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It was all about the Russians

David French: The First Anglo-Afghan War, 5 April 2012

The Dark Defile: Britain’s Catastrophic Invasion of Afghanistan 1838-42 
by Diana Preston.
Walker, 307 pp., £21, February 2012, 978 0 8027 7982 3
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... There is nothing novel about British forces being involved in Afghanistan. Britain was deeply concerned with Afghanistan from the early 19th century right up until the moment it relinquished its empire in India in 1947, and at times actively engaged in its affairs. Diana Preston’s book focuses on one particular episode, the First Anglo-Afghan War of 1838-42 ...

The Great War Revisited

Michael Howard, 23 April 1987

The Myriad Faces of War: Britain and the Great War 1914-1918 
by Trevor Wilson.
Polity, 864 pp., £35, September 1986, 9780745600932
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British Strategy and War Aims 1914-1916 
by David French.
Allen and Unwin, 274 pp., £25, September 1986, 0 04 942197 2
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The Old Lie: The Great War and the Public School Ethos 
by Peter Parker.
Constable, 319 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 09 466980 5
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... and social change. Recently a number of younger historians – Kathleen Birk, Keith Neilson, and David French in his first book British Economic and Strategic Planning 1905-1915 – have begun to consider some of the key questions of finance and economics. But until now nobody has tried to put all this specialist work together. The last oeuvre de ...

So long as you drub the foe

Geoffrey Best: Army-Society Relations, 11 May 2006

Military Identities: The Regimental System, The British Army and The British People c.1870-2000 
by David French.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, July 2005, 0 19 925803 1
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... was a Militia officer. Such military zeal does not strike one as surprising, given that the French had been the popular enemy for ten years, that by 1803 the enemy was terrifyingly personified in Napoleon Bonaparte, and that Britain was still far from being a mainly urban and industrial country. What is more surprising is to find the same enthusiasm for ...

Six French Frizeurs

David A. Bell, 10 December 1998

The Perfidy of Albion: French Perceptions of England during the French Revolution 
by Norman Hampson.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £40, June 1998, 0 333 73148 4
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Poisoning the Minds of the Lower Orders 
by Don Herzog.
Princeton, 472 pp., £18, September 1998, 0 691 04831 2
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... The moment in the 18th century when Anglo-French relations reached their lowest point was probably 29 May 1794 – 10 Prairial, Year II, as the French then styled it. On that day, the Jacobin Bertrand Barère delivered a typically long-winded and overheated speech to France’s National Convention on his favourite subject, English perfidy ...

Triumphalism

John Campbell, 19 December 1985

The Kitchener Enigma 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 436 pp., £15, September 1985, 0 7181 2385 9
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Kitchener: The Man behind the Legend 
by Philip Warner.
Hamish Hamilton, 247 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 0 241 11587 6
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... in August 1914 that his colleagues were in no position to query them. The fact remains that, as David French recently wrote in British Economic and Strategic Planning, 1905-1915: ‘Within a few days of becoming Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener was responsible for one of the most complete and far-reaching reversals of policy of the ...

War within wars

Paul Addison, 5 November 1992

War, Strategy and International Politics: Essays in Honour of Sir Michael Howard 
edited by Lawrence Freedman, Paul Hayes and Robert O’Neill.
Oxford, 322 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 822292 0
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... out the skeletons in the cupboard. Rhodri Williams shows how British prejudice against their French allies led to the folly of the Battle of Loos in September 1915. David French, on the other hand, explains how the responsibility for another great disaster, the third Battle of Ypres, was subsequently blamed on the ...

A Minor Irritant to the French Authorities

Fred Halliday, 20 February 1997

Vietnam 1945: The Quest for Power 
by David Marr.
California, 602 pp., $50, October 1995, 0 520 07833 0
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... of those taking part had ever heard of Vietnam. The actual name had been eliminated, the prewar French colonialists having divided the country into three, and on the surface, the postwar arrangements for that part of Indochina were clear: first, Chinese and British troops would enter and then the French colonial rulers ...

Diary

Sean French: Fortress Wapping, 6 March 1986

... Shortly after the Sunday Times’s enforced move into the London Docklands, David Blundy and Jon Swain were strolling towards the new production plant’s heavily-guarded entrance. These two foreign correspondents are used to witnessing military activity (you may remember Swain as a character in Roland Joffe’s movie, The Killing Fields), but they were astonished to see an armoured car with a full complement of Royal Marines apparently patrolling inside the heavily-fortified perimeter fence ...

Two Poems

Emile Nelligan, translated by Anne Carson, 11 May 2006

... night in the city! Emile Nelligan was born on Christmas Eve 1879 in Montreal to an Irish father (David Nelligan) and a French-Canadian mother (Emilie-Amanda Hudon). Emile was a prize-winning student in his early years at school but surprised everyone by failing his final examinations at the Collège Sainte-Marie (1897). He ...

One Does It Like This

David A. Bell: Talleyrand, 16 November 2006

Napoleon’s Master: A Life of Prince Talleyrand 
by David Lawday.
Cape, 386 pp., £20, September 2006, 0 224 07366 4
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... there. The two most familiar images of the men express the contrast eloquently. First, there is David’s brilliant portrait of Napoleon on his rearing charger in the Alps, seemingly master of the wind, rocks and sky; second, Chateaubriand’s acid description of Talleyrand hobbling into the presence of Louis XVIII with the help of Napoleon’s sinister ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to concoct a conspiracy theory, 20 October 2005

... at the Stade de France in Paris, a match in which France defeated Brazil 3-0; on the same day, David Ginola, retired French footballer and sometime L’Oréal model, became the new face of the anti-landmine movement. So far, so unconnected. But now let’s posit the existence of a mysterious secret organisation working ...

Come and see for yourself

David A. Bell: Tocqueville, 18 July 2013

Tocqueville: The Aristocratic Sources of Liberty 
by Lucien Jaume, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Princeton, 347 pp., £24.95, April 2013, 978 0 691 15204 2
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... aristocrat arrived in New York City with an assignment to report on American prisons for the French Ministry of Justice. Over the next nine months he travelled up the East Coast, down the Mississippi and through what was then the wild west of Kentucky, Ohio and Michigan. ‘Not every American is pleasant to interact with,’ he complained in a letter ...

Ruling the Roast

David A. Bell: A Nation of Beefeaters, 25 September 2003

Beef and Liberty: Roast Beef, John Bull and the English Nation 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 207 pp., £17.99, April 2003, 9780701169800
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... beef in 1998 after the EU had certified it safe for export, the response was so violent that the French agriculture minister Jean Glavany went on television to complain that ‘Britain has unleashed a torrent of xenophobic hatred.’ From the late Middle Ages, the ability of the English to raise and consume beef was a source of national pride, particularly ...
Adventures on the Freedom Road: The French Intellectuals in the 20th Century 
by Bernard-Henri Lévy, translated by Richard Veasey.
Harvill, 434 pp., £20, December 1995, 1 86046 035 6
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The Imaginary Jew 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Kevin O’Neill and David Suchoff.
Nebraska, 230 pp., £23.95, August 1994, 0 8032 1987 3
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The Defeat of the Mind 
by Alain Finkielkraut, translated by Judith Friedlander.
Columbia, 165 pp., $15, May 1996, 0 231 08023 9
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... In lieu of Sartre and Raymond Aron, future historians of French intellectuals in the Eighties and Nineties may well be condemned to structuring their narratives around the post-Marx brothers of French intellectual life, Bernard-Henri Lévy and Alain Finkielkraut. This is not a case simply of contemporary thinkers being dwarfed by the giants of the past – the familiar lament about the decline of French intellectuals is rather unfair ...

Six Wolfs, Three Weills

David Simpson: Emigration from Nazi Germany, 5 October 2006

Weimar in Exile: The Anti-Fascist Emigration in Europe and America 
by Jean-Michel Palmier, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 852 pp., £29.99, July 2006, 1 84467 068 6
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... course of 20th-century history. Jean-Michel Palmier’s sombre encyclopedia of exile, published in French in 1987 and now translated by David Fernbach, offers seemingly endless evidence of the ways in which exile often punished over and over again those who fled Germany after 1933. One story is symptomatic. Hans ...

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