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Encyclopedias

Theodore Zeldin, 26 October 1989

Pan Encyclopedia 
edited by Judith Hannam.
Pan, 608 pp., £8.99, August 1989, 9780330309202
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Longman Encyclopedia 
edited by Asa Briggs.
Longman, 1179 pp., £24.95, September 1989, 0 582 91620 8
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International Encyclopedia of Communications: Vols I-IV 
edited by Erik Barnouw.
Oxford, 1913 pp., £250, April 1989, 0 19 504994 2
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The Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives 
edited by Francis Robinson.
Cambridge, 520 pp., £30, September 1989, 0 521 33451 9
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Concise Encyclopedia of Islam 
by Cyril Glass.
Stacey International, 472 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 905743 52 0
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The World’s Religions 
by Ninian Smart.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 521 34005 5
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The New Physics 
edited by Paul Davies.
Cambridge, 516 pp., £30, March 1989, 0 521 30420 2
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The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia 
by H.R. Loyn.
Thames and Hudson, 352 pp., £24, May 1989, 0 500 25103 7
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China in World History 
by S.A.M. Adshead.
Macmillan, 432 pp., £35, June 1988, 0 333 43405 6
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... Why does every home not have a whole wall of encyclopedias, now that we supposedly live in the Information Age? Why have they failed to establish themselves as indispensable items of furniture, against the competition of electronic gadgetry? Because they are contenting themselves with just giving information, instead of sharpening it, so that it points somewhere ...

Homage to Satyajit Ray

Salman Rushdie, 8 March 1990

Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye 
by Andrew Robinson.
Deutsch, 412 pp., £17.95, November 1989, 0 233 98473 9
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... about ‘international cinema’ (or, at any rate, the movies of Robert Taylor, the Three Stooges, Francis the Talking Mule and Maria Montez). It was at the old Academy in Oxford Street, at the National Film Theatre, and at the Arts Cinema in Cambridge, that, with mixed feelings of high elation and shame at my own previous ignorance, I filled in this ...

Umbrageousness

Ferdinand Mount: Staffing the Raj, 7 September 2017

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India 
by Shashi Tharoor.
Hurst, 295 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 808 8
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The Making of India: The Untold Story of British Enterprise 
by Kartar Lalvani.
Bloomsbury, 433 pp., £25, March 2016, 978 1 4729 2482 7
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India Conquered: Britain’s Raj and the Chaos of Empire 
by Jon Wilson.
Simon & Schuster, 564 pp., £12.99, August 2017, 978 1 4711 0126 7
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... coal mines. In the British view, India’s destiny was to remain what Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson called in Why Nations Fail (2012) an ‘extractive colony’. The Raj was seen at its worst in the hardest times, responding to poor harvests and the resulting famines as reluctantly as the home government did in Ireland. The last large-scale famine in ...

Rigging the Death Rate

Paul Taylor, 11 April 2013

... The publication in February of the Francis Report into the failings of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was the worst of the many recent bad news stories about the NHS, its significance underscored by the fact that David Cameron felt it necessary to present the report to the House of the Commons himself, rather than leave it to the secretary of state for health ...

Shag another

Katrina Forrester: In Bed with the Police, 7 November 2013

Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police 
by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.
Faber and Guardian Books, 346 pp., £12.99, June 2013, 978 0 571 30217 8
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... to chart the history of secret policing. Their prize source is the former undercover officer Peter Francis, who spied on minor anti-fascist and anti-racist groups in North London in the early 1990s before infiltrating his target group, Anti-Fascist Action. While undercover, he lived alone in Highbury, drove a van and got a day job working in a school for ...

Darwin Won’t Help

Terry Eagleton: Evocriticism, 24 September 2009

On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition and Fiction 
by Brian Boyd.
Harvard, 540 pp., £25.95, May 2009, 978 0 674 03357 3
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... is richly connotative, while scientific language is merely denotative. (It isn’t clear where Francis Bacon would fit on this axis.) Science deals with facts, and art with values. The Victorian man of letters spent much of his time seeking to coat unpalatable scientific truths with the sugar of spiritual consolation. Science’s chilling reports on the ...

Nelly gets her due

John Sutherland, 8 November 1990

The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 317 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 670 82787 8
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The Autobiography of Margaret Oliphant 
edited by Elisabeth Jay.
Oxford, 184 pp., £16.95, October 1990, 0 19 818615 0
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... that any incriminating letters survive: Dickens’s son Henry and Ellen Ternan’s son Geoffrey Robinson destroyed all such correspondence. Dickens himself burned any personal letters that he could come by. He also destroyed his diaries at the end of every year. One diary – that for 1867 – was lost or, more likely, stolen in America. It resurfaced in ...

Five Feet Tall in His Socks

Patrick Collinson: Farewell to the Muggletonians, 5 June 2008

Last Witnesses: The Muggletonian History, 1652-1979 
by William Lamont.
Ashgate, 267 pp., £55, August 2006, 0 7546 5532 6
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... later in the century the sect was ruled ‘by force of intellect’ rather than wealth by Thomas Robinson, a mostly unemployed shoemaker and recipient of the sect’s charity. Most members belonged to the lower levels of artisanship and trade, neither poor nor rich. They included, as one would expect, many women, whose role in transmitting the faith must not ...

Issues of Truth and Invention

Colm Tóibín: Francis Stuart’s wartime broadcasts, 4 January 2001

The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 
edited by Brendan Barrington.
Lilliput, 192 pp., £25, September 2000, 1 901866 54 8
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... In March 1992 I received a printed invitation from Francis Stuart to a party in Dublin commemorating a party he had given in Berlin on St Patrick’s Day 1941. I wondered, when I read it, why Francis had sent this. Over the years he had invited me to several events, but he had never had invitations printed ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... From the moment he died in April 1590, Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Elizabeth I, has been the subject of competing myths. Catholics greeted the demise of a relentless opponent with relief and applause, and circulated lurid providential stories about the appalling stench that came from his corpse, which allegedly poisoned one of his pall-bearers ...

Carers or Consumers?

Barbara Taylor: 18th-Century Women, 4 November 2010

Women and Enlightenment in 18th-Century Britain 
by Karen O’Brien.
Cambridge, 310 pp., £17.99, March 2009, 978 0 521 77427 7
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... womanly, suffused with the traditional female vices of profligacy and sensuality. If Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was Economic Man in the heroic mode, he was shadowed by Economic Woman: Moll Flanders, the emblem of an age of passions run rampant. Not everyone shared this pessimism. A very different mood could also be found in Enlightenment Britain, as ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... read books all day; he likes nothing better than to discuss them with like-minded individuals – Francis Elless the schoolmaster, or Thomas Davy the shoemaker, with whom Turner shares one of the two informative ‘improving’ journals he regularly takes. The self-portrait Turner sketches in his diary is of a young man who naturally has little time for the ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?, 20 February 2003

Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... homosexual men to confide in and gossip with, and these came in the guise of the playwright Lennox Robinson and the poet Thomas MacGreevy. Since most of Dublin suspected their homosexuality, ‘neither was a threat to the good name of Mrs W.B. Yeats,’ Saddlemyer writes. She worked with both on the Dublin Drama League, which sought to produce more ...

Pretty Much like Ourselves

Terry Eagleton, 4 September 1997

Modern British Utopias 1700-1850 
by Gregory Claeys.
Pickering & Chatto, 4128 pp., £550, March 1997, 1 85196 319 7
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... guise, and so helps to reinforce it. They are end-of-history texts, fictional equivalents of Francis Fukuyama, which deny that reality could be transformed in the very act of proclaiming how it could be improved. The Island of Liberty (1848) shows an enlightened aristocrat carrying out an experiment in human equality on a South Sea island, a project ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... of being killed by him), but Thomas Middleton and John Fletcher both died in their mid-forties, Francis Beaumont at thirty, while Henry Porter (whose Two Angry Women of Abingdon influenced The Merry Wives of Windsor) may have been still younger when he was killed in a duel by John Day, another playwright, in 1599. John Lyly, who gave up writing for 15 years ...

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