’re not shy of making a song…

From blissful dawn to bleak despair: the end of the revolutionary dream

4 November 2017 9:00 am

Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey were undergraduates when they met in June 1794, Coleridge at Cambridge university and Southey…

Cross-dressing in the Met. Policemen don women’s clothes to catch the Whitechapel murderer. Charles West (far right) leads the search in Jack the Ripper, 1974

Broken dreams

21 October 2017 9:00 am

In the expensive realm of musical comedy, it’s impossible to predict what will take off and what will crash and…

Finger counting from 1 to 20,000. From De Numeris by Rabanus Maurus. (Carolingian school, 9th century)

The magic of maths

9 September 2017 9:00 am

It’s odd, when you think about it, that mathematics ever got going. We have no innate genius for numbers. Drop…

The Normansfield Theatre in Teddington, a beautiful ‘lost’ Victorian playhouse, is still used for concerts and music-hall evenings, and by small opera companies

Pleasure palaces and hidden gems

9 September 2017 9:00 am

Theatre buildings are seriously interesting – as I ought to have appreciated sooner in the course of 25 years writing…

Mozart’s mischievous muse

2 September 2017 9:00 am

If you were to compare Mozart to a bird it wouldn’t be the starling. Possibly the wood thrush or nightingale,…

Aubrey Beardsley’s ‘The Climax’ — an illustration for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome

Flights of fancy

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Levitation. We all know what it is: the ‘disregard for gravity’, as Peter Adey puts it in his new book,…

Sheep being milked in a pen. (From the Luttrell Psalter, English School, 14th century)

Wool, wheat and wet weather

12 August 2017 9:00 am

Englishness is big business in the nation of shopkeepers, and not just in politics and tourism. In literature, the gypsy…

… and an awesome beak

5 August 2017 9:00 am

The Enigma of Kidson is a quintessentially Etonian book: narcissistic, complacent, a bit silly and ultimately beguiling. It is the…

Out of sorts at the RSC

22 July 2017 9:00 am

The RSC’s summer blockbuster is about Queen Anne. It’s called Queen Anne. It opens at the Inns of Court where…

Could vice-president Mike Pence be the most powerful man in America?

19 November 2016 9:00 am

Let’s take stock. Donald Trump, until last week, had never done a government job or held an elected office. He…

1916: Sorry, President Wilson, but this is not a gentlemanly war

4 June 2016 9:00 am

From ‘President Wilson and the Lessons of History’, 2 June 1916: Emphatically it is not a war of what we…

Warning: there’s a plague of fake blue plaques

4 June 2016 9:00 am

One of the great distinctions and pleasures of British life has been devalued by cheap imitations

Live like a laird: Brodie Castle

The saddest, most romantic view in Britain

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Is there a more forlornly romantic spot in Britain than the moors east of Inverness where the Jacobite dream died?…

BBC1’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream seems deliberately designed to flush out purists

4 June 2016 9:00 am

Spoiler alerts aren’t normally required for reviews of Shakespeare — but perhaps I’d better issue one before saying that in…

Gentlest and sweetest of dogs

Beautiful, wilful, never dull: in praise of Clumber spaniels

7 May 2016 9:00 am

For the first time in more than 30 years we have no Clumber spaniel. We have had five: Henry, Judith,…

Britain’s fight with European law goes back 750 years

30 April 2016 9:00 am

It is no surprise that the laws imposed on the UK by a European parliament in Brussels should so infuriate…