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Founding Moments

Stuart Macintyre, 11 March 1993

The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. II, 1770-1860: Possessions 
by Jan Kociumbas.
Oxford, 397 pp., £25, September 1992, 0 19 554610 5
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The Rule of Law in a Penal Colony: Law and Power in Early New South Wales 
by David Neal.
Cambridge, 266 pp., £30, March 1992, 9780521372640
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Waterloo Creek: The Australia Day Massacre of 1838, George Gipps and the British Conquest of New South Wales 
by Roger Milliss.
McPhee Gribble, 965 pp., February 1992, 0 86914 156 2
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Living in a New Country: History, Travelling and Language 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 214 pp., £14.99, July 1992, 0 571 16329 7
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... and family life, on which the settlement’s ‘blueprint for growth’ was premised. By contrast, David Neal’s monograph opens with a successful legal action brought by a convict couple against one of the First Fleet captains. Neal is concerned to show how the establishment of the rule of law in a penal colony, at ...

Nairn is best

Neal Ascherson, 21 May 1987

Nairn: In Darkness and Light 
by David Thomson.
Hutchinson, 303 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 09 168360 2
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... Some sixty years ago, when David Thomson was a boy, he suffered from a condition that badly affected his eyesight. He could see, but poorly. He read Braille and, though this was forbidden, the printed page. On two occasions, when the condition grew worse, he was condemned to spend six weeks at a time lying on his back in a darkened room ...

Poetic Licence

Mark Ford, 21 August 1997

Words for the Taking: The Hunt for a Plagiarist 
by Neal Bowers.
Norton, 136 pp., £12.95, March 1997, 0 393 04007 0
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... The American writer Neal Bowers has published three collections of poetry and two critical books, one on the works of James Dickey and one on Theodore Roethke. For the past twenty years he has occupied a creative writing post at Iowa State University, and, until 1992, led what he describes as ‘a most uneventful life’ in the small town of Ames, Iowa ...

Diary

Neal Ascherson: Among the icebergs, 18 October 2007

... as well as the patriarch’s retinue of scientists and theologians, stood like a row of Caspar David Friedrich solitaries, facing the ice as if facing their judge. The Ilulissat ice fjord leads back to one of the world’s most powerful glaciers, the Sermeq Kujalleq. Its cliff-like face is three miles wide and, counting its hidden underwater bulk, nearly a ...

Don’t imagine you’re smarter

Neal Ascherson: The Informers, 19 July 2018

My Life as a Spy: Investigations in a Secret Police File 
by Katherine Verdery.
Duke, 344 pp., £20.99, May 2018, 978 0 8223 7081 9
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... much time in the city of Cluj, where she had formed a passionate friendship with the historian David Prodan. The Securitate meanwhile had decided that with a name like Verdery she must be an ethnic Hungarian (quite wrong: the family roots were French), and therefore had been planted to encourage subversion among the disaffected Magyar minority in ...

What sort of Scotland?

Neal Ascherson, 21 August 2014

... there, in a sense.’ ‘Perhaps we should think about Scotland in the same way,’ the playwright David Greig said. ‘Perhaps Scotland has always been independent, but we were just unable to see it.’ Where is Scotland, anyway? That question isn’t about geography. Where does it exist most intensely? In football? In culture? In the past? In its music? The ...

Imagined Soil

Neal Ascherson: The German War on Nature, 6 April 2006

The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany 
by David Blackbourn.
Cape, 497 pp., £30, January 2006, 0 224 06071 6
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... true when we are trying to untangle humanity’s relationship with the natural environment,’ David Blackbourn writes, in this magnificently compelling, vivid and often pioneering book. Its subject is Germany’s struggle to subjugate its landscape, above all its waters, over the last 250 years. But its implications apply to the contemporary world, to the ...

Beyond Discussion

Neal Ascherson, 3 April 1980

The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial 
by Auberon Waugh.
Joseph, 240 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7181 1799 9
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... produced less certainty about who really did what to whom than if Jeremy Thorpe, George Deakin, David Holmes and John Le Mesurier had been invited to take off their shoes and socks and walk along a trench full of glowing charcoal. As with the trench method, the populace gathered to watch or to read about how the defendants survived this ...

Bye Bye Britain

Neal Ascherson, 24 September 2020

... have toyed with this idea when he was opposition leader between 1997 and 2001. But neither he nor David Cameron were brutal and ambitious enough to go for it. No one seems very interested in an English parliament and few people think much of Cameron’s ‘English votes for English laws’ amendments to Commons standing orders. The mass mobilisation of the ...

Customising Biography

Iain Sinclair, 22 February 1996

Blake 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 399 pp., £20, September 1995, 1 85619 278 4
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol I: Jerusalem 
editor David Bindman, edited by Morton D. Paley.
Tate Gallery, 304 pp., £48, August 1991, 1 85437 066 9
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. II: Songs of Innocence and Experience 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Andrew Lincoln.
Tate Gallery, 210 pp., £39.50, August 1991, 1 85437 068 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol III: The Early Illuminated Books 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Morris Eaves, Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 288 pp., £48, August 1993, 1 85437 119 3
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. IV: The Continental Prophecies: America, Europe, The Song of Los 
editor David Bindman, edited by D.W. Dörbecker.
Tate Gallery, 368 pp., £50, May 1995, 1 85437 154 1
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. V: Milton, a Poem 
series editor David Bindman, edited by Robert Essick and Joseph Viscomi.
Tate Gallery, 224 pp., £48, November 1993, 1 85437 121 5
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Collected Edition of William Blake’s Illuminated Books: Vol. VI: The Urizen Books 
 editor David Bindman, edited by David Worrall.
Tate Gallery, 232 pp., £39.50, May 1995, 9781854371553
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... courteous and sharp-witted lady was the one who had been, rather reluctantly, photographed with Neal Cassady, and who had herself been responsible for some of the most familiar images of Kerouac and Cassady in archetypal buddy-buddy poses. I guess that I’m temperamentally ill-equipped to deal with these confusions. Fiction, biography, journalism: they ...

Boswell’s Bowels

Neal Ascherson, 20 December 1984

James Boswell: The Later Years 1769-1795 
by Frank Brady.
Heinemann, 609 pp., £20, November 1984, 0 434 08530 8
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... when he encountered them among Hebridean chiefs. But Auchinleck’s Scotland, for all the David Humes and Adam Smiths and Hugh Blairs, still had one foot in times when family feuds were settled by the spear and the firing of houses. To the old taunt, Boswell’s guts responded in the old way. Meanwhile Boswell went on wrestling vainly with his own ...

Make them go away

Neal Ascherson: Grossman’s Failure, 3 February 2011

To the End of the Land 
by David Grossman, translated by Jessica Cohen.
Cape, 577 pp., £18.99, September 2010, 978 0 224 08999 9
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... back in 1959 and first published in 1980. A comparison between the two books, Vasily’s and David’s, does not do the later one much good. As an outpouring of feeling, and as a series of sombre representations of the condition of modern Israel, To the End of the Land is often impressive, sometimes touching. As a novel it simply does not come off. This ...

By San Carlos Water

Neal Ascherson, 18 November 1982

Authors take sides on the Falklands 
edited by Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Cecil Woolf, 144 pp., £4.95, August 1982, 0 900821 63 9
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The Falklands War: The Full Story 
by the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ Team.
Deutsch and Sphere, 276 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 233 97515 2
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The Winter War: The Falklands 
by Patrick Bishop and John Witherow.
Quartet, 153 pp., £2.95, September 1982, 0 7043 3424 0
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Iron Britannia: Why Parliament waged its Falklands war 
by Anthony Barnett.
Allison and Busby, 160 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 85031 494 1
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Falklands/Malvinas: Whose Crisis? 
by Martin Honeywell.
Latin American Bureau, 135 pp., £1.95, September 1982, 0 906156 15 7
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Los Chicos de la Guerra 
by Daniel Kon.
Editorial Galerna, Buenos Aires, August 1982
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A Message from the Falklands: The Life and Gallant Death of David Tinker, Lieut RN 
compiled by Hugh Tinker.
Junction, 224 pp., £3.50, November 1982, 0 86245 102 7
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... by homicidal maniacs on a collision course are also coming closer to one another. The novelist David Lodge, in one of the earnest but flustered contributions typical of Authors take sides on the Falklands, is more realistic. He writes that regaining the Falklands is not worth one human life. But he then confesses: ‘There is no doubt in my mind that ...

After the Referendum

LRB Contributors, 9 October 2014

... of the voters had left their quiet houses, voted ‘No’, gone home and shut the door. At seven David Cameron was on the radio. He intoned the words ‘our United Kingdom’ so many times I thought I’d be sick. Whose United Kingdom? Theirs. The Eton Mess and their cronies. Big Business. Neocons. The warmongers. Not ours. We left Edinburgh at ...

What sort of traitors?

Neal Ascherson, 7 February 1980

The Climate of Treason 
by Andrew Boyle.
Hutchinson, 504 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 9780091393403
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... to SIS, or both. But The Climate of Treason is not one of these hagiograms. They really talked: David Footman, Nicholas Elliott, Sir Robert Mackenzie, George Carey-Foster, Sir Frederick Warner, agents and diplomats on the security side, and a large anonymous group of Intelligence men from both branches of the service, retired and active. The reason can be ...

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