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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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... of creation could be revealed. It didn’t affect the quality of the taxonomy whether or not explorers believed – as most did – that all species had been created by the Almighty. The Jesuit Père David, who explored China in the 1860s, was propelled by his quest for God’s wonders, and careless of personal hardship. Exploration was by no means confined to rainforests. Conniff is particularly good ...

Having Fun

David​ Coward: Alexandre Dumas

17 April 2003
Viva Garibaldi! Une Odyssée en 1860 
by Alexandre Dumas.
Fayard, 610 pp., €23, February 2002, 2 213 61230 7
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... which featured bear fur and a belt of bullets. On his return in 1859, he decided to sail round the Near East and bring back a Mediterranean saga which would describe the world of Napoleon, Augustus, Constantine, Christ, Sesostris, Hannibal and El Cid. But in Turin he met Garibaldi, who had not forgotten the support Dumas had given in 1848 to the liberators of Montevideo. He invited Dumas to translate and ...

Grail Trail

C.H. Roberts

4 March 1982
The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
Cape, 445 pp., £8.95, January 1982, 0 224 01735 7
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The Foreigner: A Search for the First-Century Jesus 
by Desmond Stewart.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 241 10686 9
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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition 
by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Cornell, 258 pp., £14, November 1981, 0 8014 1267 6
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... of Septimania (which according to the Prieuré Documents included the Grail castle) had a large Jewish population, and Guillem himself was a Jew, perhaps a practising one, of the house of David. (Other versions not quoted here treat him as a Christian hero who ended his days as a monk.) Attempting to explain what they see as the quite extraordinary importance attached to Merovingian descent ...

The Atheists’ Picnic

Julian Bell: Art and Its Origins

10 June 2010
Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion 
by David​ Lewis-Williams.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £18.95, March 2010, 978 0 500 05164 1
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... that the concepts ‘God’ and ‘man’ first arose? That seems to be the implication when, in the opening pages of Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion, the archaeologist David Lewis-Williams examines the earliest records of symbolic behaviour. It is unlikely we will ever pinpoint just when the human habit of investing objects with significance took hold. But for the moment ...

They’re just not ready

Neal Ascherson: Gorbachev Betrayed

7 January 2010
Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment 
by Stephen Kotkin, with Jan Gross.
Modern Library, 240 pp., $24, October 2009, 978 0 679 64276 3
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Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire 
by Victor Sebestyen.
Weidenfeld, 451 pp., £25, July 2009, 978 0 297 85223 0
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There Is No Freedom without Bread: 1989 and the Civil War that Brought Down Communism 
by Constantine​ Pleshakov.
Farrar, Straus, 289 pp., $26, November 2009, 978 0 374 28902 7
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1989: The Struggle to Create Post-Cold War Europe 
by Mary Elise Sarotte.
Princeton, 321 pp., £20.95, November 2009, 978 0 691 14306 4
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... at America’s suggestion? Eduard Shevardnadze, Baker’s Soviet opposite number and friend, laughed and said the idea was not sinister ‘but merely stupid’. The story, well told in his book by Constantine Pleshakov, shows yet again how reluctant American policy-makers were to see the end of the Soviet imperium as an undiluted triumph, rather than as a threat of trouble ahead. As Sebestyen puts it ...
31 October 1996
A History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths 
by Karen Armstrong.
HarperCollins, 474 pp., £20, July 1996, 0 00 255522 0
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Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years 
by Israel Shahak.
Pluto, 118 pp., £11.99, April 1994, 9780745308180
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City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David​ to the Present 
edited by Nitza Rosovsky.
Harvard, 562 pp., £25.50, April 1996, 0 674 13190 8
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Jerusalem in the 20th Century 
by Martin Gilbert.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 7011 3070 9
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Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 
by Norman Finkelstein.
Verso, 230 pp., £39.95, December 1995, 1 85984 940 7
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To Rule Jerusalem 
by Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht.
Cambridge, 554 pp., £29.95, June 1996, 0 521 44046 7
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... about 1800 BC. Since then it has changed hands some twenty-five times, been destroyed 17 times, and its inhabitants have frequently been massacred. Round about 1000 BC, the city was captured by King David. Assuming that he existed – and there is no archaeological or other evidence for him, or for Solomon, Moses or Joshua, outside the Bible, the relevant books of which were written hundreds of years ...

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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... World War, when West Indians were recruited to work in war industries and in the RAF. They were greeted with gratitude and looked after with some care by the Colonial Office. The splendid Learie Constantine was one of those appointed to help. At the other end of the spectrum Indian divisions fought in the Eighth Army and of course in the defence of India. They were colleagues, comrades, in the battle ...

Break their teeth, O God

Colin Kidd: The Trial of Sacheverell

20 August 2014
Faction Displayed: Reconsidering the Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Mark Knights.
Wiley-Blackwell, 132 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 1 4443 6187 2
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The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Brian Cowan.
Wiley-Blackwell, 307 pp., £22.99, November 2012, 978 1 4443 3223 0
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... of this media sensation. The essays in Faction Displayed trace the ways in which the controversy was spun, and the interplay of developments in London and beyond. In a richly documented vignette David Hayton shows how Irish Tories indulged in Sacheverellism by proxy, championing the cause of their own ‘red-faced, roaring’ militant High Churchman, Francis Higgins. Later they delighted in the ...

Kipling the Reliable

David​ Trotter

6 March 1986
Early Verse by Rudyard Kipling 1879-1889 
edited by Andrew Rutherford.
Oxford, 497 pp., £19.50, March 1986, 9780198123231
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Kipling’s India: Uncollected Sketches 1884-88 
edited by Thomas Pinney.
Macmillan, 301 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 38467 9
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Imperialism and Popular Culture 
edited by John MacKenzie.
Manchester, 264 pp., £25, February 1986, 9780719017704
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Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases 
edited by Henry Yule and A.C. Burnell.
Routledge, 1021 pp., £18.95, November 1985, 0 7100 2886 5
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... the way the BBC under Reith used the appeal of Empire to establish its own status and popularity. Jeffrey Richards writes about images of Empire in British and American films of the Thirties, Stephen Constantine about the Empire Marketing Board, whose activities ranged from a pamphlet on ‘The Behaviour and Diseases of the Banana in Storage and Transport’ to John Grierson’s documentary about the herring ...
18 July 1996
Empire: The British Imperial Experience, from 1765 to the Present 
by Denis Judd.
HarperCollins, 517 pp., £25, March 1996, 9780002552370
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Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire 
edited by P.J. Marshall.
Cambridge, 400 pp., £24.95, March 1996, 0 521 43211 1
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Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France, c.1500-c.1800 
by Anthony Pagden.
Yale, 244 pp., £19.95, August 1995, 0 300 06415 2
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... themes and controversies. Its first four chapters tell the story from the late 18th century to the Sixties. Part II contains several essays by different specialists on the life of the British Empire. David Fieldhouse examines how far it promoted economic development or under-development. Ged Martin and Benjamin Kline discuss emigration and identities. John MacKenzie supplies a piece on imperial art ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg

26 April 2012
Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... a staggering range of figures and topics: Thucydides, Aristotle, Lucian, Quintilian, Origen, St Augustine, Dante, Boccaccio, More, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Hobbes, Bayle, Voltaire, Sterne, Diderot, David, Stendhal, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Warburg, Proust, Kracauer, Picasso and many more, each an extraordinary display of learning. No other living historian approaches the range of this erudition. Every page ...
5 August 2004
... 1896-1957) did not begin work on The Leopard until late in life. He was fearful perhaps of a bad reception on the mainland, and also unwilling to compete with other writers. His English biographer David Gilmour suspects that he was moved to write by his sense that as an ‘ultimate descendant of an ancient noble line whose economic and physical extinction culminated in himself’, he would be the ...

The Politics of Translation

Marina Warner: Translate this!

11 October 2018
This Little Art 
by Kate Briggs.
Fitzcarraldo, 365 pp., £12.99, September 2017, 978 1 910695 45 6
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Translation as Transhumance 
by Mireille Gansel, translated by Ros Schwartz.
Les Fugitives, 150 pp., £10, November 2017, 978 0 9930093 3 4
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Sympathy for the Traitor: A Translation Manifesto 
by Mark Polizzotti.
MIT, 168 pp., £17.99, May 2018, 978 0 262 03799 0
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The 100 Best Novels in Translation 
by Boyd Tonkin.
Galileo, 304 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 903385 67 8
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The Work of Literary Translation 
by Clive Scott.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £75, June 2018, 978 1 108 42682 4
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... In​ the early 1960s, David Hockney made a series of etchings inspired by the poems of Constantine Cavafy; he went to Egypt to discover the places Cavafy had drunk coffee and picked up lovers, but in the images it’s mainly Hockney’s own life and friends who figure. The etchings touch on ...


R.W. Johnson

4 June 1987
Traitors: The Labyrinths of Treason 
by Chapman Pincher.
Sidgwick, 346 pp., £13.95, May 1987, 0 283 99379 0
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The Secrets of the Service: British Intelligence and Communist Subversion 1939-51 
by Anthony Glees.
Cape, 447 pp., £18, May 1987, 0 224 02252 0
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Freedom of Information – Freedom of the Individual? 
by Clive Ponting, John Ranelagh, Michael Zander and Simon Lee, edited by Julia Neuberger.
Macmillan, 110 pp., £4.95, May 1987, 0 333 44771 9
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... than a Soviet fifth column. This notion has provided the basis for a particular genre of right-wing thriller based on a Soviet takeover of Britain through its Labour moles – a genre inaugurated by Constantine Fitzgibbon’s When the kissing had to stop. Most shocking of all was Golitsyn’s suggestion that Gaitskell had been murdered to make way for a Soviet plant. In no time Angleton had drawn the ...

Salem’s Lot

Leslie Wilson

23 March 1995
... accused the Christians of practising orgies and child sacrifice. The Christians, once established in power, made similar accusations against the Jews and many sects they deemed heretical. Michael Constantine Psellos, the Byzantine philosopher, wrote about the Bogomils: In the evening, when the candles are lit, at the time when we celebrate the redemptive Passion of Our Lord, they bring together, in a ...

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