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

Stream of national consciousness

Mudlarking Lara Maiklem, Bloomsbury, 2019 The 1950 B-film The Mudlark tells of an urchin who ekes out an unpleasant existence scavenging the slimy Thames foreshore. He finds a coin bearing the head of Queen Victoria, and creeps into Windsor Castle to see the sequestered sovereign for himself. Through sheer goodhearted pluck, he succeeds where sophisticated… Continue reading

Living with Leviathan

The Last Whalers, Doug Bock Clark, Little Brown, 2019 Our relations with cetaceans have always been charged with danger and delight, represented by the extremes of Revelation’s “beast out of the sea”, and the frescoed dolphin-riders of Pompeii. Rare, huge, and unknowable, whales have traditionally been omens, or metaphors for improbability – “very like a… Continue reading

The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen

Gothic architecture The Adventures of Simplicius Simplicissimus Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen Introduced by Kevin Cramer, translated by J. A. Underwood, Penguin, 2018, 462 pps., £12.99 On 23 May 1618, Bohemian Protestants pushed two Catholic governors and their secretary through the windows of Prague Castle, in protest at the anti-Protestantism of Bohemia’s King Ferdinand, soon to be… Continue reading