Glories of geography

Antarctic Atlas: New Maps and Graphics That Tell the Story of a Continent Peter Fretwell, Particular Books, 2020, 208 pages, £35 Strata. William Smith’s Geological Maps Foreword by Robert Macfarlane, Thames & Hudson, 2020, 256 pages, £50 ‘Tis the season of complacency, when we sit in warmth and shiver vicariously with Mary and Joseph out… Continue reading

Eager for beavers

Bringing Back the Beaver Derek Gow, London: Chelsea Green, 2020, hb, 208 pages, £20 Conservationists are frequently criticised for focusing on glamorous species at the expense of others equally important, but unluckily uglier – pandas rather than pangolins, birds rather than bats, and monkeys rather than mole-rats. Europe’s frankly lumpy largest rodent, the European beaver,… 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

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