Social history

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…

Searching for Coco on the Côte d’Azur

15 June 2019 9:00 am

Anne de Courcy, an escapee from tabloid journalism, has become a polished historian of British high society in the 20th…

Desperate mothers, abandoned babies: the tragic story of London’s foundlings

4 May 2019 9:00 am

One of the oddest of Bloomsbury’s event venues must be the Foundling Museum. The handsome building on Coram’s Fields houses…

Cracking jokes with Dr Johnson

27 April 2019 9:00 am

I cast my Readers under two general Divisions, the Mercurial and the Saturnine. The first are the gay part of…

Illustrations by Philippe Cousin

The minefield of mime: ‘halt’ to an American signifies ‘hi’ to an Arab

15 December 2018 9:00 am

You may have read about this during the Iraq war. A group of local people approach an American position. A…

Henri-Charles-Ferdinand of Artois, Duke of Bordeaux and his sister Louise-Marie-Therèse of Artois at the Tuileries, by Louis Hersent (1777–1860)

How any mother — or baby — survived childbirth before the 20th century is astonishing

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Between 1300 and 1900 few things were more dangerous than giving birth. For poor and rich, the mortality rate was…

Kenneth Rose

High society and low gossip: the journals of Kenneth Rose

15 December 2018 9:00 am

Kenneth Rose was gossip columnist by appointment to the aristocracy and gentry. He was, of course, a snob — nobody…

‘Decorating for Christmas’ by Alfred W. Cooper (1854)

The pagan feast of Christmas

15 December 2018 9:00 am

This book, an excellent history of Christmas, made me think of a Christmas cartoon strip I once saw in Viz…

James Gillray’s ‘The Wig’. Hairdressing was a good time to catch up on the latest novel

The pleasures of reading aloud

26 August 2017 9:00 am

‘I have nothing to doe but work and read my Eyes out,’ complained Anne Vernon in 1734, writing from her…

Bellamont Forest, Co. Cavan (c.1728), often described as a perfect Palladian villa, was designed by Sir Edward Lovett Pearce for Thomas Coote

Bedding down with the butler in Georgian Ireland

21 May 2016 9:00 am

If you had the resources, Georgian Ireland must have been a very agreeable place in which to live. It was…

How did Britain ever have unarmed criminals?

8 November 2014 9:00 am

Once, both police and criminals in Britain routinely did without guns. How did that happen? And why did it change?

The People’s Songs, by Stuart Maconie - a review

20 July 2013 9:00 am

For Stuart Maconie fans, this book might sound as if it’ll be his masterpiece. In his earlier memoirs and travelogues,…

The Unwinding, by George Packer - review

13 July 2013 9:00 am

The Unwinding is a rather classy addition to the thriving genre of American apocalypse porn. The basic thesis can be…