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The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery 1776-1848 
by Robin Blackburn.
Verso, 560 pp., £27.95, April 1988, 0 86091 188 8
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Pro-Slavery: A History of the Defence of Slavery in America, 1701-1840 
by Larry Tise.
Georgia, 501 pp., $40, March 1988, 0 8203 0927 3
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Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America: Slumbering Volcano in the Caribbean 
by Alfred Hunt.
Louisiana State, 196 pp., £23.75, March 1988, 9780807113288
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Thomas Paine 
by A.J. Ayer.
Secker, 195 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 436 02820 4
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Paine and Cobbett: The Transatlantic Connection 
by David Wilson.
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 218 pp., $27.95, April 1988, 0 7735 1013 3
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... Haiti was to be ‘a thorn in the flesh of the slave order throughout the western hemisphere’. Alfred Hunt makes it clear, in Haiti’s Influence on Antebellum America, that the prowess of Toussaint and his successors ‘did not go unnoticed by American slaves in the South’. In Louisiana, Haitian elements were potent in the black culture: drums and ...

Talking with Alfred

Steven Shapin: Mr Loomis’s Obsession, 15 April 2004

Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Jennet Conant.
Simon and Schuster, 330 pp., £9.99, July 2003, 0 684 87288 9
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... Alfred Lee Loomis was well connected. Some of his most valuable connections flowed from the accident of a fortunate birth. On his father’s side, the family came to New England only a few ships after the Mayflower, and Loomis’s father was a wealthy Gilded Age New York physician who combined fashion, philanthropy and philandering in ways that could have made him a character in a Henry James novel ...

Swiping at Suburbs

Andrew Saint: The course of British urbanism, 31 March 2005

Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City 
by Tristram Hunt.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £25, June 2004, 0 297 60767 7
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... Labour anthem to replace the robust ‘Red Flag’, here we have it dusted down again by Tristram Hunt to front a passionate, kaleidoscopic but wilful defence of the Victorian city. Building Jerusalem is a book with a plain political line; yet where it leaves us is little clearer than in Blake’s poem. The subtitle offers the sharper clue to ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Ryanverse, 11 July 2002

... make and serial number of the rocket in question – in the mid-1980s with his first novel, The Hunt for Red October. The story of the Lithuanian captain of a Soviet submarine defecting to the West, taking his brand-new ship with him, was first published by the Naval Institute Press – ‘the semi-official mouthpiece’, in Clancy’s words, ‘of the US ...

Godmother of the Salmon

John Bayley, 9 July 1992

‘Rain-Charm for the Duchy’ and other Laureate Poems 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 64 pp., £12.99, June 1992, 0 571 16605 9
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... and Garters,’ and received the suave reply: ‘His Majesty will not trouble you, Mr Bridges.’) Alfred Austin had just passed away in that ill-omened year, having composed an ode celebrating the Jameson Raid and the well-known lines on the death of Edward VII. Along the electric wires the message came, He is no better, he is much the same. That at least ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode, 6 June 1985

The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... to be written out of the record? So that the entry on Henty could be enlarged? To make space for Alfred Noyes? More seriously, Harvey’s commitment to American literature is not fully honoured, and the representation of Commonwealth writers and writing is very spotty. None of the following poets, all born before 1939, gets ...

Sea Slugs, Wombats, Microbes

Richard Fortey: Species Seekers, 28 April 2011

The Species Seekers: Heroes, Fools and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth 
by Richard Conniff.
Norton, 464 pp., £19.99, November 2010, 978 0 393 06854 2
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... But there is also a sense of revelation. The feeling is captured in the breathless enthusiasm of Alfred Russel Wallace’s notebooks, here describing a butterfly: ‘I trembled with excitement as I saw it come majestically toward me & could hardly believe I had really obtained it till I had taken it out of my net & gazed upon its gorgeous wings.’ Wallace ...

The Bart

Gabriele Annan, 10 December 1987

Broken Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Tennant Family 
by Simon Blow.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 13374 6
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... and built a baronial castle on it where he brought up 12 children by two successive wives to hunt, shoot and fish. He sent the boys to Eton and acquired a collection of paintings, a house in Grosvenor Square and, in 1885, a baronetcy – after which he was known as ‘the Bart’. By this time the business empire was already beginning to decline, partly ...

Call me unpretentious

Ian Hamilton, 20 October 1994

Major Major: Memories of an Older Brother 
by Terry Major-Ball.
Duckworth, 167 pp., £12.95, August 1994, 0 7156 2631 0
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... reading, Major could be presented as a drearier-than-either cross between James Stewart and J. Alfred Prufrock. He was prime minister by accident, or for-a-day. He’d won the premiership in a raffle, or had it laid on for him by Jim’ll Fix It. There was of course a brutal snobbishness in this approach, as there had been in all the sneers about Mrs ...

History’s Revenges

Peter Clarke, 5 March 1981

The Illustrated Dictionary of British History 
edited by Arthur Marwick.
Thames and Hudson, 319 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 500 25072 3
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Who’s Who in Modern History, 1860-1980 
by Alan Palmer.
Weidenfeld, 332 pp., £8.50, October 1980, 0 297 77642 8
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... when his 12 lines are measured against Lloyd George’s 92, nor even against the 11 given to Sir Alfred Mond, who must surely rate as one of the luckier entrants to come through the qualifying rounds in competition of this class. The scribblers and men of ideas do reasonably well, at least in the later period: Darwin but not Newton, for instance, W.T. Stead ...

Short Cuts

Christian Lorentzen: ‘Head Shot’, 24 May 2012

... in pinning the murder on Sam Giancana, Lyndon Johnson, J. Edgar Hoover, Castro, Khrushchev, Howard Hunt, Earl Warren, George H.W. Bush, Duong Van Minh, the John Birch Society, the Freemasons or Aristotle Onassis. ‘I am not a conspiracy theorist,’ he begins. ‘I am a conspiracy empiricist.’ He wants to know the truth because without it ‘another ...

Homage to the Provinces

Peter Campbell, 22 March 1990

Wright of Derby 
by Judy Egerton.
Tate Gallery, 294 pp., £25, February 1990, 1 85437 038 3
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... Markeaton Hall. He had Wright paint him and five of his friends in the livery of the Markeaton Hunt – his father and five of his friends had sat to Devis 13 years before. Wright poses them casually. Harry Peckham stands with hand on hip; he was to die after breaking his neck while hunting. Nicholas Heath sits with his arm over the back of his chair; he ...

Descending Sloth

John Maynard Smith, 1 April 1982

The Mammalian Radiations: An Analysis of Trends in Evolution, Adaptation and Behaviour 
by John Eisenberg.
Athlone, 610 pp., £32, December 1981, 0 485 30008 7
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... and it was only in thinking about the experiences of that voyage that he became an evolutionist. Alfred Wallace differed in that he was an evolutionist (although he had not conceived the mechanism of natural selection) before he undertook his journeys to South America and Malaysia, but it was his experience as a naturalist in this country which made him an ...

Operation Columba

Jon Day: Pigeon Intelligence, 4 April 2019

Secret Pigeon Service 
by Gordon Corera.
William Collins, 326 pp., £20, February 2018, 978 0 00 822030 3
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... 1980s, the US Coastguard trained pigeons to recognise people lost at sea as part of Project Sea Hunt. The birds were placed in observation bubbles mounted on the bottom of helicopters and trained to peck at buttons when they spotted a scrap of coloured fabric floating in the sea. Pigeons were able to find the fabric 93 per cent of the time. Human subjects ...

So Much Smoke

Tom Shippey: King Arthur, 20 December 2018

King Arthur: the Making of the Legend 
by Nicholas Higham.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 300 21092 7
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... ungrateful people demanding independence might get more than they bargained for, he warned. Alfred Duggan’s two novels about the end of empire, The Little Emperors and Conscience of the King (both 1951), once again drew an explicit parallel, with Duggan pointing out that neither the Roman withdrawal from Britain nor the British withdrawal from India ...

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