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At Tate Modern

Colin Grant: Steve McQueen, 16 July 2020

... Steve McQueen​ trained as a painter before turning to video art. His early films were silent, monochrome, focusing on his own body because it was cheaper than hiring an actor. Many of the works in his retrospective at Tate Modern (which won’t reopen when the museum does later this month because it doesn’t meet ‘museum regulations for social distancing in enclosed spaces’) are shot with the camera held so close that at times you couldn’t slide a cigarette paper between McQueen’s lens and his subject ...

Leave them weeping

Colin Grant: Frederick Douglass, 1 August 2019

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom 
by David Blight.
Simon and Schuster, 892 pp., £30, November 2018, 978 1 4165 9031 6
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... One​ of the peace walls near the Falls Road in Belfast is decorated with a mural featuring several famous figures – among them, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. At its centre, though, five times the size of the others, is a stern-looking man with bushy, neatly parted grey hair, wearing a frock-coat and necktie. Two hundred years after his birth into slavery, Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist and writer once described as ‘an ornament to society and a blessing to his race’, looms munificently over the city he visited during a speaking tour of Ireland in 1845 ...

Mother Country

Catherine Hall: The Hostile Environment, 23 January 2020

The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment 
by Amelia Gentleman.
Guardian Faber, 336 pp., £18.99, September 2019, 978 1 78335 184 8
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Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation 
by Colin Grant.
Cape, 320 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 78733 105 1
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Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Become Scapegoats 
by Maya Goodfellow.
Verso, 272 pp., £12.99, November 2019, 978 1 78873 336 6
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... of the 1920s against ‘coloured seamen’. A Mass Observation survey on race in 1939, cited by Colin Grant in Homecoming, recorded a range of hostile comments. ‘One cannot compare them with whites,’ one woman said. ‘Having been brought up in a hot country they should be left there.’ Another thought of them as ‘big religious children’. ‘I ...

A Pound a Glimpse

Daniel Smith: Epilepsy, 16 November 2017

A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy 
by Colin Grant.
Cape, 242 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 0 224 10182 0
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The End of Epilepsy? A History of the Modern Era of Epilepsy, 1860-2010 
by Dieter Schmidt and Simon Shorvon.
Oxford, 208 pp., £39.99, September 2016, 978 0 19 872590 9
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... decades ago disappeared, or has it merely become less visible, less garish? A Smell of Burning, Colin Grant’s fourth book (he has also written about reggae and about Marcus Garvey), is preoccupied by questions of stigma – haunted by them, even. The book is a hybrid of memoir, medical history and social history of a kind that has become familiar in ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant, 20 November 1986

... Norman Briggs, is informed by James Anderton that Stalker is under investigation, and that Colin Sampson, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, is to take Stalker’s place on the RUC inquiry. Two days later, Briggs announces publicly that he has asked Sampson to conduct an investigation into a ‘disciplinary offence’ that may have been committed by ...

The Way to Glory

Hilary Mantel, 3 March 1988

Chinese Lives: An Oral History of Contemporary China 
by Zhang Xinxin and Sang Ye, edited by W.J.F. Jenner and Delia Davin.
Macmillan, 367 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 333 43364 5
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... Bai Xing, ‘Old Hundred Names’; the shortage of surnames bespeaks a passion for anonymity. When Colin Thubron began his recent travels, he feared that he might not make contact with the individual at all, and when Behind the Wall was published, he spoke of ‘the strange kind of delight’ the traveller feels when the Chinese behave in a way he can ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... Devolution allowed the Scots to make their own democratic decisions about how to spend their block grant from Westminster. Now the scale and indeed the existence of the block grant itself are open to question. Scotophobia, which last featured as a significant political force in the agitations of the 1760s against the ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment, 8 March 2001

Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... 36: ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ Hoadly understood this to mean that Christ had made no grant of temporal ‘dominion’ to his disciples ‘over the faith and religious conduct of others of his subjects’, concluding that the Church possessed no divine mandate to support establishments or to impose on people’s consciences. Indeed, these were ...

No Way Out

Colin Burrow: John McGahern, 20 October 2005

Memoir 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 571 22810 0
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... themselves of their father’s anger and self-pity (‘O God, O God, O God, have pity on me and grant me patience’). McGahern found books in the shambolic farmhouse of the Protestant Moroneys, who, in between picking bees out of their beards, gave him freedom to range in their library. His success at school finally won grudging concessions from his ...

The Illiberal Hour

Mark Bonham-Carter, 7 March 1985

Black and White Britain: The Third Survey 
by Colin Brown.
PSI/Heinemann, 331 pp., £22.50, September 1984, 0 435 83124 0
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... a result which none of us would have foreseen. The third survey, Block and White Britain by Colin Brown, was published recently, the bulk of the fieldwork having been done in 1981/82. The author sees his main task as providing a factual base for discussion and understanding, and he is concerned to explain the methods which he followed in composing his ...

Persons

Brian O’Shaughnessy, 1 April 1983

The Character of Mind 
by Colin McGinn.
Oxford, 132 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 19 219171 3
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... occupied between 1930 and 1960 – also, it may be, under the influence of Wittgenstein!). Colin McGinn’s admirable book manages to give a comprehensive picture of the state of play in the subject at the present time. In a compressed and well-written work, and without any loss of subtlety, he contrives to lead the reader on a guided tour of the ...

The Lie that Empire Tells Itself

Eric Foner: America’s bad wars, 19 May 2005

The Dominion of War: Empire and conflict in North America 1500-2000 
by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
Atlantic, 520 pp., £19.99, July 2005, 1 903809 73 8
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... of a populist, racist imperialism in which liberty became an entitlement of white men. Ulysses S. Grant consolidates the power of the nation-state through his victory in the Civil War, and as president tries to reconcile ‘American power with American values’ by adopting a ‘peace policy’ towards the remaining Indians, but to no lasting effect. The ...

Reputation

Colin McGinn, 23 November 1989

The Secret Connection: Causation, Realism and David Hume 
by Galen Strawson.
Oxford, 291 pp., £32.50, August 1989, 0 19 824853 9
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J.L. Austin 
by G.J. Warnock.
Routledge, 165 pp., £30, August 1989, 0 415 02962 7
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... tolerance of our ‘natural beliefs’ and his radical scepticism. It is really not consistent to grant us permission to believe what we naturally do believe and at the same time insist that we do not know any of the things we commonly take ourselves to know, since one cannot consistently continue to believe what one believes one cannot know. To believe is to ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry, 7 May 1998

Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... sons and their wives. Similarly, Anderson’s pseudo-historical concern with King Athelstan’s grant of a charter to the Craft meshed with the current cult of an ancient Anglo-Saxon constitution. However, as Anderson’s career indicates, the rise of Freemasonry was far from confined to England. The Craft provides a fascinating sub-plot to Linda Colley’s ...

‘Damn right,’ I said

Eliot Weinberger: Bush Meets Foucault, 6 January 2011

Decision Points 
by George W. Bush.
Virgin, 497 pp., £25, November 2010, 978 0 7535 3966 8
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... an NSC meeting in late April. ‘Why isn’t anybody stopping these looters?’ ‘By the time Colin gets to the White House for the meeting, this had better be fixed.’ ‘We need to find out what he knows,’ I directed the team. ‘What are our options?’ ‘Damn right,’ I said. ‘Where the hell is Ashcroft?’ I asked. ‘Go,’ I ...

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