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Be mean and nasty

Jenny Diski: Shirley Porter’s Story, 25 May 2006

Nothing like a Dame: The Scandals of Shirley Porter 
by Andrew Hosken.
Granta, 372 pp., £20, March 2006, 1 86207 809 2
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... interest on 15p. Until this idiocy was revealed, Westminster City Council and its leader, Shirley Porter, had been the darling of the Tory Party; a showcase example of how local government could benefit from an efficient, cost-cutting, commercially-minded, unsentimental head, just as the nation had been doing since 1979. ...

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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... consensus of reformers and Whigs, Foucauldians and Anglo-Saxon revisionists, which Roy Porter’s dazzlingly written Mind Forg’d Manacles aims to upset. Examining the ‘long 18th century’ from the Restoration to the Regency, he attempts to provide the first systematic account of the evolution of attitudes to-wards insanity; of the emergence of ...

Other People’s Mail

Bernard Porter: MI5, 19 November 2009

The Defence of the Realm: The Authorised History of MI5 
by Christopher Andrew.
Allen Lane, 1032 pp., £30, October 2009, 978 0 7139 9885 6
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... as MI5 and MI6 had to be kept so secret; MI5 remained officially secret for 80 years. Christopher Andrew has another explanation, however. It was just a ‘taboo’, he writes (quoting the historian Michael Howard), like ‘intra-marital sex’. Everyone knew it went on, and was ‘quite content that it should, but to speak, write or ask questions about ...

Living It

Andrew O’Hagan: The World of Andy McNab, 24 January 2008

Crossfire 
by Andy McNab.
Bantam, 414 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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Strike Back 
by Chris Ryan.
Century, 314 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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... female is dispelled when you consider his book’s rugged hero, a McNabian squarehead called John Porter, former SAS man and now broken-backed vodka-guzzler under the arches of Vauxhall. All these men have a chance to thwart the Ruperts by fixing – via immense personal courage and a lot of guns and knives – the unfixable, getting in and out of foreign ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate, 6 December 1984

The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... read ‘fading’; for ‘The plains’, ‘These plains’. In Fast Forward, Peter Porter meditates persistently on the decline of Classical culture and the threat of nuclear war. What comes of the used-up Mediterranean When rockets point like pines in tundra Towards the profaned moon? he asks in ‘Cyprus, Aeschylus, Inanition’. The title ...

Every three years

Blake Morrison, 3 March 1988

Fifty Poems 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 51 pp., £4.95, January 1988, 0 571 14920 0
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A Various Art 
edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville.
Carcanet, 377 pp., £12.95, December 1987, 0 85635 698 0
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Between Leaps: Poems 1972-1985 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 81 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 19 282089 3
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Eldorado 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 71 pp., £4.50, October 1987, 0 905291 88 3
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Disbelief 
by John Ash.
Carcanet, 127 pp., £6.95, September 1987, 0 85635 695 6
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The Automatic Oracle 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 72 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 19 282088 5
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Voice-over 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3313 9
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... the whole thing there), his plain-but-emotional rhythms and syntax remind one of Larkin and even Andrew Motion. A more surprising influence is Eliot: ‘My self-possession gutters; we are really in the dark’ has the sort of rhythmical hysteria and claustrophobic shadowiness that Hamilton has made his own; and a line from ‘La Figlia Che ...

Shoot them to be sure

Richard Gott: The Oxford History of the British Empire, 25 April 2002

The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. I: The Origins of Empire 
edited by William Roger Louis and Nicholas Canny.
Oxford, 533 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924676 9
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. II: The 18th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and P.J. Marshall.
Oxford, 639 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924677 7
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. III: The 19th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Andrew Porter.
Oxford, 774 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924678 5
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. IV: The 20th Century 
edited by William Roger Louis and Judith Brown.
Oxford, 773 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924679 3
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. V: Historiography 
edited by William Roger Louis and Robin Winks.
Oxford, 731 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924680 7
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... A new history of the British Empire might be expected to concern itself with such issues as the construction of military dictatorship through the imposition of martial law; the violent seizure and settlement of land; the genocidal destruction of indigenous peoples (and their culture and environment); the establishment of what is now called ‘institutional racism’; and the continuing coercion and induced movement of labour ...

Desperately Seeking Susan

Terry Castle: Remembering Susan Sontag, 17 March 2005

... Views on Everything (‘Yes, Terry, I do know all the lesser-known Handel operas. I told Andrew Porter he was right – they are the greatest of musical masterpieces’). I was rapt, like a hysterical spinster on her first visit to Bayreuth. Schwärmerei time for T-Ball.The Sarajevo obsession revealed itself early on: in fact, inspired the great ...

Esprit de Corps

Roy Porter, 21 January 1988

Granville Sharp Pattison: Anatomist and Antagonist 1791-1851 
by F.L.M. Pattison.
Canongate, 284 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 86241 077 0
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Death, Dissection and the Destitute 
by Ruth Richardson.
Routledge, 426 pp., £19.95, January 1988, 0 7102 0919 3
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... trouble. Gaining the chair of anatomy at Andersons Institution, he quickly fell out with Professor Andrew Ure, best known for his later celebration of the joys of factory labour; soon he found himself accused of adultery with Ure’s visibly-pregnant wife: more mucking around with bodies, it seemed. Ure sued for divorce, and Pattison was involved in another ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard Porter: Imperial Spooks, 21 March 2013

Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... access to closed papers in order to produce official histories. One of them was Christopher Andrew, who employed Walton to help him with The Defence of the Realm (2009), about MI5. Suddenly, one kind of conspiracy story – official plots and cover-ups – became acceptable. So Walton can now assert at the end of his book, without doing much damage to ...

Kelpers

Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

St Kilda’s Parliament 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 87 pp., £3, September 1981, 0 571 11770 8
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Airborn/Hijos del Aire 
by Octavio Paz and Charles Tomlinson.
Anvil, 29 pp., £1.25, April 1981, 0 85646 072 9
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The Flood 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1981, 0 19 211944 3
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Looking into the Deep End 
by David Sweetman.
Faber, 47 pp., £3, March 1981, 0 571 11730 9
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Independence 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 28 pp., £5, December 1981, 0 907540 05 8
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... of cuisine and literacy. The photograph-poem has become an important sub-genre. Larkin, Hughes, Porter and others have practised it. There’s a sense in which the photograph does part of the poet’s work for him, freezing a charged but vanishing moment so that nuances of mood or relationship, by definition volatile, become permanently fixed for the poet ...

It’s already happened

James Meek: The NHS Goes Private, 22 September 2011

... the end of a hallway lined with untidy stacks of case notes in wrinkled cardboard folders Martyn Porter, a senior surgeon and the hospital’s clinical chairman, waited in his office to be called to the operating theatre. He fixed me with an intense, tired, humorous gaze. ‘The problem with politicians is they can’t be honest,’ he said. ‘If they ...

Madness and Method

Mark Philp, 3 April 1986

The Anatomy of Madness: Essays in the History of Psychiatry Vol. I: People and Ideas, Vol. II: Institutions and Society 
edited by W.F. Bynum, Roy Porter and Michael Shepherd.
Tavistock, 316 pp., £19.95, November 1985, 0 422 79430 9
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Madness, Morality and Medicine: A Study of the York Retreat 1796-1914 
by Anne Digby.
Cambridge, 323 pp., £27.50, October 1985, 0 521 26067 1
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... monograph on the history of the York Retreat, and the two volumes of essays edited by Bynum, Porter and Shepherd, pay eloquent testimony to the transformation effected in the history of psychiatry over the last twenty or thirty years. The works of Foucault, Erving Goffman, Thomas Szasz and R.D. Laing, and more recently the contributions of ...

So Much to Hate

Bernard Porter: Rudyard Bloody Kipling, 25 April 2002

The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 351 pp., £22.50, March 2002, 0 7195 5539 6
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... which more in a moment) was that they ‘did not know how to hate’. ‘I love him,’ he said of Andrew Bonar Law, almost the only politician he had any time for, ‘because he hates.’ The objects of his hatred were many: Liberals, socialists, Irish Home Rulers, the Irish Free State (the ‘Free State of Evil’), possibly the Irish themselves (‘the ...

Friendly Fire

Bernard Porter: Torching the White House, 21 February 2008

Fusiliers: Eight Years with the Redcoats in America 
by Mark Urban.
Faber, 384 pp., £20, September 2007, 978 0 571 22486 9
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1812: War with America 
by Jon Latimer.
Harvard, 637 pp., £22.95, October 2007, 978 0 674 02584 4
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... sacking of Washington DC, of course; the occasional instances of heroism (some of them mythical); Andrew Jackson’s defeat of the British at New Orleans, fought after the peace treaty and so definitely pointless; and the fact that it gave rise to what later became the American national anthem (the words, not the tune, which was an old English drinking ...

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