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Make it more like a murder mystery

Eleanor Birne: The life and death of Stuart Shorter

19 May 2005
Stuart: A Life Backwards 
by Alexander Masters.
Fourth Estate, 295 pp., £12.99, April 2005, 0 00 720036 6
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... The first time Alexander Masters met Stuart Shorter, he was crouched in a doorway next to the discount picture-framing shop round the corner from Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge: as it happens, the framing shop I used to work for as a sandwich boarder in my teens. Every Saturday the shop owner would hand me a board and a stack of leaflets and I’d hurry down to Christ’s Pieces, a public green in town which was also, I now know, Stuart’s home ...

Red Souls

Neal Ascherson

22 May 1980
Russian Hide and Seek 
by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 240 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 0 09 142050 4
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... this distant province with its forgotten glories is beginning to exercise a fascination on its masters. Imagine an ape-man, a Quasimodo. He has picked up a delicate china figurine which has disintegrated in his paws. Now, crooning with concern, his prognathous brow deeply creased, he crouches over the fragments and tries to coax them together again. This ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: Shuffling Off into Obscurity

4 May 2016
... lost her seat, as did all the Lib Dems in Scotland bar one. Perhaps the biggest victim was Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury and the other hero of Laws’s account, after Clegg and Laws himself (‘March 2014: David Laws announces fairer funding for English schools’). Alexander was ‘an outstanding ...

Brute Nature

Rosemary Dinnage

6 March 1997
Masters of Bedlam: The Transformation of the Mad-Doctoring Trade 
by Andrew Scull, Charlotte Mackenzie and Nicholas Hervey.
Princeton, 363 pp., £23, February 1997, 0 691 03411 7
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... put away in Bethlem Hospital, Britain’s oldest lunatic asylum; his portrait of the alienist Sir Alexander Morison stares from the cover of Masters of Bedlam, gauntly silhouetted against a mottled sky. He seems to be looking at something he finds hard to bear. The brief biographies of 19th-century alienists through which ...

Not Mackintosh

Chris Miele

6 April 1995
‘Greek’ Thomson 
edited by Gavin Stamp and Sam McKinstry.
Edinburgh, 249 pp., £35, September 1994, 0 7486 0480 4
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... 1890s like an evening glove. So, too, did mid-Victorian Glasgow define the professional life of Alexander Thomson. Thomson (1817-75) grew up near to what was fast becoming Britain’s ‘Second City’. After 1800, Glasgow grew fat on the West Indian textile trade, diversifying during the 1830s into heavy industry. The disruptions that followed the start of ...

An Endless Progression of Whirlwinds

Robert Irwin: Asian empire

21 June 2001
Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia 
by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac.
Little, Brown, 646 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 85589 8
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Tibet: The Great Game and Tsarist Russia 
by Tatiana Shaumian.
Oxford, 223 pp., £16, October 2000, 0 19 565056 5
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... of India seemed to come from France. In Egypt in 1798, Bonaparte studied the campaigns of Alexander the Great. He had corresponded with Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore, and talked of leading the French expeditionary force on to conquer the British possessions in India. In 1800, the Russian Empire’s frontier was still a long way from that of ...


Peter Pulzer

9 January 1992
The Singing Revolution: A Political Journey through the Baltic States 
by Clare Thomson.
Joseph, 273 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7181 3459 1
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Berlin Journal 1989-90 
by Robert Darnton.
Norton, 352 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 393 02970 0
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AnEstonian Childhood: A Memoir 
by Tania Alexander.
Heinemann, 168 pp., £6.95, October 1991, 0 434 01824 4
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... between the Baltic peoples and the German ‘Baltic barons’ who were their social and economic masters from the 14th century to 1918. The German upper class and patriciate did much for the culture of the region, in the architecture of Tallinn and Riga, the schools, universities, music and religion. Wagner composed most of Rienzi while director of the Riga ...

At the National Gallery

Nicola Jennings: Bartolomé Bermejo

12 September 2019
... and Rogier Van der Weyden, which Bermejo often made reference to. Like these early Netherlandish masters, Bermejo used the verisimilitude made possible by new oil painting techniques to blur the boundary between the sacred and mundane. But Bermejo’s art is also distinctive, with sudden tonal contrasts and intense colours that reflect the harshness of life ...

Here come the judges

Conor Gearty: The constitution

4 June 1998
This Time: Our Constitutional Revolution 
by Anthony Barnett.
Vintage, 371 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 09 926858 2
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The Voice of the People: A Constitution for Tomorrow 
by Robert Alexander.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 297 84109 2
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The Making and Remaking of the British Constitution 
by Lord Nolan and Stephen Sedley.
Blackstone, 142 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 1 85431 704 0
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... was kicking Charter 88 into life in various basement flats and leftist magazine offices, Robert Alexander accepted ennoblement as a Tory peer in the House of Lords, though his elevation is not mentioned on the cover of The Voice of the People. He is a former leading QC; former chairman of the Bar; former chairman of the City Panel on Takeovers and ...
19 June 1980
The ‘Triumphs of Caesar’ by Andrea Mantegna in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Hampton Court 
by Andrew Martindale.
Harvey Miller, 342 pp., £38, October 1979, 9780905203164
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... at the very front and in the full light of day, Michelangelo and his companions, the great masters of the modern period from Leonardo da Vinci to the immediate past. The basic arrangement was obviously derived from Vasari’s Lives, published in 1550, although there were some surprising differences in the detailed classification. As a scheme it ...

Short Cuts

J. Hoberman: The CIA’s Animal Farm

5 July 2007
... Orwell’s pessimistic ending, in which the pigs become indistinguishable from their human former masters. No matter how often the movie’s screenplay was altered, it always concluded with a successful farmyard uprising in which the oppressed animals overthrew the dictatorial pigs. The Animal Farm project had been initiated when Harry Truman was ...

At the National Gallery

Charles Hope: Veronese

7 May 2014
... prepared to lend them. ‘The Martyrdom of St George’ (c.1565). ‘The Family of Darius before Alexander’ (1565-7) ‘Mars and Venus United by Love’ (c.1570) ‘The Wedding at Cana’ (1563) ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ (1555) ‘The Conversion of Mary Magdalene’ (1548) ‘The Anointing of David’ (1550) ‘The Adoration of the Kings’ (1573) ‘The ...


E.S. Turner

4 September 1986
Monty: The Field-Marshal 1944-1976 
by Nigel Hamilton.
Hamish Hamilton, 996 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 241 11838 7
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... the Russians. After the Rhine crossing Eisenhower, without the permission of his political masters, cabled his plans for the final advance to Stalin, infuriating the British Chiefs of Staff – ‘it is not very satisfactory when Ike has to appeal to Stalin to help him control Monty’ (Alan Brooke). Monty, as we know, got as far as Lüneburg ...
26 July 1990
A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: W.P. Roberts and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights 
by Raymond Challinor.
Tauris, 302 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 1 85043 150 7
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... W.P. Roberts out of his element. He found himself openly flouted by the miners’ leaders, led by Alexander MacDonald and his friends from the professions and the boardrooms. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this remarkable story is the way this apparently indestructible lawyer pursued his campaign in the courts and through the courtroom window through ...

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