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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 ...

Mother Country

Catherine Hall: The Hostile Environment

13 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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... towns turned violently on local black communities, to popular fiction and films, or the legislation of the 1920s against ‘coloured seamen’. A Mass Observation survey on race in 1939, cited by ColinGrant 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 ...

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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... what has become of that revulsion. Are we really so enlightened now? Has the stigma that reigned only decades ago disappeared, or has it merely become less visible, less garish? A Smell of Burning, ColinGrant’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 ...

Stalker & Co

Damian Grant

20 November 1986
... searches of Taylor’s premises, on 28 May, the then Chairman of Manchester’s Police Authority, Councillor 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 ...

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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... The Act had been more effective in housing and, especially, in house purchase than in employment – 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 ...
8 March 2012
...  Ross’s nightmare – and ignited the passions of a hitherto passionless English nationalism. 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 ...

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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... monumental sculpture.’ Yes, but who are they? What do they think? The Chinese call themselves Lao 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 ...

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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... attack on priestcraft and prelacy on the basis of his exegesis of the Biblical text, John 18: 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 ...

No Way Out

Colin​ Burrow: John McGahern

20 October 2005
by John McGahern.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 571 22810 0
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... the beatings, the punishments, the constant scolding’ except private parodic performances among 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 ...


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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... has mostly consisted in beating a judicious retreat to traditional views from the improbable positions 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 ...

Inventing Africa

Caroline Moorehead

18 September 1980
Fantastic Invasion 
by Patrick Marnham.
Cape, 271 pp., £6.50, May 1980, 0 224 01829 9
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Images of Africa 
by Naomi Mitchison.
Canongate, 139 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 903937 70 0
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... the colonial governor in 1958. The trouble was that the ‘wild, thirsty plains’, so perfect for tourists, were also the hunting-grounds of a tribe called the Ik, immortalised for theatregoers in Colin Turnbull’s gruesome play. There was a plan to ‘translocate’ the entire tribe to Southern Uganda and turn them into farmers, but that never happened: the Ik were left to torment one another to ...

‘My God was bigger than his’

Colin​ Kidd: The Republicans

4 November 2004
The Right Nation: Why America Is Different 
by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge.
Allen Lane, 450 pp., £14.99, August 2004, 0 7139 9738 9
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Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet 
by James Mann.
Penguin, 448 pp., $16, September 2004, 0 14 303489 8
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Nixon’s Shadow: The History of an Image 
by David Greenberg.
Norton, 496 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 393 32616 0
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America Right or Wrong: An Anatomy of American Nationalism 
by Anatol Lieven.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £18.99, October 2004, 0 00 716456 4
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... become George W. Bush’s national security adviser after a flirtation with the Democrats. Today, in spite of the emergence of a prosperous black middle class with Republican role models in Rice and Colin Powell, the historic connection between blacks and Republicans has been severed: in 2000 barely one in ten of the black electorate backed Bush. The Democrat passage of Civil Rights legislation in the ...

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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... of Solomon’s Temple was credible in a world peopled by the ‘Arkite ogdoad’ – Noah, his three 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 ...


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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... not appreciate a further tension in Hume’s overall position – namely, the tension between his 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 ...

We are all Scots here

Linda Colley: Scotland and Empire

12 December 2002
The Scottish Empire 
by Michael Fry.
Tuckwell/Birlinn, 580 pp., £16.99, November 2002, 9781841582597
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... East India Company introduced competitive examinations for its official posts in 1853, clannish Scottish power in India was dealt a major blow. No longer could cousin Angus from Arbroath or brother Colin from Caithness be eased so smoothly into the next soft billet in the Subcontinent. Smaller, private companies, however, were – at least initially – more easily managed. ‘Thank God,’ one of ...

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