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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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... subject of a paperback in France by Gérard de Sède and of a Chronicle film for BBC Television by Henry Lincoln, is the starting-point of the present book. In their investigation of the problems posed by the story, Lincoln and his co-authors begin with the Cathars, and the Cathars lead to the Templars (already the ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Da Vinci Code’, 8 June 2006

The Da Vinci Code 
directed by Ron Howard.
May 2006
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... Michael Baigent, who recently sued Brown’s publisher for plagiarism and lost. The third author, Henry Lincoln, didn’t sue. The book itself is mentioned in large capitals, and Teabing comments on it pedantically (‘their fundamental premise is sound’). Of course Brown was playing these games long before the case came up. Perhaps the two authors ...

How to Be a Knight

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Marshal, 21 May 2015

The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power behind Five English Thrones 
by Thomas Asbridge.
Simon and Schuster, 444 pp., £20, January 2015, 978 0 7432 6862 2
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... Marshal, first Earl of Pembroke, who rose from relative obscurity to become regent for the young Henry III and one of the most powerful men in Europe. Marshal’s craftsmen used fast-grown trees for the door’s outer face and a powerful lattice of slow-grown timber for the reinforcement inside: no expense spared, no older wood reused, nothing but the best ...

This Guilty Land

Eric Foner: Every Possible Lincoln, 17 December 2020

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times 
by David S. Reynolds.
Penguin, 1066 pp., £33.69, September, 978 1 59420 604 7
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The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom 
by H.W. Brands.
Doubleday, 445 pp., £24, October, 978 0 385 54400 9
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... Abraham Lincoln​ , memorialised as a child of the frontier, self-made man and liberator of the slaves, has been the subject of more than 16,000 books, according to David S. Reynolds’s new biography, Abe. That’s around two a week, on average, since the end of the American Civil War. Almost every possible Lincoln can be found in the historical literature, including the moralist who hated slavery, the pragmatic politician driven solely by ambition, the tyrant who ran roughshod over the Constitution, and the indecisive leader buffeted by events he could not control ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... On the evening of 11 April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke to a crowd in Washington about black suffrage. The Civil War had been over for a week. Lincoln had already walked the streets of Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate capital, taking in the devastation at first hand. ‘The only people who showed themselves were negroes,’ the radical senator Charles Sumner noted ...

No Accident

Zachary Leader: Gore Vidal’s Golden Age, 21 June 2001

The Golden Age: A Novel 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 467 pp., £17.99, October 2000, 0 316 85409 3
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... which comprise it, to list them in order of the historical periods they cover, are Burr (1973), Lincoln (1984), 1876 (1976, of course), Empire (1987), Hollywood (1989), Washington, DC (1967) and now The Golden Age. According to Vidal’s biographer, Fred Kaplan, it was while at work on Lincoln, in the early 1980s, that ...

Young Man’s Nostalgia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Byrd, 31 July 2014

by Kerry McCarthy.
Oxford, 282 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 0 19 538875 6
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... archives.2 Beside him are Thomas Sackville, earl of Dorset, and the earls and cousins Charles and Henry Howard. All three were Byrd’s patrons, and to various degrees shared the shifts and ambiguities of his religious convictions; it was odds-on that all of them would have conformed to a restoration of Catholicism in England if it had happened to take ...

What news?

Patrick Collinson: The Pilgrimage of Grace, 1 November 2001

The Pilgrimage of Grace and the Politics of the 1530s 
by R.W. Hoyle.
Oxford, 487 pp., £30, May 2001, 9780198208747
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... debated. The way in which the commotions began tends to support the view of, among others, Abraham Lincoln and Harold Macmillan that events are the motors of history, not policy decisions, or, according to Hoyle, the deeper underlying structures, the slowly shifting tectonic plates preferred by Braudel and his school. The unfortunately coincidental presence in ...

Divinely Ordained

Jackson Lears: God loves America, 19 May 2011

A World on Fire: An Epic History of Two Nations Divided 
by Amanda Foreman.
Penguin, 988 pp., £12.99, June 2011, 978 0 14 104058 5
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... on a stunningly broad canvas, populated by a fascinating array of characters. Mythic figures (Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Jackson), seen afresh, acquire sharper outlines. Second-tier players have their moment in the limelight: the secretary of state William Seward drinks too much and blusters about invading Canada; the US ambassador Charles Francis Adams keeps a ...

Renewing the Struggle

Penelope Fitzgerald: Edward White Benson, 18 June 1998

Father of the Bensons: The Life of Edward White Benson, Sometime Archbiship of Canterbury 
by Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd.
Lennard, 226 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 1 85291 138 7
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... to him in the world.’ This is from the biography of one of my grandfathers, later Bishop of Lincoln: it tactfully conceals the fact that in the 1860s his father kept a shop, and got hopelessly into debt. Edward Benson was spared this, but when his mother died in 1850 he was still working for his tripos at Cambridge, and since she had been living on an ...

At the Royal Academy

Rosemary Hill: The Treasures of the Society of Antiquaries, 18 October 2007

... tombs, taking pickaxes to prehistoric barrows and climbing across a spindly ladder high up in Lincoln Cathedral to inspect the concealed ‘prison chamber’. Since the study of local antiquities did not require a classical education or a grand tour, members might be of modest means. They included clergymen, journalists, antique dealers and ...

Don’t be a Kerensky!

David Runciman: Kissinger looks for his prince, 3 December 2020

The Inevitability of Tragedy: Henry Kissinger and His World 
by Barry Gewen.
Norton, 452 pp., £22.99, April 2020, 978 1 324 00405 9
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Henry Kissinger and American Power: A Political Biography 
by Thomas Schwartz.
Hill and Wang, 548 pp., £27.99, September 2020, 978 0 8090 9537 7
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... to persuade him to temper his unhealthy lifestyle, they used to point out how awful it would be if Henry Kissinger outlived him. Hitchens spent years pursuing Kissinger in print – and sometimes in person – for his assorted war crimes. He wanted to see him prosecuted at The Hague. Failing that, wouldn’t it be worth forgoing the odd drink or cigarette in ...


Denton Fox, 21 January 1988

Robert Grosseteste: The Growth of an English Mind in Medieval Europe 
by R.W. Southern.
Oxford, 337 pp., £30, July 1986, 9780198264507
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Politics, Policy and Finance under Henry III, 1216-1245 
by Robert Stacey.
Oxford, 284 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 0 19 820086 2
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... normal pattern of a successful career. It may be that this preferment was connected with the young Henry III, who was released from the control of his guardians in the early 1220s, and whom Grosseteste may have served as secretary and keeper of his secret seal. With his new independence, Grosseteste went to Oxford, where he was from about 1225 to 1235. In the ...

A Preference for Strenuous Ghosts

Michael Kammen: Theodore Roosevelt, 6 June 2002

Theodore Rex 
by Edmund Morris.
HarperCollins, 772 pp., £25, March 2002, 0 00 217708 0
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... was wanting in the Clinton White House. Books about Franklin D. Roosevelt and, above all, Abraham Lincoln have long since become a cottage industry. FDR’s elder cousin, Theodore, who occupied the White House from 1901 to 1909, has not exactly been neglected, but Nathan Miller’s 1992 biography was the first since ...

Good for Nothing

James Morone: America’s ‘base cupidity’, 19 May 2005

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America 
by Scott Sandage.
Harvard, 362 pp., £22.95, February 2005, 9780674015104
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... Beneath which striving lies the same old Calvinist presumption: success reveals virtue. Abraham Lincoln famously recited the market credo when he declared that any man who was ‘industrious and honest and sober’ would win riches. He left the inevitable corollary to preachers such as Henry Ward Beecher: ‘If men have ...

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