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W.R. Mead, 16 October 1980

The English Heartland 
by Robert Beckinsale and Monica Beckinsale.
Duckworth, 434 pp., £18, June 1980, 0 7156 1389 8
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The English Village 
by Richard Muir.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 0 500 24106 6
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... professionals must be included Robert and Monica Beckinsale; among the self-confessed amateurs, Richard Muir. The Beckinsales – one native to the north Cots-wolds and the other to the Vale of the White Horse – present what is for them the English heartland. Richard Muir, nostalgic for the Nidderdale hamlet of ...

Spot and Sink

Richard J. Evans: The End of WW1, 15 December 2011

With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 
by David Stevenson.
Allen Lane, 688 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 0 7139 9840 5
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... 265,000 Italians surrendered and 400,000 fled in confusion, while the pursuing forces advanced 50 miles in just over two days. Most important of all, the October Revolution and the disintegration of the tsarist army took Russia out of the war. This enabled the Germans to redeploy huge numbers of troops – their forces on the Western Front increased from 3.25 ...

When the Jaw-Jaw Failed

Miles Taylor: Company Rule in India, 3 March 2016

The Tears of the Rajas: Mutiny, Money and Marriage in India 1805-1905 
by Ferdinand Mount.
Simon & Schuster, 784 pp., £12.99, January 2016, 978 1 4711 2946 9
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... their carrot and stick ways by the Wellesley brothers (Arthur, the future duke of Wellington, and Richard). They took Low under their wing. His career as company handyman had begun. Men like Low were crucial to company rule in India. When he arrived in Jaipur in 1825 on his first big posting, the company’s resources were at full stretch. Two ...

Most Curious of Seas

Richard Fortey: Noah’s Flood, 1 July 1999

Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History 
by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., £17.99, February 1999, 0 684 81052 2
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... that this alleged evidence is a natural geological structure, a syncline, located about 20 miles from Mount Ararat in Turkey – not far as the raven flies from the Black Sea. A syncline is a structure produced by gentle tectonic forces, a fold in strata, shaped like a cupped hand. If one developed in bedded rocks of the right thickness it might ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... of pater estquem nuptiæ demonstrant; his consequent misfortunes involve him with a villain called Richard Craufurd, whom Bulwer-Lytton based on the banker Henry Fauntleroy, who had been hanged for forgery before a crowd of 100,000 people at Newgate in 1824. The central male figure in Lucretia is an artist, murderer and forger called Gabriel Varney, who was ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Size of Wales, 23 May 2002

... woolly mammoths, in order to sustain a viable population, would have to be the size of Wales (see Richard Fortey’s article in this issue). A handy website,, has a ‘Walesometer’ for converting hectares/acres/square miles/square kilometres into Waleses. It shouldn’t be too long ...

Back to Isfahan

Richard Lloyd Parry, 27 April 2000

A Good Place to Die 
by James Buchan.
Harvill, 343 pp., £10.99, September 1999, 1 86046 648 6
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... man who escapes the nullness of life in posh London to become a scared, amateur spook in Beirut. Richard, the hero of Heart’s journey in Winter, is another ambiguous journalist-spy, this time in Cold War Germany. John Pitt’s historical moment – Iran during the Revolution – is the most dramatic of all, and his relationship with the British ...

The Absolute End

Theo Tait: Ali Smith, 26 January 2012

There but for the 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 356 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 0 241 14340 7
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... targets are a ghastly pair called Gen and Eric, whose spare room in Greenwich is invaded by Miles Garth, a man they hardly know, after they invite him to dinner. The action, in both novels, tends to be seen from the point of view of outsiders, particularly children, who are above or outside the adults’ cheap compromises (children ‘are so true’, a ...

Got to keep moving

Jeremy Harding, 24 May 1990

Crosstown Traffic: Jimi Hendrix and Post-War Pop 
by Charles Shaar Murray.
Faber, 247 pp., £7.99, November 1989, 0 571 14936 7
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by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe.
Macmillan, 400 pp., £13.95, February 1990, 0 333 53195 7
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... music could have explored’. Further support for his case can be adduced from the fact that Miles Davis and Hendrix were playing and hanging out together a year before Hendrix’s death. There were hopes that the two men would make a recording, but it never happened. In his recent Autobiography, however, Davis is just as condescending about ...


Richard Altick, 3 December 1981

The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 312 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 300 02739 7
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... spent a huge sum outfitting itself. On the opening day the road to Eglinton was clogged for thirty miles as 100,000 commoners (it was said) gathered to watch Scott’s romances brought to life. But within a few hours a raging storm sent them slogging homeward through morasses of mud, and the blue-blooded cast and audience, their Medieval hair-dos now sodden ...


Richard Gott: Paraguayan Power, 21 February 2008

... shopping centre in Latin America outside Panama), and then on for five hours to Asunción. A few miles upstream from the frontier crossing lies one of the two principal sources of Paraguay’s income. The gigantic hydro-electric dam at Itaipú jointly owned by Brazil and Paraguay, is one of the manmade wonders of the world, supplying electricity to the ...

The Greatest Geek

Richard Barnett: Nikola Tesla, 5 February 2015

Tesla: Inventor of the Electrical Age 
by W. Bernard Carlson.
Princeton, 520 pp., £19.95, April 2015, 978 0 691 05776 7
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... whether Tesla was behind the Tunguska Event, a ten-megaton blast that destroyed 830 square miles of Siberian forest on 30 June 1908: The story was abroad that Tesla, seeking to communicate with the explorer Peary, then in the Arctic, projecting unspecified rays from his tower at Wardenclyffe in a direction slightly west of due north, had ...

Field of Bones

Charles Nicholl: The last journey of Thomas Coryate, the English fakir and legstretcher, 2 September 1999

... and was thin to the point of emaciation. He had travelled down from the city of Agra, four hundred miles to the north, and it is a fairly safe bet that he had done so on foot. Coryate is not much heard of nowadays, but in his time he was famous. I have always been curious about him, and finding myself in India earlier this year I decided to visit some of the ...

‘Look, look, what ails the ship, she is upsetting’

Peter Nichols: The ship ‘Essex’, 8 March 2001

The Loss of the Ship ‘Essex’, Sunk by a Whale 
by Thomas Nickerson and Owen Chase, edited by Nathaniel Philbrick and Thomas Philbrick et al.
Penguin, 231 pp., £7.99, June 2000, 0 14 043796 7
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... and 19-man crew were left with only their whaleboats and scant provisions, two and a half thousand miles from the South American coast in the vast, empty Pacific. They did not sail for the nearest land – the Marquesas, Tuamotu and Tahitian islands – which stretched from several hundred to two thousand miles away under ...

Inconvenient Truths

Hugh Miles: Who put the bomb on Pan Am 103?, 21 June 2007

... Boeing 747, loaded with enough fuel for a transatlantic flight, hit the ground at more than 500 miles an hour and exploded in a fireball that lit the sky. The cockpit, with the first-class section still attached, landed beside a church in the village of Tundergarth. Over the next few days rescuers made a fingertip search of the crash site: 243 ...

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