Ferdinand Mount

Ferdinand Mount’s books include Kiss Myself Goodbye, Making Nice and Big Caesars and Little Caesars: How They Rise and How They Fall, which was published in July.

Fans and Un-Fans

Ferdinand Mount, 22 February 2024

Carefree:​ that must be the essence of the sporting idea, whether you are doing it with Amaryllis in the shade, or on the village green with your grandchild Wilhelmine. You are disported, carried off out of yourself. In botany, a ‘sport’ is the wayward offshoot of an otherwise predictable shrub. The definition of ‘a real sport’ is a girl like Catherine Morland, the...

Frisking the Bishops: Poor Henry

Ferdinand Mount, 21 September 2023

The first thing​ people noticed about Henry, perhaps the only thing they noticed, was his droopy left eyelid. He was blond, of medium height for the times and pleasant looking, but otherwise unremarkable. Nobody ever claimed that he was clever. Later on, exasperated chroniclers denounced him as ‘simple-minded’, ‘senseless’ and ‘useless’ – simplex,...

The Bank of England​ had been in existence for only a few months when it was first called on to save the nation’s bacon. The second siege of Namur in the summer of 1695 was to prove the decisive engagement in the Nine Years’ War. It was a huge battle, more than 100,000 on each side. William of Orange was in personal command of the allied forces and was making headway against the...

Shades of Peterloo: Indecent Government

Ferdinand Mount, 7 July 2022

Priti Patel has recently empowered special constables for the first time to carry tasers – sabres by another name. Shades of Peterloo. Nor will there be any shortage of storage space for the noisy. The government boasts that it has embarked on the largest prison-building programme for a century. These five Acts of Parliament were all in force by the end of April. Each of them is intended to increase government control: over Parliament, over elections, over the courts, over immigrants and over public demonstrations. How it all brings back the dear dead days of 1819 – the hulks, the sabres, the bastilles, the transportation of illegal males without a chance to say goodbye, let alone take their families with them. For Boris Johnson, the outrage that these Acts have generated in lefty circles is not a drawback but a brilliant success. The whole thing is a deliberate strategy to enthuse his core vote and heighten their sense of imperilment. 

Swank and Swagger: Deals with the Pasha

Ferdinand Mount, 26 May 2022

The Ottoman regime allowed the British considerable latitude so long as they didn’t directly threaten Ottoman interests. The British themselves only slowly realised quite how lucky they were in having this vast, quiet buffer state to muffle the rivalries of the great powers. The Treaty of Paris of 1856 was a belated recognition that the Ottoman Empire was worth preserving for just this reason. The treaty not only brought an end to the Crimean War and made the Black Sea a neutral space closed to all warships but also admitted the Ottoman Empire to the Concert of Europe. The terms were no more welcome to Tsar Alexander II than they would have been to Vladimir Putin. All the same, the double shock of the Crimean War and the Indian Rebellion sharpened British anxieties. Clarendon’s thoroughfare became a military highway, with its security threatened on all sides. Paranoia culminated in Gladstone’s military occupation of Egypt in 1882, and the British became de facto rulers of the country – ‘what we all know, but never say’, as Edward Grey put it in 1906.

Sir John Low​ finally hung up his helmet seventy years after joining the Madras army in 1804, having served the East India Company as soldier, jailer, agent and councillor. As a rookie...

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You can tell Russia is not a real democracy because there is no great mystery about its politics. Democracies are slightly baffling in how they work: just look at America; just look at Europe; just...

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From Swindon to Swindon

Mary Beard, 17 February 2011

In February 1863, the newly founded Roman Bath Company opened its first premises in Jesus Lane, Cambridge. Behind an impressively classical façade, designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt, was a...

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Britain produces an extraordinary amount of commentary, in print, on television and on radio; so much that the production of opinion can seem to be our dominant industry, the thing we are best at...

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High Jinks at the Plaza

Perry Anderson, 22 October 1992

‘Constitutional theorists who wish to hold our attention must charm as well as instruct; this is not so, I think, in other countries,’ writes Ferdinand Mount. Who better to illustrate...

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Drabble’s Progress

John Sutherland, 5 December 1991

Some readers do not much like Margaret Drabble’s later novels because they are so different from her earlier successes. She may have lost one public and not as yet entirely won over...

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Love, Loss and Family Advantage

Rosalind Mitchison, 1 September 1983

Family Forms in Historic Europe is a collection of local studies from different parts of Europe, mostly based on ‘listings’: that is, on descriptions of the occupants of a local unit...

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