Miles Taylor emphasises ‘the agency of the queen’. She was never Melbourne’s puppet, and she did not become Disraeli’s either. In the process, we are made aware of the extreme oddity of Britain’s empire on the subcontinent and the peculiar impact that Victoria herself had on the way things went. She was by turns an evangelical zealot, an enthusiast for the expansion of her empire and a passionate humanitarian. But she was never quiet. In all her mutations she left her own mark on minds and events. It is not too much to say that this strange, self-educated, self-propelled little woman deserves a place among the makers of modern India. More
In her new book Joanne Freeman shifts her attention to the three decades leading up to the Civil War. She reports that not a session passed without punches being exchanged between congressmen, and knives and pistols being drawn. The pervasiveness of violence among lawmakers will surprise even specialists in 19th-century American history. From the mid-1830s to the outbreak of war in 1861, Freeman counts more than seventy violent incidents – duels, fistfights, stabbings – in the halls of Congress and the surrounding streets. Anticipating violence, she writes, congressmen regularly ‘strapped on knives and guns’ before heading to work. More
A few pictures have come to represent Félix Nadar’s work: Charles Baudelaire, undated, but probably between 1855 and 1862, standing in his elegant dark coat, half-unbuttoned waistcoat and bow tie, hands in pockets, staring back at the camera – defiant perhaps, but with the mouth and the eyes, which Nadar called ‘two drops of coffee’, betraying some vulnerability. Victor Hugo, side-on, avuncular, or on his deathbed; a glacial Eugène Delacroix; the incredibly joyless Goncourt brothers; a series of portraits of George Sand, who went to Nadar in desperation after a competitor had captured with great vividness her drooping mouth and double chin. The image was ‘making everyone scream’, Sand wrote to Nadar. More
There is a fine Scots word for the sale of the contents of a house, farm or factory: a ‘displenishment’. We have certainly witnessed the displenishment of Great Britain. James Hamilton-Paterson’s grief, his sense of injury and loss, is eloquent. But, speaking for myself, I can’t share that ‘brand’ nostalgia. I would trade a hundred Hillman Imps or a dozen Bristol Britannias for one Man from the Ministry, standing outside an ‘advance factory’ waving an Industrial Development Certificate. He didn’t stand around in a wasteland of nail-bars and food banks, squeaking that ‘Britain is open for business!’ He planned the business, planted it where it was needed and gave it a launching push with public money. More
VIDEO The Horror of Doubt
AUDIO What would it be like?