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Kill your own business

Deborah Friedell: Amazon’s Irresistible Rise, 5 December 2013

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon 
by Brad Stone.
Bantam, 384 pp., £18.99, October 2013, 978 0 593 07047 5
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... What he liked about books was that they were ‘pure commodities’: copies of the latest Stephen King sold online would be no better or worse than those sold in shops. But no actual shop was big enough to offer all the three million-plus books in print. Two distributors, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, handled distribution for most American ...

Veering Wildly

Kirsty Gunn: Jayne Anne Phillips, 31 July 2014

Quiet Dell 
by Jayne Anne Phillips.
Cape, 445 pp., £18.99, April 2014, 978 0 224 09935 6
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... real-life Depression-era murder story as its subject. It ‘will be compared to In Cold Blood’, Stephen King suggests in his blurb on the back cover, and provides ‘documentary evidence’, Colm Tóibín says, ‘of rural America in a time of crisis’ – a kind of new, new journalism then. Developing her interest in merging factual circumstance with ...


A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience, 6 December 1984

... The study of English political history has suffered a grievous loss with the death of Stephen Koss in New York on 25 October last. Though only 44, hardly more than half my age, Stephen had already established himself as an authority of the first rank on British political history in the 19th and 20th centuries ...

Malice! Malice!

Stephen Sedley: Thomas More’s Trial, 5 April 2012

Thomas More’s Trial by Jury 
edited by Henry Ansgar Kelly, Louis Karlin and Gerard Wegemer.
Boydell, 240 pp., £55, September 2011, 978 1 84383 629 2
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... patron Cardinal Wolsey, on condition that he would not be expected to support the annulment of the king’s first marriage. He resigned the office in 1532 when the king succeeded in getting the clergy to acknowledge him as supreme head of the church in England ‘as far as the law of Christ allows’. Two years after that, a ...

‘Fluent Gaul has taught the British advocates’

Stephen Sedley: Dispute Resolution, 12 February 2009

Early English Arbitration 
by Derek Roebuck.
Holo, 312 pp., £40, April 2008, 978 0 9544056 1 8
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... a modern legal system in the mid-12th century, as a regular court begins to sit in London and the king’s justices ride out on circuit, that Derek Roebuck’s study ends. We possess the texts of a good many Anglo-Saxon laws, translated here by Roebuck into readable modern English; though there are some words that won’t translate – for ...

Smuggled in a Warming Pan

Stephen Sedley: The Glorious Revolution, 24 September 2015

The Glorious Revolution and the Continuity of Law 
by Richard Kay.
Catholic University of America, 277 pp., £45, December 2014, 978 0 8132 2687 3
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... a group of whom, on the day the bishops were acquitted, invited William of Orange, the king’s Protestant son-in-law, to invade. James panicked and tried to reverse some of his reforms; but William, alarmed at the possibility that Louis XIV of France would soon have a militant ally in Britain, crossed to Torbay in November 1688 with a force of ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... and a nameless son bearing the corpse of the father he has just killed, both of them watched by a king who, having inherited the crown from his never-to-be-equalled father, has now disinherited his own son, thereby occasioning the battle. Outside the obsessively patrilineal English histories, trouble between fathers and daughters seems just as common, whether ...


Stephen Smith: In LA, 25 March 1993

... is holding a copy of that morning’s Los Angeles Times, which reports details of the Rodney King trial. Now for all I know, George is so devoted to South Central LA that he holds a weekly acting workshop in Lynwood, but if he’s anything like most of the Anglos in Los Angeles, he is happier contemplating the minutiae of its native movie business than ...

Big Ben

Stephen Fender, 18 September 1986

Franklin of Philadelphia 
by Esmond Wright.
Harvard, 404 pp., £21.25, May 1986, 0 674 31809 9
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... an American book?’ piece in the Edinburgh Review (1820), ‘were born and bred subjects of the King of England.’ The Tory Quarterly for January 1814, lamenting the victory in America of ‘democracy and Franklin’, had to admit that ‘Franklin, in grinding his electrical machine, and flying his kite, did certainly elicit some useful discoveries in a ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: The Supreme Court’s Judgment, 2 March 2017

... be done by the rule of government.’ It took the rest of the 17th century – a civil war, the king’s execution, the implosion of the republic, the restoration of the monarchy and the coup d’état we know as the Glorious Revolution – to establish that government enjoyed no such extra-legal power.In 1685 the Duke of York, who had been brought up in ...

The Judges’ Verdicts

Stephen Sedley, 2 February 2017

... be done by the rule of government.’ It took the rest of the 17th century – a civil war, the king’s execution, the implosion of the republic, the restoration of the monarchy and the parliamentary coup d’état we know as the Glorious Revolution – to establish that government enjoyed no such extra-legal power.In 1685 the Duke of York, who had been ...


Stephen Bann, 16 June 1983

Worstward Ho 
by Samuel Beckett.
Calder, 48 pp., £5.50, April 1983, 0 7145 3979 1
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That Voice 
by Robert Pinget, translated by Barbara Wright.
Red Dust (New York), 114 pp., $10.95, May 1983, 0 87376 041 7
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King Solomon 
by Romain Gary, translated by Barbara Wright.
Harvill, 256 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 00 261416 2
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A Year in Hartlebury, or The Election 
by Benjamin Disraeli and Sarah Disraeli.
Murray, 222 pp., £8.50, May 1983, 0 7195 4020 8
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The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 180 pp., £7.95, May 1983, 0 224 02130 3
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... nephews, and the one about the law court and its sentence, and the one about the dethroned king, and the one about the murderers everywhere, and the one about the garden with the nettles, and the one about the knife, and the one about the dead children, and the one about the grief, and the one about the rats, and the one about the innocents, and the ...

Act like Men, Britons!

Tom Shippey: Celticity, 31 July 2008

The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth, edited by Michael Reeve, translated by Neil Wright.
Boydell, 307 pp., £50, November 2007, 978 1 84383 206 5
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The History of the Kings of Britain 
by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Broadview, 383 pp., £8.99, January 2008, 978 1 55111 639 6
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... The legend of King Arthur must be the most enduring legacy of the Middle Ages. Everyone knows it: children, scholars, readers of comic books, movie-makers. The scenes and motifs associated with it – Excalibur, the Round Table, the adultery of Guinevere, the return to Avalon – are more familiar than anything linked to real medieval kings ...

The Right to Die

Stephen Sedley, 27 August 2015

... to a life that has become an indefinite torment, the judges will be invited to live up to their King Lear moment in the Nicklinson case. Assuming that randomised constitution of the court does not produce a new majority who rejects the Nicklinson decision (a tricky legal issue in itself), the court may have to declare that both the statute law that ...

In Court

Stephen Sedley: The Prorogation Debacle, 10 October 2019

... four centuries the courts have contested the claims of monarchs to untrammelled authority. ‘The king,’ Chief Justice Coke said in 1611, ‘hath no prerogative but what the law of the land allows him.’ Although the historic settlement of 1688-89, which gave us today’s constitutional monarchy, left in existence a wide swathe of prerogative powers, these ...

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