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A Useless Body

David Craig: The Highland Clearances, 18 May 2017

Set Adrift upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances 
by James Hunter.
Birlinn, 572 pp., £14.99, September 2016, 978 1 78027 354 9
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... James Hunter​ ’s work has analysed with utter thoroughness the culture of the Highlands and the diaspora that was forced on it. In his latest book, Set Adrift upon the World, he doesn’t try to describe, in a novelist’s or a journalist’s way, how individuals suffered and grieved and retaliated. Rather, he lays out the way systematic dispossession was managed, legally, by the class who engineered the process and who did so for their own gain ...

Taking the hint

David Craig, 5 January 1989

The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, 1822 
by John Prebble.
Collins, 399 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 00 215404 8
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... is still to be found in one of its many forms in thousands of crofters’ living-rooms; James Cameron the Kirkcaldy publisher, whose The Old and the New Highlands (1912) brought the terrible epic up to the time of the sporting estates, the Crofters’ War, and the Crofters’ Act of 1886; and Tom Johnston, first Labour Secretary of State for ...


Roger Hodge: The Comanches, 15 December 2011

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe 
by S.C. Gwynne.
Constable, 483 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84901 703 9
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... arrived, ten of the Parker men were working in the fields about a mile away. Six men, including James and Silas Parker, both Texas Rangers, were still at the fort, along with eight women and nine children. The armoured gate was open. The Comanches were apparently taking advantage of the disorder created by the Texans’ violent divorce from Mexico to carry ...

Malcolm and the Masses

Clive James, 5 February 1981

Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life 
by Ian Hunter.
Collins, 270 pp., £6.95, November 1980, 0 00 216538 4
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... There he is waiting for you up the garden path, all set to lead you on instead of back. Ian Hunter, billed as Professor of Law at Western University in London, Canada, was born in 1945, which makes him about half the age of his hero. Blemishes can thus partly be put down to exuberance. Professor Hunter still has time ...

Crops, Towns, Government

James C. Scott: Ancestor Worship, 21 November 2013

The World until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? 
by Jared Diamond.
Penguin, 498 pp., £8.99, September 2013, 978 0 14 102448 6
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... Guinea and Australia, where his bird-watching interests lie, and from the findings of studies of hunter-gatherer societies (the Hadza and !Kung of Africa, the Piraha, Siriono and Yanomamo of Latin America) that fit best with his argument. What could these historical relics possibly teach the wired, hyper-modernist residents of Diamond’s home village of Los ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson, 23 July 1987

Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... of the most candid confessors since Frank Harris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering monologues which chronicle his life from early childhood to the ...

Why did we start farming?

Steven Mithen: Hunter-Gatherers Were Right, 30 November 2017

Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States 
by James C. Scott.
Yale, 336 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 0 300 18291 0
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... the epoch in which humans have had a significant impact on the planet. In Against the Grain James Scott describes these early stages as a ‘“thin” Anthropocene’, but ever since, the Anthropocene has been getting thicker. New layers of human impact were added by the adoption of farming about ten thousand years ago, the invention of the steam ...

Freak Anatomist

John Mullan: Hilary Mantel, 1 October 1998

The Giant, O'Brien 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 211 pp., £14.99, September 1998, 1 85702 884 8
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... of Surgeons hangs the portrait by Joshua Reynolds of the 18th-century surgeon and anatomist John Hunter. It has been much darkened by the bitumen content of Reynolds’s paint, and restoration work in the Fifties has not been able to prevent the fading into the surrounding gloom of many of its supporting details. Only ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder, 12 March 1992

Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... Polynesian seafarers had mastered. The cult of the White Explorer overlaps with that of the White Hunter. Speke, to Burton’s disgust, never tired of slaughtering birds and animals. Baker was a daring, wealthy ‘sportsman’. Frederick Courtenay Selous, as DNB styles him (my hotel’s original begetter seems to have borrowed his middle name and misspelt ...


Mary Hawthorne: Remembering Joseph Mitchell, 1 August 1996

... had been published in 1933. He took up with writers like Philip Hamburger, S.J. Perelman and James Thurber, but his best friend at the magazine was A.J. Liebling, with whom he developed a relationship of affectionate rivalry. Liebling, who died in 1963, was an ebullient man, renowned among other things for his tremendous speed and brilliance as a ...

Plato Made It Up

James Davidson: Atlantis at Last!, 19 June 2008

The Atlantis Story: A Short History of Plato’s Myth 
by Pierre Vidal-Naquet, translated by Janet Lloyd.
Exeter, 192 pp., £35, November 2007, 978 0 85989 805 8
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... history as practised by Herodotus and Thucydides’) and whose most famous essay, ‘The Black Hunter and the Origin of the Athenian Ephebeia’, is a Lévi-Strauss-inspired analysis of the binary oppositions – dark-fair, wild-tame, hunter-hoplite, margin-centre – within the myths and practices associated (by ...

A Country Emptied

Ian Jack: The Highland Clearances, 7 March 2019

The Scottish Clearances: A History of the Dispossessed 1600-1900 
by T.M. Devine.
Allen Lane, 464 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 0 241 30410 5
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... places and some landowners became infamous for their feats of coercion: the China opium magnate James Matheson gave more than 2300 men, women and children the choice between staying on Lewis and starving or boarding the emigrant ships to Canada. But what distinguished these operations was more the scale than the method, which had been employed for decades ...

Alexander the Brilliant

Edward Said, 18 February 1988

Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies and the Reagan Era 
by Alexander Cockburn.
Verso, 479 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 86091 176 4
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... with the ponderously sober ‘Robin’ McNeil, ‘Jim’ Lehrer and ‘Charlene’ Hunter-Gault studiously examining both sides of the slavery question, Hitler and the Crucifixion), of most academics and of all TV networks, of the rich and the famous, of the military, of Israel, of Thatcher, Kissinger, and many others. He has, it should be ...

Esprit de Corps

Roy Porter, 21 January 1988

Granville Sharp Pattison: Anatomist and Antagonist 1791-1851 
by F.L.M. Pattison.
Canongate, 284 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 86241 077 0
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Death, Dissection and the Destitute 
by Ruth Richardson.
Routledge, 426 pp., £19.95, January 1988, 0 7102 0919 3
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... views such as his have an eminent pedigree within the medical profession itself. The great William Hunter, doyen of the anatomy teachers of 18th-century London, delighted in offering his students a peculiarly chilling vision of the medic’s mentality. Surgeons, he told them, were eaten up with ‘emulation and contention’, operating in a dog-eats-dog ...


James Davidson: Apollonios Rhodios, 5 March 1998

Apollonios Rhodios: The Argonautika 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 480 pp., £45, November 1997, 0 520 07686 9
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... Chief among the leaders of this mission are the Cambridge classicists Simon Goldhill and Richard Hunter, who has written a book on Apollonius (The ‘Argonautica’ of Apollonius: Literary Studies, 1993) as well as producing a scholarly edition of Book Three and a translation of the whole thing (which is already, ominously, out of print). This ought to be a ...

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