The very human history of Holy Writ

The History of The Bible John Barton, Allen Lane, 2020, 622 pages, £9.99 Western civilization is inconceivable without The Bible. Its assumptions, language and metaphors resound through our activities and imaginations, even if we think we have rejected religion as superstition. But how did the Bible develop from folkloric Near Eastern origins to today’s omnipresence?… Continue reading

Call of the wild

Losing Eden – Why Our Minds Need the Wild Lucy Jones, Allen Lane, 2020, 272 pages, £14 Since the start of civilization, jaded townspeople have dreamed of escaping from the city and reconnecting with nature. In this highly personal but also well-informed study, Lucy Jones demonstrates that this is not just a sentimental yearning, but… Continue reading

Corona Humours VII – Paracelsus – from alchemy to chymistry

I am not intrinsically interested in health. It is part selfish complacency, but I have always felt that a society morbidly interested in healthcare is one lacking an essential confidence – one that is half-hypochondrical, self-pitying, querulously conscious of growing old while sorely missing old religious consolations. So to me the ongoing Corona saga is… Continue reading

Flows of history

Rivers of Power – How a Natural Force Raised Kingdoms, Destroyed Civilisations, and Shapes Our World Laurence C Smith, Allen Lane, 356 pages, £20 Geography can be history, and history geography – and sometimes the most obvious things are overlooked. Rivers of Power seeks to make us see beneath the surfaces of arterial waters, and… Continue reading

Corona Humours, Part VI

Reflections on mirrors, reflections in mirrors ‘A look of glass stops you And you walk on shaken: was I the perceived?’ John Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror Lockdown limps into months, and the mirrors in our home-prisons reflect much more than outside’s taunting sunlight, or the last few days’ huge moon. Every time we… Continue reading

Corona Humours – Part V

20th April, 2020 One of the hardest working words of the moment is ‘unprecedented’. The economic toll levied by Corona can certainly be seen as unprecedented. But the disease itself has had all too many predecessors. Over tragic millennia, waves of anthrax, bubonic plague, diphtheria, dysentery, malaria, measles, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid, typhus, whooping cough,… Continue reading

Corona Humours II

2nd April 2020 ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear’ Matthew, 11: 15 The lockdown and consequent grounding of aircraft, lessening of traffic, and closure of factories has made people much more conscious of the daily noises they do hear. Many of these are commonplace – cattle, trees, rain, movements in water, house… Continue reading