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Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars

4 April 2019
The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... to Solomon, ‘for he had heard, that they had anointed him king in the room of his father,’ David: For Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars ...

Is this the end of the UK?

David Runciman: The End of the UK?

27 May 2010
... are bound to build. The Conservative Party, in theory, remains fully committed to the Union. David Cameron repeatedly and pointedly talks about having come into politics to serve ‘our country’, and by that he doesn’t mean England – he means the UK. Yet this election was meant to be the occasion when the Tories ...

In a Faraway Pond

David Runciman: The NGO

29 November 2007
Non-Governmental Politics 
edited by Michel Feher.
Zone, 693 pp., £24.95, May 2007, 978 1 890951 74 0
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... On 24 July, in a speech to the Rwandan parliament, David Cameron said that the old ideological divisions concerning aid and trade – aid is ‘wasteful’, trade is ‘unfair’ – needed to be abandoned in favour of a commitment to what works. He talked about the importance of transparency and accountability at both governmental and non-governmental levels to ensure that resources were used efficiently and money reached its targets ...

Sans Sunflowers

David Solkin

7 July 1994
Nineteenth-Century Art: A Critical History 
by Stephen Eisenman, Thomas Crow, Brian Lukacher, Linda Nochlin and Frances Pohl.
Thames and Hudson, 376 pp., £35, March 1994, 0 500 23675 5
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... an urgent call for a ‘critical history of art’, founded on an understanding that ‘the only means of gaining an adequate grasp of old artifacts lies in the dual critique of the ideology which sustained their production and use, and of the current cultural interests that have turned works of art into a highly privileged class of consumer and didactic ...

Basically Evil

Brad Leithauser

12 May 1994
The Plum in the Golden Vase or Chin P’ing Mei. Vol I: The Gathering 
translated by David Tod Roy.
Princeton, 610 pp., £24.95, December 1993, 0 691 06932 8
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... From the outset, ambiguity enfolds The Plum in the Golden Vase, David Tod Roy’s translation of the first volume of the monumental 16th-century Chinese novel Chin P’ing Mei. The title, as he explains in his Introduction, is a ‘multiple pun’ composed of one ideogram each from the names of the three principal female protagonists ...

Socialism in One County

David Runciman: True Blue Labour

28 July 2011
The Labour Tradition and the Politics of Paradox: The Oxford London Seminars 2010-11 
edited by Maurice Glasman, Jonathan Rutherford, Marc Stears and Stuart White., 155 pp., June 2011, 978 1 907103 36 0
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... any party, including the Labour Party of Tony Blair and the Conservative Party of Blair’s heir, David Cameron. Glasman has no fundamental problem with Cameron’s notion of the Big Society, which he takes very seriously. He absolutely is not one of those who think it’s just a fluffy cover story for an ideological programme of radical Tory cuts (which is ...

Is it a crime?

P.N. Furbank

6 June 1985
Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary of David Peterley 
edited by Michael Holroyd.
Secker, 286 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 436 36715 7
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... it is for us to examine – as the genuine diary, covering the years 1930 to 1939, of a certain David Peterley, scion of an ancient landed family. Peterley’s diary and other papers, so ran the Foreword by its ‘editor’ Richard Pennington, occupy a large red box in the McGill University Library, of which Pennington was the chief librarian, and the diary ...

Short Cuts

John Sturrock: John Reid tries to out-Blunkett Blunkett

2 November 2006
... considerations of national security’. Knowing as we do that ‘overriding’ here means that considerations so labelled cannot on security grounds be shared with the public – or even, given Blair’s record in these matters, with other members of the government – we have good reason to see this quite dreadful prospect or else intention as ...
19 April 1984
Dear Lord Rothschild: Birds, Butterflies and History 
by Miriam Rothschild.
Hutchinson, 398 pp., £14.95, November 1983, 0 09 153740 1
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... had much logic, inasmuch as entrepreneurial (or, for that matter, professional) skills are by no means a matter of upbringing or heredity. What the tradition in effect provided was a convenient myth to justify and to sustain paternal striving: for many a concern, the building-up or maintaining of something to pass on to one’s sons – or, in default of ...
7 February 1991
Talking at the Gates: A Life of James Baldwin 
by James Campbell.
Faber, 306 pp., £14.99, January 1991, 0 571 15391 7
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James Baldwin: Artist on Fire 
by W.J. Weatherby.
Joseph, 412 pp., £17.99, June 1990, 0 7181 3403 6
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... symbolically with colour’. ‘Only symbolically’ goes a little further than Baldwin needs. It means, as he later makes clear, ‘politically’: ‘Colour is not a human or personal reality; it is a political reality.’ A white liberal would say the same, but then, I take it, so would Nelson Mandela. The difference is in the intensity with which the ...
4 June 1987
Forever England 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 174 pp., £9.95, April 1987, 0 563 20466 4
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by Alan Sillitoe.
Grafton, 170 pp., £14.95, March 1987, 0 246 12852 6
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Left behind: Journeys into British Politics 
by David Selbourne.
Cape, 174 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 224 02370 5
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... people’ have neither freedom of movement nor freedom of speech. For if freedom of speech means anything it must mean the right to be heard, to matter. That leaves those with the opportunity to be heard and the freedom to travel with a responsibility to decide: who are they speaking with and for? A third of Britain is poor, and yet the voice of the ...

The Politics of Now

David Runciman: The Last World Cup

21 June 2018
The Fall of the House of Fifa 
by David Conn.
Yellow Jersey, 336 pp., £9.99, June 2017, 978 0 224 10045 8
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... power, some moments now look like straws in the wind. In late November 2010 the English FA sent David Cameron, Prince William and David Beckham to Fifa headquarters in Zurich to lobby on its behalf before the vote for the right to host the 2018 World Cup. Two old Etonians and an alumnus of Chingford County High ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: The Corbyn Surge

26 August 2015
... options presented to them. But Trump’s case is also very different. The length of the US contest means there is plenty of time for the old rules to reassert themselves. And when that happens, Trump has the option of running as an independent, which is what a disruptor would do (though the likely consequence is that he would help usher Hillary into the White ...

Was it a supernova?

Frank Kermode: The Nativity

4 January 2007
The Nativity: History and Legend 
by Geza Vermes.
Penguin, 177 pp., £7.99, November 2006, 0 14 102446 1
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... in three periods of 14 generations apiece (not even Vermes knows why). He begins with Abraham and David and departs from ancient practice in naming five women in his list. One of these is Mary, the mother of Jesus. The others are all non-Jews, and three of them are associated with marital irregularities: Tamar seduced her father-in-law, Rahab was a ...

Blake at work

David Bindman

2 April 1981
William Blake, printmaker 
by Robert Essick.
Princeton, 304 pp., £27.50, August 1980, 0 691 03954 2
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... a number of questions unanswered. By using the available manuals, Essick is able to discuss what means were possible, and by a brilliant analysis of the existing plates he is able to prove beyond doubt that Blake etched his plates extremely shallowly. In so doing, Blake could exert a personal control over the inking, and thus achieve a spontaneity quite ...

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