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Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes, 2 August 2012

Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... everyone was sympathetic to forms of woe – especially to deformities. In Cruelty and Laughter, Simon Dickie mounts a compelling case against what he calls ‘the politeness-sensibility paradigm’, by resurrecting a jeering counter-discourse that revelled in human suffering and physical affliction. His point about the sentimental 18th century is partly a ...

The Imagined Market

Donald MacKenzie: Money Games, 31 October 2002

Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science 
by Philip Mirowski.
Cambridge, 670 pp., £24.95, February 2002, 0 521 77526 4
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... but not the obligation, to buy, or to sell, an asset – such as a block of shares – at a given price on, or up to, a given future date. It is an example of a ‘derivative’, an asset the value of which depends on the price of another, ‘underlying’, asset.) Over subsequent years, however, the fit between the ...

Fallen Idols

David A. Bell, 23 July 1992

The Fabrication of Louis XIV 
by Peter Burke.
Yale, 242 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 300 05153 0
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... impossible. Seeing Versailles after reading accounts of the dreadful winter of 1709-10, when the price of bread rose tenfold or more, and millions stood on the brink of starvation while Louis pursued a ruinous war, puts one in mind of Tadeusz Borowski’s comment on the human price paid for the monuments of ...

At the Crossroads Hour

Lewis Nkosi: Chinua Achebe, 12 November 1998

Chinua Achebe: A Biography 
by Ezenwa-Ohaeto.
Curry, 326 pp., £25, November 1997, 0 253 33342 3
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... statements, of reviews and interviews, of adulation and accusation, one is struck by the high price he has paid for being Africa’s greatest indigenous novelist. Universally regarded as the progenitor of modern African literature in English, the producer of at least three novels sure to remain part of the canon of modern African literature so long as it ...

Libel on the Human Race

Steven Shapin: Malthus, 5 June 2014

Malthus: The Life and Legacies of an Untimely Prophet 
by Robert Mayhew.
Harvard, 284 pp., £20, April 2014, 978 0 674 72871 4
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... to drench the parade of Enlightenment optimism about human possibility. The Radical writer Richard Price reckoned that an expanding population was a good thing, and that it would follow inevitably from more virtuous forms of government. Condorcet foresaw endless social progress, an egalitarian society in which technological advance would provide for an ever ...

Cures for Impotence

James Davidson, 19 October 1995

Foucault’s Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality 
by Simon Goldhill.
Cambridge, 194 pp., £30, January 1995, 0 521 47372 1
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... challenge universalising notions of sexuality depends on universalising interpretations of sex. As Simon Goldhill shows in his subtle and complex new book, Foucault’s Virginity, antiquity was not immune to the argument from nature, although there it turns up in strange and unexpected guises that might not be familiar to modern sociobiologists. In a neglected ...

Wandability

Hugh Pennington: Supermarkets, 18 November 2004

Shopped: The Shocking Power of British Supermarkets 
by Joanna Blythman.
Fourth Estate, 368 pp., £12.99, May 2004, 0 00 715803 3
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Not on the Label: What Really Goes into the Food on Your Plate 
by Felicity Lawrence.
Penguin, 272 pp., £7.99, May 2004, 0 14 101566 7
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Food Policy Old and New 
edited by Simon Maxwell and Rachel Slater.
Blackwell, 184 pp., £19.99, March 2004, 1 4051 2602 7
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... a Scottish option for maize, or an Orkney option for apples. But until the public turns away from price as the main determinant of food choice, it will not be possible for British farmers anywhere to make much more than a minor contribution. There have been some (mainly middle-class) marketing successes, such as organic food (most of which is imported), but ...

Das Nuffa Dat and BigGloria3

Elaine Showalter: Up and Down the Academic Ladder, 1 November 2001

Academic Instincts 
by Marjorie Garber.
Princeton, 187 pp., £11.95, February 2001, 9780691049700
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Postmodern Pooh 
by Frederick Crews.
North Point, 175 pp., $22, October 2001, 0 86547 626 8
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... to loving the academic game itself. More typically, they view joining the profession as the heavy price they have to pay for doing what they love, more or less as marriage and its responsibilities and woes used to be regarded as the price men paid for sex. Now that a slow academic job market makes it harder for even ...

Berenson’s Elixir

Simon Schama, 1 May 1980

Bernard Berenson: The Making of a Connoisseur 
by Ernest Samuels.
Harvard, 477 pp., £9.50, June 1979, 0 674 06775 4
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Being Bernard Berenson 
by Meryle Secrest.
Weidenfeld, 473 pp., £8.50, January 1980, 0 297 77564 2
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... to act as advisor to American buyers. To be sure, he took 5 per cent of the purchase price to Mrs Gardner, and the till rang into five or even six figures with gratifying regularity in the later 1890s. But, as Meryle Secrest emphasises, as long as he was counselling a buyer, he remained the adversary of dealers, and applied the strictest canons ...

The Crisis in Economic Theory

Jon Elster, 20 October 1983

An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change 
by Richard Nelson and Sidney Winter.
Harvard, 437 pp., £20, October 1982, 0 674 27227 7
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A General Theory of Exploitation and Class 
by John Roemer.
Harvard, 298 pp., £22, September 1982, 0 674 34440 5
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... theoretical issues. One would hesitate before saying that the work of Marx, Schumpeter or Herbert Simon was ‘nothing’, and the ‘sophisticated practitioners’ referred to above would certainly not make any such judgment. Yet they would tend to say that their writing, though not lacking in insights, is amorphous, their ideas unformalised and ...

Down from the Mountain

Greg Grandin: What Happened to Venezuela?, 29 June 2017

Chávez: My First Life 
by Hugo Chávez and Ignacio Ramonet, translated by Ann Wright.
Verso, 544 pp., £30, August 2016, 978 1 78478 383 9
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... in 1971, Chávez graduated as a committed revolutionary four years later. During that period, the price of a barrel of Venezuelan oil had soared from $2.93 to $14.06, with state oil revenue increasing from about $1.4 billion to $9 billion. In 1975, Chávez’s final year at the academy, the country’s president, the social democrat Carlos Andrés ...

Joseph Jobson

Patrick Wormald, 18 April 1985

Saladin in his Time 
by P.H. Newby.
Faber, 210 pp., £10.95, November 1983, 0 571 13044 5
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Soldiers of the Faith: Crusaders and Moslems at War 
by Ronald Finucane.
Dent, 247 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 460 12040 9
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... religious bigotry which consigned Byzantine civilisation to a lingering death. One Crusader, named Simon de Montfort, withdrew in shame from these proceedings and found more salutary employment burning Albigensian heretics in southern France; it was his son and namesake’s experience of communal government at Acre which probably inspired his famous ...

Humdrum Selfishness

Nicholas Guyatt: Simon Schama’s Chauvinism, 6 April 2006

Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution 
by Simon Schama.
BBC, 448 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 563 48709 7
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... realisation that the colonists were justified in their complaints. From Edmund Burke to Richard Price, observers across the political spectrum struggled to see much evidence of British liberty in the crass mismanagement that led to the Revolution. Some even followed Jefferson, who in the first draft of the Declaration of Independence blamed Britain (and its ...

Michael Gove recommends …

Robert Hanks: Dennis Wheatley, 20 January 2011

The Devil Is a Gentleman: The Life and Times of Dennis Wheatley 
by Phil Baker.
Dedalus, 699 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 903517 75 8
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... the wealthy, worldly-wise Duke de Richleau, a monarchist exile from France, and his young friends Simon Aron, a brilliant Jewish banker, Rex Van Ryn, a brash, genial American multimillionaire, and the comparatively colourless Englishman Richard Eaton, supposedly a self-portrait. The plot (a hunt for tsarist treasure, a Bolshevik scheme for world domination ...

The Bad News about the Resistance

Neal Ascherson: Parachuted into France, 30 July 2020

A Schoolmaster’s War: Harry Rée, British Agent in the French Resistance 
edited by Jonathan Rée.
Yale, 204 pp., £14.99, March, 978 0 300 24566 0
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... in action with the Lomont maquis’, ‘died in Ravensbrück’ and so on – record the price paid by so many of the women and men who worked for Rée and the SOE teams.He was a very upright young man. Born into Lancashire’s industrial bourgeoisie, there was wealth in his background but his disdain for privilege sent him leftwards into pacifism ...

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