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The Way Forward

Ian Gilmour, 25 October 1990

The Economic Limits to Modern Politics 
edited by John Dunn.
Polity, 274 pp., £35, July 1990, 0 7456 0827 2
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... In Britain, oppositions do not win general elections; the economy occasionally wins one for them. To prevent it doing so, governments in the second half of a Parliament devote much of their energy to ensuring that on election day the voters will feel prosperous and the economy look healthy. Such a political and economic miracle entails much dumping of dogma and convictions ...

In Praise of Middle Government

Ian Gilmour, 12 July 1990

Liberalisms. Essays in Political Philosophy 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 273 pp., £35, August 1989, 0 415 00744 5
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The Voice of Liberal Learning: Michael Oakeshott on Education 
edited by Timothy Fuller.
Yale, 169 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04344 9
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The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott 
by Paul Franco.
Yale, 277 pp., £20, April 1990, 0 300 04686 3
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Conservatism 
by Ted Honderich.
Hamish Hamilton, 255 pp., £16.99, June 1990, 0 241 12999 0
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... The collapse of the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and the dire condition of the Soviet Union have left Socialism almost irredeemably discredited. Understandably, the recent Labour policy document tactfully avoided the subject. Such reticence is of course nothing new. Unlike Continental parties, even the old ILP kept ‘Socialist’ out of its title to avoid offending the workers; and the Labour election programme of 1929, largely drafted by Tawney, did not mention the word ‘socialism ...

I could light my pipe at her eyes

Ian Gilmour: Women and politics in Victorian Britain, 3 September 1998

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 
by Amanda Foreman.
HarperCollins, 320 pp., £19.99, May 1998, 0 00 255668 5
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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain 
by K.D. Reynolds.
Oxford, 268 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 19 820727 1
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Lady Byron and Earl Shilton 
by David Herbert.
Hinckley Museum, 128 pp., £7.50, March 1998, 0 9521471 3 0
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... Some body said of the 18th-century Spencers that the Bible was always on the table – and the cards in the drawer. Certainly, that was true of the first Countess Spencer, mother of Georgiana and Harriet. She was conspicuously religious and a compulsive gambler. Up at 5.30 in the morning, she spent an hour at her prayers and a further hour with her Bible ...

Fuss, Fatigue and Rage

Ian Gilmour: Two Duff Kings, 15 July 1999

George IV 
by E.A. Smith.
Yale, 306 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 300 07685 1
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... George IV was highly unpopular in his lifetime, and almost equally unpopular after it. Nobody regretted his death except his mercenary mistress, Lady Conyngham – the supply of jewels and trinkets had been cut off – and even she was bored with him. Grief was absent at his funeral. ‘A coronation could hardly be gayer,’ noted a peer, and the Times reported that there was ‘not a single mark of sympathy’ in the congregation ...

Out of Bounds

Ian Gilmour: Why Wordsworth sold a lot less than Byron, 20 January 2005

The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period 
by William St Clair.
Cambridge, 765 pp., £90, July 2004, 9780521810067
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... Johnson wrote The Lives of the Poets,’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning grumbled, ‘and left out the poets.’ She exaggerated, of course, but a book of that title which omitted Chaucer and Shakespeare, Spenser and all the Elizabethans, Donne and nearly all the Jacobeans, while including a host of nonentities, such as Pomfret, Stepney, Dyer, Smith, Duke and King, was at the very least defective and misleading ...

Termagant

Ian Gilmour: The Cliveden Set, 19 October 2000

The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 277 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 06093 7
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... In twenty years,’ Lady Astor used to say of Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian, ‘I’ve never known Philip to be wrong on foreign politics.’ Though Lothian himself thought much the same, it is, in fact, harder to think of an occasion when he was right. As Sir Robert Vansittart, the strongly anti-Nazi head of the Foreign Office in the 1930s put it, ‘Lothian was an incurably superficial Johnny-Know-All ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... Shortly after Oliver Cromwell’s death in September 1658, Dryden wrote some ‘Heroique Stanza’s, Consecrated to the Glorious Memory of his most Serene and Renowned Highnesse Oliver Late Lord Protector of this Common Wealth, &c’. His poem’s sentiments were as reverential as its title. After maintaining that Cromwell’s ‘Grandeur he deriv’d from Heav’n alone’, that all his ‘parts [were] so equal perfect’, and that ‘Peace was the Prize of all his toils and care,’ Dryden predicted that ‘His Ashes in a peaceful Urne [would] rest ...

The other side have got one

Ian Gilmour: Lady Thatcher’s Latest, 6 June 2002

Ideologies of Conservatism: Conservative Political Ideas in the 20th Century 
by E.H.H. Green.
Oxford, 309 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 820593 7
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Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 486 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 00 710752 8
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... In a progressive country,’ Disraeli told his Edinburgh audience after the passage of the 1867 Reform Bill, ‘change is constant; and the great question is, not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of the people, or in deference to abstract principles and arbitrary and general doctrines ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family ...

Centre-Stage

Ian Gilmour, 1 August 1996

The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle 
by John Ehrman.
Constable, 911 pp., £35, May 1996, 9780094755406
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... In A.P. Herbert’s enjoyable parody of Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Soho, there is, I think – unfortunately I no longer possess a copy but had a small part in it at school – the passage: ‘Man, like a pebble on a glacier, moves imperceptibly but always down.’ A.P. Herbert was not being serious, of course, but his words apply to some, perhaps most, of us, mentally, morally and physically as we grow older ...

America and Israel

Ian Gilmour, 18 February 1982

The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East 
by Mahmoud Riad.
Quartet, 365 pp., £11.95, October 1981, 0 7043 2297 8
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Palestinian Self-Determination 
by Hassan Bin Talal.
Quartet, 138 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 7043 2312 5
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This Year in Jerusalem 
by Kenneth Cragg.
Darton, Longman and Todd, 192 pp., £5.95, February 1982, 0 232 51524 7
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... Arabs often lament that America does not use her ability to influence Israeli policy. Dean Rusk, shortly before he ceased being Secretary of State, warned Mahmoud Riad: ‘Do not ever believe that any future American administration will put pressure on Israel.’ But the Arab cride coeur misses the point. The difficulty is not merely that America does not put pressure on Israel, who is militarily and economically dependent on her, but that Israel effectively controls American policy in the Middle East ...

Inhumane, Intolerant, Unclean

Ian Gilmour, 31 October 1996

A History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths 
by Karen Armstrong.
HarperCollins, 474 pp., £20, July 1996, 0 00 255522 0
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Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years 
by Israel Shahak.
Pluto, 118 pp., £11.99, April 1994, 9780745308180
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City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present 
edited by Nitza Rosovsky.
Harvard, 562 pp., £25.50, April 1996, 0 674 13190 8
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Jerusalem in the 20th Century 
by Martin Gilbert.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 7011 3070 9
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Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 
by Norman Finkelstein.
Verso, 230 pp., £39.95, December 1995, 1 85984 940 7
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To Rule Jerusalem 
by Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht.
Cambridge, 554 pp., £29.95, June 1996, 0 521 44046 7
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... What exactly is a ‘holy city’ or, for that matter, a ‘holy see’? If Jerusalem is the prime example of the first and Rome the only example of the second, their holiness clearly does not reside in the behaviour of either their rulers or the ruled. More evil has been done in Jerusalem than in many, if not most, places on earth, and in Rome Papal conduct and government has sometimes been anything but holy – in the mid-18th century the city’s 150,000 inhabitants averaged four hundred murders a year ...

Terrorism

Ian Gilmour, 23 October 1986

Britain’s Civil Wars: Counter-Insurgency in the 20th Century 
by Charles Townshend.
Faber, 220 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 0 571 13802 0
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Terrorism and the Liberal State 
by Paul Wilkinson.
Macmillan, 322 pp., £25, May 1986, 0 333 39490 9
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Terrorism: How the West can win 
edited by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Weidenfeld, 254 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 79025 0
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Political Murder: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism 
by Franklin Ford.
Harvard, 440 pp., £24.95, November 1985, 0 674 68635 7
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The Financing of Terror 
by James Adams.
New English Library, 294 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 0 450 06086 1
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They dare to speak out: People and institutions confront Israel’s lobby 
by Paul Findley.
Lawrence Hill (Connecticut), 362 pp., $16.95, May 1985, 0 88208 179 9
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... American foreign policy since 1945 has often been a force for good. Much of ‘the free world’ has felt the need of US protection, and some of it has been grateful. In recent times, however, many people have come to regard the United States as a power as dangerous as any other. In reaction to the quietism of the Carter era, American foreign policy has become ultra-activist in both word and deed ...

Hauteur

Ian Gilmour: Britain and Europe, 10 December 1998

This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair 
by Hugo Young.
Macmillan, 558 pp., £20, November 1998, 0 333 57992 5
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... For most of the last half-century, Britain has had two options: to be a whole-hearted member of Europe or to be a satellite of the United States. In this field there has been no ‘third way’. Full-hearted co-operation with Europe does not mean and never has meant the end of the Atlantic Alliance. The great majority of the countries in the European Union have always been members of Nato ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... Britain emerged from the war still unquestionably a great power, its Prime Ministers Churchill and Attlee considered the equals in negotiations for the post-war settlement, of America’s Presidents Roosevelt and Truman and Soviet dictator Stalin at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences of 1945. By any rational and objective criteria ... Britain’s economy has never performed more strongly in its history than during the past twenty years ...

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