Napoleon’s Global War

David A. Bell

Oneof the strangest stories from the Napoleonic Wars involves several hundred soldiers from the French colony of Saint-Domingue, now Haiti. Some of these men had originally arrived in chains from Africa, and nearly all of them had lived in slavery until the massive, dramatic slave revolt of 1791. In 1801, they were serving under the charismatic, ambitious and independent-minded black...


Consumptive Chic

Kate Retford

Emma Hart, on the right, dancing the tarantella with a friend (1796).

In​ the 1770s, Ann Frankland Lewis began producing watercolour paintings of fashionable women’s dress. She continued creating these images for more than thirty years, charting the extraordinary changes that were taking place. They meticulously chronicle the demise of the early 18th-century mantua dress: the...


Baroque Excess

Erin Maglaque

FernandBraudel’s wife, Paule, remembered sitting with him on a wintry day at a café in Dubrovnik in the 1930s, watching a boat laden with firewood slowly coming into the port. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘we are in the 16th century.’ It was this sense of historical time that gave Braudel’s masterpiece, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age...

From the blog

Unreasonable Force

Jeremy Harding

1 December 2020

Lecturing at the Collège de France thirty years ago on the nature of the state, Pierre Bourdieu queried Weber’s notion that functioning states enjoy a monopoly of ‘legitimate physical violence’. Bourdieu already preferred the expression ‘legitimate and symbolic physical violence’, and in the lectures he commented: ‘One could even call it the “monopoly of legitimate symbolic violence”.’ In the last few years, the French police have overstepped the mark. The use of unreasonable force is nothing new. More worrying is the coincidence, on more than one occasion, of physical violence with sinister signals that make a mockery of the idea that the police are a ‘legitimate’ expression of symbolic violence on the part of the state. If they are, then France is in trouble.


Ministry of Apparitions

Writing about superstition by Matthew Sweeney, Hilary Mantel, Malcolm Gaskill, Patricia Lockwood, Theodore Zeldin, Katherine Rundell, Peter Campbell, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Angela Carter, Ian Penman and Leslie Wilson.

Close Readings


Close Readings

Seamus Perry and Mark Ford’s ‘revolutionary … ★★★★★’ (The Times) podcast about British and American poets from the long 20th century.


Félix Fénéon

Hal Foster

Which​ modern artists identified with anarchism? The Dadaists would be a good guess, but the truly political ones, such as John Heartfield and George Grosz, were communists, and since the early days of Proudhon and Marx anarchists and communists have been more rivals than comrades. The ultra-composed Neo-Impressionists aren’t obvious angels of chaos, yet Georges Seurat, Camille...


Kristeva on Dosto

Michael Wood

Julia Kristeva’s​ book on Dostoevsky appears in a series from Buchet/Chastel called ‘Les Auteurs de ma vie’. Earlier titles included works by Stefan Zweig on Tolstoy, Thomas Mann on Schopenhauer, Paul Valéry on Descartes, and contributions from living writers such as Marie-Hélène Lafon (on Flaubert) and Michel Schneider (on Pascal). The series was started...


Echo is a fangirl

Ange Mlinko

If you’re a poet, and also a philosopher of language who dotes on the real-world consequence of words, it comes as a shock that words have no bearing, finally, on death. ‘That you can’t edit.’ The great licentiousness of language lies in its counterfactuals: that is its source of invention, in play as well as villainy, but therein also lies Riley’s problem: she can be told her son is dead, she can say it to herself a hundred ways, but words are just that. It’s only with the continuation of his non-return that the fact sinks in.

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