Social history

All work and no play is dulling our senses

2 March 2024 9:00 am

Ancient Greek philosophers reckoned that life was all about free time, but 16th-century puritanism dealt a blow to the old festive culture from which we’ve never fully recovered

Why are the Japanese so obsessed with the cute?

6 January 2024 9:00 am

Some see it as a way of appearing harmless after the second world war – but an infantile delight in frolicking animals dates back to at least the 12th century

Always carry a little book with you, and preserve it with great care, said Leonardo da Vinci

4 November 2023 9:00 am

Despite the digitisation of everything, many of us still choose to jot down thoughts and sketches on paper, and would be bereft without a notebook to hand

‘The truth will make us free’: students on the march in post-war Europe

21 October 2023 9:00 am

The radical Rudi Dutschke in 1960s Berlin and the angry Johnny Rotten in 1970s London are just two of the charismatic figures in this history of youth activism

What makes other people’s groceries so engrossing?

7 October 2023 9:00 am

Ingrid Swenson spent ten years retrieving discarded shopping lists at a London Waitrose, and the result is a rare glimpse into entire, private worlds

The difficulties faced by identical twins

7 October 2023 9:00 am

Being the genetic copy of another human not only presents problems of individuality but offers a ‘rare form of experimental control’, says William Viney

Never the doctor, always the nurse: the fate of women in post-war Britain

30 September 2023 9:00 am

For decades, undereducated girls were thwarted before they even started in the workplace, living in the slipstream of men and drip-fed with a sense of their own uselessness

Rooms with little left to view: the queer spaces of E.M. Forster and others

2 September 2023 9:00 am

Diarmuid Hester goes in search of the private places of eight remarkable figures from the 20th century, to find only Derek Jarman’s cottage preserved intact as a shrine

Black Britons betrayed

5 August 2023 9:00 am

Racism in Britain may be less acute than in America or even France, but the false promises made to the Windrush generation have left a bitter aftermath

So ancient, so new

17 June 2023 9:00 am

Its industrial new towns have nothing in common with its picturesque villages and lonely estuaries – but a refusal to conform still unites this deeply schizophrenic county

The glamour and romance of London’s vanished department stores

15 October 2022 9:00 am

There are two journeys I’ll need to make after reading Tessa Boase’s heartbreakingly poignant book about London’s lost department stores.…

How the travel industry convinced us we needed holidays

13 August 2022 9:00 am

In September 2019, Thomas Cook filed for compulsory liquidation, leaving 600,000 customers stranded abroad. It was a sorry end to…

The bizarre history of London’s private members’ clubs

13 August 2022 9:00 am

At the height of the IRA’s terrorist campaign on mainland Britain in December 1974, a bomb was lobbed through the…

Our long, vulnerable childhoods may be the key to our success

13 August 2022 9:00 am

Could our long journey to adulthood actually be the key to our success, wonders Sam Leith

Why should advocating sexual restraint be ridiculed?

9 July 2022 9:00 am

Louise Perry is on a mission: ‘It wasn’t enough just to point out the problems with our new sexual culture,’…

Eugenics will never work — thankfully

5 February 2022 9:00 am

The creation of a master race is an ancient idea which, thankfully, can never work, says Sam Leith

Is it an exaggeration to talk of a ‘gender war’?

5 February 2022 9:00 am

According to Nina Power’s forceful and rather unusual What Do Men Want?, we in the West are currently engaged in…

It’s a wonder any of our great country houses survived the 20th century

20 November 2021 9:00 am

One of Adrian Tinniswood’s recent books, The Long Weekend, is a portrait of country house life in the interwar years.…

When family viewing was full of creeping menace

7 August 2021 9:00 am

Strange, really, that the scheduled output of traditional broadcasters became known as ‘terrestrial’ television, given that TV is an etheric…

The foghorn’s haunting hoot is a sad loss

29 May 2021 9:00 am

Halfway through what must count as one of the more esoteric quests, Jennifer Lucy Allan finds herself on a hill…

Too much learning is a dangerous thing

12 September 2020 9:00 am

It is often said that the left does not understand human nature. Yet it is difficult to think of anything…

Where are the scents of yesterday? Entire countries have lost their distinctive smell

18 July 2020 9:00 am

Michael Bywater wonders why the existence of smell still seems such a guilty secret

How kind is humankind?

30 May 2020 9:00 am

Are humans by nature really more puppy than wolf? Oren Harman tests the science

There’s something hot about a hat

15 February 2020 9:00 am

When an American describes a woman as wearing a ‘Park Avenue Helmet’ you know exactly what is meant. This is…

When Cartier was the girls’ best friend

30 November 2019 9:00 am

The word ‘jewel’ makes the heart beat a little faster. Great jewels have always epitomised beauty, love — illicit or…