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Clashes and Collaborations

Linda Colley, 18 July 1996

Empire: The British Imperial Experience, from 1765 to the Present 
by Denis Judd.
HarperCollins, 517 pp., £25, March 1996, 9780002552370
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Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire 
edited by P.J. Marshall.
Cambridge, 400 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 0 521 43211 1
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Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France, c.1500-c.1800 
by Anthony Pagden.
Yale, 244 pp., £19.95, August 1995, 0 300 06415 2
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... How should historians write about empire? Or, if you prefer, the imperial enterprise? The task is made difficult in part because many people still find it easy to confuse academic concentration on this phenomenon with approval of it. To some on the Left for instance – especially in the United States – imaginatively reconstructing the ideas and actions of the imperial powers in the past can seem dangerously close to condoning racism, brutality and Eurocentricity in the present ...

Will We Care When Labour Loses?

Ross McKibbin: Gordon Brown’s Failures, 26 March 2009

... Where do we go from here? It’s pretty clear that Gordon Brown doesn’t know and that Alistair Darling and the other members of the cabinet don’t either. Nor, it seems, does anyone else. It was much easier to predict that something nasty was going to happen than it is to know now when and how the nastiness will end. You had only to cast an eye over four financial indexes – current account, corporate debt, personal debt, house prices – to know that something bad was around the corner ...

Never Mainline

Jenny Diski: Keith Richards, 16 December 2010

Life 
by Keith Richards, with James Fox.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £20, October 2010, 978 0 297 85439 5
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... It didn’t last very long, or mean very much; the long-haired, anti-authority look was designed by Andrew Loog Oldham to offer a commodified contrast with the Beatles, and there’s no end of whining in Life about how the police were out to get them, and busted them just because they took drugs and were famous, for all the world as if being ...

Keepers

Andrew Scull, 29 September 1988

Mind Forg’d Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency 
by Roy Porter.
Athlone, 412 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 485 11324 4
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The Past and the Present Revisited 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 440 pp., £19.95, October 1987, 0 7102 1253 4
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Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in 17th-Century England 
by Lucinda McCray Beier.
Routledge, 314 pp., £30, December 1987, 0 7102 1053 1
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Illness and Self in Society 
by Claudine Herzlich and Janine Pierret, translated by Elborg Forster.
Johns Hopkins, 271 pp., £20.25, January 1988, 0 8018 3228 4
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Medicine and Society in Wakefield and Huddersfield 1780-1870 
by Hilary Marland.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £40, September 1987, 0 521 32575 7
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A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane 
by Roy Porter.
Weidenfeld, 261 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 297 79223 7
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... essay on madness is one such occasion, for in the midst of a long and rightly laudatory essay on MacDonald’s Mystical Bedlam and D.P. Walker’s Unclean Spirits, he seizes the opportunity to assault the late Michel Foucault and all his works. As I suggested earlier, Foucault’s historical scholarship is highly vulnerable to criticism, but those who ...

Upper and Lower Cases

Tom Nairn, 24 August 1995

A Union for Empire: Political Thought and the Union of 1707 
edited by John Robertson.
Cambridge, 368 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 43113 1
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The Autonomy of Modern Scotland 
by Lindsay Paterson.
Edinburgh, 218 pp., £30, September 1994, 0 7486 0525 8
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... them for it in A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle: And O! to think that there are members o’ St Andrew’s Societies sleepin’ soon, Wha tae the papers wrote afore they bedded On regimental buttons or buckled shoon, Or use o’ England where the UK’s meent. The Conservatives want to go on believing that political union is essential at once to the ...

The Unstoppable Upward

James Wolcott: ‘The Life of Saul Bellow’, 24 January 2019

The Life of Saul Bellow: Love and Strife, 1965-2005 
by Zachary Leader.
Cape, 864 pp., £35, November 2018, 978 0 224 10188 2
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... for errors, misemphases, solecisms and overall tone and conditioning, much as the critic Dwight Macdonald had served as the gruff, avuncular sounding board for the Delmore Schwartz bio. ‘Shils was adamant on one point: my book needed to be cut. He had read half, which was already four hundred pages in typescript; at this rate, it would be “far too thick ...

The Atmosphere of the Clyde

Jean McNicol: Red Clydeside, 2 January 2020

When the Clyde Ran Red: A Social History of Red Clydeside 
by Maggie Craig.
Birlinn, 313 pp., £9.99, March 2018, 978 1 78027 506 2
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Glasgow 1919: The Rise of Red Clydeside 
by Kenny MacAskill.
Biteback, 310 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 1 78590 454 7
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John Maclean: Hero of Red Clydeside 
by Henry Bell.
Pluto, 242 pp., £14.99, October 2018, 978 0 7453 3838 5
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... action during the war, sidestepping the national trade union leadership. ‘I’m a shop steward,’ Andrew Amos says in Mr Standfast. ‘We represent the rank and file against office-bearers that have lost the confidence o’ the working man. But I’m no socialist.’ Here, Buchan moved away from reality. The CWC was led by the senior shop stewards at the ...

Superchild

John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... To read Virginia Woolf when young is, or was, to have the feeling of entering a new world, to realise with sudden ecstasy that this was true being, where words and consciousness and the solitary self melted into one. ‘She gave me eyes, she gave me ears,’ wrote Wordsworth of his sister Dorothy. Virginia Woolf gave more than that: she gave, or seemed to give, the pure Private Life, quite separate from the contingent miseries, anxieties and rivalries of adolescence, a free-floating poetic awareness, an otherness wholly and excitingly up-to-date ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell, 26 September 2019

Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... There is​ still no plaque at the Midland Hotel, Birmingham (now rebranded as the Macdonald Burlington), to mark the spot where Enoch Powell delivered his famous speech on 20 April 1968. Yet of all the speeches delivered by British politicians in the 20th century, or come to that in the 21st, it remains the most memorable, surpassing even the snatches I can recall of ‘We shall fight on the beaches ...

The Manners of a Hog

Christopher Tayler: Buchan’s Banter, 20 February 2020

Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps: A Life of John Buchan 
by Ursula Buchan.
Bloomsbury, 479 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 1 4088 7081 5
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... Between​ the wars, the journalist Richard Usborne recalled in 1953, there was a feeling that John Buchan was good for you. ‘If not exactly the author set for homework, Buchan was certainly strongly recommended to the schoolboy by parent, uncle, guardian, pastor and master,’ he wrote in Clubland Heroes, a study of the thrillers he had enjoyed as a child ...

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