Chronicling the Conservatives

The Conservatives – A History Robin Harris, London: Bantam Press, 2012 Robin Harris brings to his account of the Conservative Party not just impressive erudition but also many years’ inside experience of how the party operates and ‘feels’. He is a former director of the Conservative Research Department and government political adviser, and was a… Continue reading

Enoch re-examined

Enoch at 100 Edited by Greville Howard, London: Biteback, 2012 A century after his birth, the self-described ‘Tory anarchist’ John Enoch Powell is still capable of arousing devotion or detestation. After his death in 1998, a major memorial service was held in the Parliamentary church of St. Margaret’s, Westminster (beside the Abbey), attended by many… Continue reading

A postcode in play

Spitalfields: The History of a Nation in a Handful of Streets Dan Cruickshank, Random House, 2018 Every morning, I would be awakened by the cockerel across the road, and open the curtains to see an array of the east, each new sun lending brilliance and blue-hazed suggestiveness to eastern Middlesex and western Essex. Bow lay… Continue reading

New light on The Leopard

Lampedusa, Steven Price, London: Picador, 328 pages, £14.99 A review of a novel about the writing of a novel may seem too derivative – but when the novel being novelised is Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s mordant 1958 masterpiece The Leopard much could, and should, be forgiven. Luckily, nothing needs to be forgiven in Steven Price’s… Continue reading

Can the Greens change their colours?

Greens often make conservatives and populists see red – or Reds. In 2004, Australian politician John Anderson called his country’s Greens ‘watermelons…green on the outside, and very, very, very red on the inside’. His fruity metaphor has become something of a conservative cliché. It is easy to see why. Green policies are frequently further to… Continue reading

Emperor of imagination

King and Emperor – A New Life of Charlemagne Janet L. Nelson, London: Allen Lane, 2019, 659 pages, £25 Charles the Great looms out of the swirling obscurity of post-Roman Europe like the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria, signalling simultaneously radical renewal and an alteration of everything that came before. As Janet Nelson illuminates in her… Continue reading

Unending journeys

The Unsettling of Europe – The Great Migration, 1945 to the Present Peter Gatrell, Allen Lane, 2019, 548 pages, £30 Few subjects arouse such atavistic emotions as migration – whether the arrivals come as conquerors or as kin, fleeing ordeals or seeking opportunities. For incomers, migration can represent a dream, a rational choice, an urgent… Continue reading

Pet projects

The Animal’s Companion – People and their Pets – a 26,000-Year-Old History Jacky Colliss Harvey, London: Atlantic Books, 2019 The author starts this ambitious book with a redhaired man and his red setter wearing matching bandanas and sunglasses, who made her wonder why so many of us feel so impelled to allow unutterably alien animals… Continue reading

Europe, from Cretaceous to Anthropocene

Europe: A Natural History Tim Flannery, London: Allen Lane, 2018, 346 pages, £20 Seen from space, much of nighttime Europe blazes with light, evidence of industry, urbanism, and an existential restlessness that has long impelled Europeans to impose modernity on themselves and the world. Australian palaeontologist-ecologist Tim Flannery, amongst much else author of The Future… Continue reading

The bounding, boundless main

The Boundless Sea: A Human History of the Oceans David Abulafia, Allen Lane, 2019, 1,050 pages, £35 David Abulafia’s 2011 The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean set a standard in Middle Sea scholarship, charting a course from 22,000 BC to today, combining careful detail with epic sweep. This dazzlingly ambitious companion-piece looks… Continue reading