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Jigsaw Mummies

Tom Shippey: Pagan Britain, 6 November 2014

Pagan Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 480 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 19771 6
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The King in the North: The Life and Times of Oswald of Northumbria 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 450 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 1 78185 418 1
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... religions; and the changes from one practice to another, like the change from long barrows to stone circles, or the later and sudden abandonment of henges, even the ‘superhenges’ that had taken a huge amount of labour to create, may have been the result of upheavals fully as great as the conversions of pagan Celts and Anglo-Saxons to ...

Sexual Nonconformism

Peter Laslett, 24 January 1980

Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives: Peasants and Illicit Sex in Early 17th Century England 
by G.R. Quaife.
Croom Helm, 283 pp., £11.50, July 1980, 0 7099 0062 7
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A History of Myddle 
by Richard Gough, edited by Peter Razzell.
Caliban, 184 pp., £9, October 1980, 0 904573 14 1
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... of the mass of the population. No one can read Quaife’s book and still believe that. Lawrence Stone could surely not have written as he did in his Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 if he had had that knowledge of the really telling evidence which Quaife thinks he should have had. The other error which he attacks is the idea that the triumph of ...


W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... does the institution, despite or because of all this, serve any useful purpose? Professor Lawrence Stone, in his London Review review of Cannadine’s book, says that paradoxically ‘in this age of mass democracy and party rule, the only feeble defence of individual liberty and the public interest against the tyranny of a prime minister is that long-derided ...


David Haglund: Mormons, 22 May 2003

... year later, Smith dictated the entire book – apart from the lost section – to a student called Oliver Cowdery, in a matter of weeks. This time, according to contemporary accounts, Joseph relied primarily on a seer stone he had had since 1825 (and used at one time for money-digging). After showing the gold plates to two ...

Bernard Levin: Book Two

Clive James, 6 December 1979

Taking Sides 
by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 281 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 330 26203 3
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... takes the same high tone of judicial detachment. He sounds like Solomon, Cato the Elder and Oliver Wendell Holmes all rolled into one. Levin likes nothing better than to hand down a ruling. But although it is probably true that the majority of the public would be furious if Myra Hindley were released, it is unlikely that their desire to keep her locked ...

Killing Stones

Keith Thomas: Holy Places, 19 May 2011

The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland 
by Alexandra Walsham.
Oxford, 637 pp., £35, February 2011, 978 0 19 924355 6
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... in ancient paganism by the veneration of nature. Although the original purpose of the menhirs and stone circles scattered through the landscape remains obscure, it seems clear that the religion (or religions) of the ancient Britons revolved around topographical features and open-air enclosures. Many of these sites were taken over by the Christians, in a ...

African History without Africans

Basil Davidson: Portugal’s Empire, 18 February 1999

The Lusiads 
by Luí Vaz de Camões, translated by Landeg White.
Oxford, 258 pp., £6.99, October 1997, 0 19 283191 7
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Counterinsurgency in Africa: The Portuguese Way of War, 1961-1974 
by John Cann.
Greenwood, 216 pp., $59.95, February 1998, 0 313 30189 1
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The Decolonisation of Portuguese Africa 
by Norrie MacQueen.
Longman, 280 pp., £15.99, February 1998, 0 582 25993 2
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African Guerrillas 
edited by Christopher Clapham.
James Currey, 208 pp., £40, September 1998, 0 85255 815 5
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... sources. Reading MacQueen and Cann, I was sadly reminded of some remarks made by Roland Oliver. Looking back in 1997 over his long and influential career of academic and practical innovation in African historiography, Oliver felt obliged to note that ‘Europe seemed to be turning increasingly inwards’ to the ...

Grit in the Oyster-Shell

Colin Burrow: Pepys, 14 November 2002

Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 499 pp., £20, October 2002, 0 670 88568 1
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... the Earl of Sandwich, for an extra-marital affair which threatened his career. He kept pictures of Oliver Cromwell among his collection of images of the kings and queens of England, and yet late in life was accused of Popery and Jacobitism. He radically reformed the administration of the Navy by labouring (often) from four in the morning until the middle of ...

Osip and Nadezhda Mandelstam

Seamus Heaney, 20 August 1981

... From then on, she was like a hunted priest in penal times, travelling dangerously with the altar-stone of the forbidden faith, disposing the manuscripts for safe keeping among the secret adherents. And inevitably, having consecrated herself a guardian, she was destined to become a witness. As a consequence, the mature work of a great poet survived, and two ...


Iain Sinclair: The Thames, 25 June 2009

Thames: Sacred River 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Vintage, 608 pp., £14.99, August 2008, 978 0 09 942255 6
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... Boys and Girls’. With its royal-blue cloth and heraldic shield, its text broken down into Jamie Oliver-sized portions suitable for juvenile digestion, this book is remembered for its illustrations by A.S. Forrest, a succession of poignant tableaux like a village hall pageant. The Thames underwrites a narrative of royal escapes, murdered princelings, futile ...

The Sage of Polygon Road

Claire Tomalin, 28 September 1989

The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... at the same time, with its gardens done over by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, and the square memorial stone put up by Godwin to Mary still standing. This was where Shelley and young Mary did their wooing; the bones beneath it were moved to Bournemouth when the railway was cut through in the 1860s, but the monument remains. When I started to research Mary ...

You could scream

Jenny Diski, 20 October 1994

Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me 
by Marlon Brando and Robert Lindsey.
Century, 468 pp., £17.99, September 1994, 0 7126 6012 7
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Greta & Cecil 
by Diana Souhami.
Cape, 272 pp., £18.99, September 1994, 0 224 03719 6
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... bird cages, glass balls, engraved mirrors, shell pictures, crumbling Italian console tables, stone statues called Castor and Pollux and plaster casts of bits of his own anatomy.’ Then he held parties, with ‘lovely-looking people, charades, impersonations and dressing-up games’. But apart from the theatricals, ‘nothing much happened at ...

What is this Bernard?

Christopher Hitchens, 10 January 1991

Good and Faithful Servant: The Unauthorised Biography of Bernard Ingham 
by Robert Harris.
Faber, 202 pp., £14.99, December 1990, 0 571 16108 1
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... supposed to be the captors of Terry Waite. They were also the subject of covert talks between Oliver North and the Ayatollah’s men during a time when Mrs Thatcher was publicly exonerating Ronald Reagan of the charge of hostage-trading. So much is known. Any news of them today? Suddenly, HMG becomes HMV. I am fixed by Ingham with a dull Wackford Squeers ...

Jade Goody Goes to Heaven

Laurence Scott: OK! and the uncanny, 26 March 2009

... figures to be aware of their own shortcomings, and thus Jade became a soothing antithesis to Jamie Oliver’s confident over-achieving. Suspicious of tireless do-gooders, the country embraced its Goody. But happiness, as the melodrama goes, was short-lived. Jade’s decline began, we irrationally feel, during her argument with Bollywood ‘princess’ Shilpa ...

Echoes and Whisperings

Colin Burrow: Colm Tóibín’s ‘Oresteia’, 1 June 2017

House of Names 
by Colm Tóibín.
Viking, 262 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 25768 5
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... the foundation of justice in Athens. In Tóibín’s novel people are repeatedly imprisoned under stone, under piles of bodies, or underground in the bowels of the House of Names. There is no buried justice, just abduction and imprisonment. Each section of House of Names is presented from the viewpoint of one of the characters in Aeschylus’ trilogy. The ...

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